Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Vital Question

Hi! I'll be travelling through Chicago this summer on Amtrak. I'd love to be able to hop off the train and hit a farmers' market or a restaurant serving local foods. Can you recommend things near the Amtrak station? We won't have a car with us.

Cincinnati locavore Valereee posted this in a comment, but it was in a post from over a week ago, so I'm not sure who will see it. It's a good question, so I made a new post.

Valereee, you will find that the train station is within walking distance of Chicago's downtown ("the Loop") as well as very convenient to public transportation to get you where you need. The key thing would be the day of the week you hit town (and to some extent, how long you have).

There are farmer's markets in the Loop several times a week. I'm assuming that the schedule will be the same as in the past, Tuesday's there will be a market at Federal Plaza (Dearborn and Jackson). Thursday's there will be a market at Daley Plaza (Dearborn and Randolph). There's been in the past, a market at the 311 S. Wacker building; that would be five minutes from the train station, but I am not sure if this market will exist, nor its date. You should be able to find the list of Chicago farmers markets all over the 'net soon (soon, not quite yet).

If it's Wednesday or Saturday, you may want to consider, if you have the time, the Green City Market. It leans more organic than some of the other markets, although some of the vendors at Green City can also be found at the downtown markets. I'm not an expert on the Chicago bus system but I believe there's a bus that goes from Union Station to where Green City Market is located (south edge of Lincoln Park). You can also take the Clark Street bus from the Loop.

In the Loop, there's a Chef, Dean Zanella, that focuses a lot on local food--and word in the street is that his restaurant, 312 Chicago, will be even more local driven starting this Spring. Not quite cheap, but not a fortune either.

If you are looking for a different version of Chicago local food, you may want to consider one of the most local of foods (as in Chicago's about the only place you can find it), and that's the Italian beef--see this link for details. About a mile west of Union Station is Al's Italian Beef. It's about the priciest beef meal, but it's considered one of the top two or three of its genre in the world. I should note that Al's has a distinct (and different from other IBs) that a small but vocal group is not keen for. A lot closer to Union Station is a place I like a lot, but is also a place that shares the distinction of being one of the few places to get turned down for an LTHForum Great Neighborhood Restaurant award, that would be J&C Bombacigno's. TheirItalian beef is more conventional, but the spicing is actually closer to Al's than most IBs. Both Al's and J&C have great versions of fried potatoes.

Finally, if you want something even fancier, there's Blackbird, a small walk from the train station (619 W. Randolph). It's one of Chicago's best restaurants, and there's a strong, but not exclusive focus on local foods. The cooking here is stellar. If it's crowded, you can eat at the bar.

Wait, one more thing. In the Loop, there's a cheese store, Pastoral (53 W. Lake), it's at the opposite end of downtown from the train station. They do not have a very local focus for their stuff, but there will still be a few good Wisconsin cheeses you might not now.
Have fun!

1 comment:

valereee said...

Wow! Thank you so much! We'll actually be in town overnight (due to train schedules) from 3:55 pm Friday until 5:45 pm Saturday, so maybe we'll try to do the Green City Market! And I definitely want to try the Italian Beef, if I can only get it in Chicago!

Great post, and very helpful! You should tag it 'travelling locavores' or something! :D