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Five Chicago Eateries for Exhibitors


Whether you want to grab a bite to eat during the convention, or if you’re looking for a place to take a VIP client after the show winds down, the Windy City offers a wealth of restaurants and stands to suit most any taste. When seeking the perfect spot for your mood, appetite or clientele, consider this curated list of establishments, all within a short hike or Uber ride from McCormick Place:

A ROOFTOP RARITYEveryone loves a rooftop hangout, especially overlooking cityscapes as beautiful as Chicago’s. But such places were a real rarity in the South Loop prior to the recent opening of the VU Rooftop Bar. This 22nd-floor hotspot offers convention goers a new place to enjoy small plates and cocktails while taking in the city’s glorious skyline views. VU offers an inventive all-week dinner menu as well as a Saturday and Sunday brunch menu. Their outdoor deck features fire pits for chilly weather, and a solarium with retractable glass walls for those prefer indoor comfort regardless of what the Midwest weather may be like.
VU Rooftop Bar, 133 E Cermak Rd; (312) 528-0191; $$$

PERFECT PASTAItalian restaurants are often a safe choice when you’re entertaining a large group of trade show clients—there’s typically something for everyone on the menu. Cafe Bionda has long been a go-to destination for authentic old world Italian cuisine in the South Loop. Whether you prefer antipasto, traditional entrees or salad, Cafe Bionda serves up hearty dinner portions and a lighter lunch fare. It’s an approximate 15-minute walk from the convention center, and there’s also ample free parking in the back of the restaurant—a rarity for Chicago.
Cafe Bionda, 1924 S State St, (312) 326-9800; $$

TRADE SHOW TAPASMercat a la Planxa’s Catalan inspired food will make you feel like you’ve stepped out of the Upper Midwest and into Barcelona. For a light meal, enjoy the delicious tapas. If you have a larger group or a heartier appetite, indulge in a traditional paella. Although the menu is heavy on meats and seafood, Mercat’s tapas selections also include a number of vegetarian options.
Mercat a la Planxa, 638 S Michigan Ave; (312) 765-0524; $$$

NEW ENGLAND IN THE HEARTLANDIf you want high-end dining close to the show, look no further than the Michelin-starred restaurant, Acadia. This upscale restaurant serves seasonal New American dishes. Sit at the bar to choose from an à la carte menu; or go all-out in the dining room with their eight-course tasting experience. Acadia’s seafood and shellfish are mostly be sourced from the area in Maine, where the head chef spent his summers. Acadia’s private event room is perfect for intimate sit down dinners or cocktail parties—perfect for rewarding your trade show staff or for courting a VIP client
Acadia, 1639 S Wabash Ave; (312) 360-9500; $$$$

DO THE DOGSo you say you’re not looking for haute cuisine, and you’ve long ago given up on your New Year’s healthy eating resolution? Well, no trip to the Windy City is complete without enjoying a signature hot dog (or I guess you could call it a haute dog). Kim and Carlo’s is legendary in the neighborhood for their Chicago-style dogs. The authentic one is made from Vienna beef and is served in a soft poppy seed bun with mustard, onions, tomato, hot peppers, pickle, relish and celery salt. And while it may seem like sacrilege to dog purists, this stand even serves up a serviceable vegetarian hot dog, complete with tomatoes, a pickle spear, and celery salt (remember: REAL Chicago hot dogs are NOT served with ketchup). Find a seat on one of the outdoor benches nearby and give your tired feet a break after a long day on the convention floor.
Kim & Carlo’s Chicago Style Hot Dog Store, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr Museum Campus (North of Soldier Field between the Shedd Aquarium & Field Museum); No phone; $

About the Author

Mary Rita Crowe was the Managing Director at Skyline Exhibits Chicago.

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