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Autoweek's guide to Chicago Auto Show hospitality

Tue, 05 Feb 2013

Note:In preparation for the Chicago Auto Show, we asked Windy City hospitality industry insider Erik Nelson where to stay, drink and eat. Here's what he said:

Where to eat:


837 W Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60607

(312) 733-9555

This staple in the Fulton Market district of Chicago offers the “holy trinity” of pork, oysters and beer. Publican has a bustling feel of an upscale public house with communal tables and many sharable plates. Executive Chef Paul Kahan has put together a rustic and simple menu of only the best quality meat and seafood, paired with unique and rare beer selections.


1120 W Grand Ave. #1, Chicago, IL 60642

(312) 666-0730

Bari constructs the best authentic Italian subs in Chicago. Located on the west side of town, this grocer is a bit out of the way but it's entirely worth picking up a sub from their counter to take with you for later in the day. The house made giardiniera is quite spicy but cannot be missed. Though messy, the meatball sub is incredible.

Graham Elliot:

217 W Huron St., Chicago, IL 60654

(312) 624-9975

Graham Elliot is an excellent representation of how Chicago is on the cutting edge of creative cuisine. Unique ingredients and ultra modern preparations are Chef Bowles' specialty. The menus here are inclusive tasting menus with a ticket that rises as the courses flow.

Hot Doug's:

3324 N California Ave., Chicago, IL 60618

(773) 279-9550

You cannot visit Chicago without enjoying a Chicago-style hot dog. Hot Doug's is the best place to do so. In addition to their perfected Chicago Red Hot try one of Doug's “gourmet” sausages such as the foie gras dog or alligator sausage. If you visit on a weekend the duck-fat French fries are a must have.

Where to Drink

The Gingerman:

3740 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60613

(773) 549-2050

Originally owned by Dan Schnitta, founder of Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan, The Gingerman maintains a sensibility of old school Chicago blended with automotive enthusiasm.

Clark Street Ale House:

742 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654

(312) 642-9253

Clark Street is a great beer and whisk(e)y bar. The best testament to this is that often you can find patrons eager to bend your ear about rare Scotch or forgotten American distilleries. Avoiding the chatter and just ordering a great draught beer is a great way to go.

Where to Stay

Public Hotel:

1300 N State Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610

(312) 787-3700

The newly remodeled and re-envisioned classic Ambassador East hotel is now Public House. This is quite a change from when Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were regulars at this establishment. The newest iteration is hip and close to the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago.

Hotel Felix:

111 W Huron St., Chicago, IL 60654

(312) 447-3440

Hotel Felix is an eco-friendly hotel very conveniently located in downtown Chicago. The amenities offered are slightly limited; however the finishes in this recently remodeled hotel are top-notch. The Hotel Felix is a tremendous value for its caliber and location.

Erik Nelson is a veteran of the Chicago restaurant and hotel industry. He is now managing partner of The English Inn Restaurant & Pub, located in Eaton Rapids, Mich. The English Inn is a property with a rich automotive history, originally built by Oldsmobile General Manager Irving Reuter in 1927.

Chicago Auto Show is held every February at McCormick Place and bills itself as "The Nation's Largest." Pickup trucks traditionally have had a big showing in Chicago, as have green and small cars. This year marks the 105th Chicago Auto Show; press days are Feb. 7-8 while public days are Feb. 9-18. For complete Chicago auto show coverage, click here

By Erik Nelson