Connie’s Pizza serves a decent slice of pizza, and you won’t be unpleasantly surprised by the McDonald’s in the basement of McCormick Place. But are you really going to eat in one or the other for four days straight?
Many attendees of the National Restaurant Association Show aren’t aware there’s a multi-station food court on the second level—actually, Floor 2.5—of the facility’s South Building. It greatly expands an attendee’s dining options, but it’s not exactly a place to take a client or hold a business meeting.
That leaves the areas immediately outside the convention hall. The new Hyatt and Marriott hotels provide suitable settings for something more upscale than a Quarter Pounder, which is why their dining facilities tend to be packed during prime hours.
If you want something quick and truly local, the options narrow to a handful of food-selling establishments in the immediate vicinity of McCormick Place. What choices do you have?
Here’s what we found in scouting the area, looking for places that won’t keep you away from the show for long. Double-check the hours if you decide to try one, since several operate on a schedule that can only be called erratic.
Pizano’s By McCormick Place
2106 S. Indiana Ave.; 0.5 miles from McCormick
For an authentic deep-dish Chicago pizza, this branch of a small local chain might be your best bet geographically. Located a short jaunt from McCormick, it offers a place to sit down and dig in for lunch—but only on Saturday and Sunday. It doesn’t open until 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
The ambience is fairly retro, with red-checkered tablecloths and good-sized portions. Thin-crust pies, sandwiches and pastas are also available.
Mustard Seed Kitchen
49 E. Cermak Rd.; .04 miles from McCormick
You’ll find everything from Honey-Mustard Salmon to chicken gumbo on the menu of this chef-run takeout shop, where a burger will run you anywhere from $16.99 (a double cheeseburger) to $18.99 (the same, but with a fried egg and avocado). Portions are large. The place enjoys a four-star rating on Yelp.
Windy City Ribs & Whiskey
67 E. Cermak Rd.; 0.5 miles from McCormick
If the adult-beverage section of the show has you all wound up for a relaxing post-show whiskey, this could be your place. The menu includes what you’d expect from a barbecue place, with St. Louis-style ribs as its specialty. It doesn’t open until 4 and has been known to fill up quickly.
80 E. Cermak Rd.; 0.5 miles from McCormick
Before you balk at such a gritty place, clearly aimed toward the fast-growing local population in Chicago’s South Loop, consider that this sandwich shop has the highest rating on Google (4.5 out of 5 stars) among all the options covered here. If you can make a sandwich out of something, chances are it’s on the menu, from grilled chicken to turkey burgers to Chicago staples like gyros and Italian beef. A few seats are available, but most orders are to-go, and delivery is also available, if you’re staying close by.
2244 S. Michigan Ave.; 0.5 miles from McCormick
This one is down a side street, but you won’t get lost if you head toward the liveliest place on the block. It’s more of a bar than a restaurant—the food doesn’t exactly generate raves on some of the citizen-reviewer sites—but it’s a chance to get away from the hordes wearing badges. This is clearly a local spot, a self-described upscale sports bar. The place opens at 4 and hums until 1.
2134 S. Indiana Ave.; 0.5 miles from McCormick
After eating samples off a toothpick on the show floor, a full-fledged Italian lunch or dinner might sound good, especially in a place where the wine list is a point of pride. This outpost for classic Italian fare is a good bet. You’ll find all the Italian staples, including house-made pasta, plus such stick-to-your-ribs alternatives as a tomahawk Berkshire pork chop. The full-service but casual restaurant opens every day at 11 a.m.
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