Where you dine before or after the Big Ten tournament games depends on what time your team's game starts. If your team is playing at 11 a.m. (as Illinois and Minnesota do on Thursday, the winner playing Indiana at 11 a.m. Friday), you'll need a breakfast spot pregame, lunch spot thereafter. Subsequent games will have fans looking for late-lunch and early-dinner options, and fans of the 8 p.m. game teams (Northwestern and Iowa Thursday, the winner playing Michigan State on Friday) will be scrambling for a late-night postgame meal.
A few recommendations:
The Breakfast Club, 1381 W. Hubbard St., 312-666-2372. A great way to start the morning. Challah French toast is terrific. Closes 8 p.m. most nights; no dinner Sunday.
Little Goat, 820 W. Randolph St., 312-888-3455. The latest from chef Stephanie Izard is a creative, flavor-packed take on diner food. Opens early (7 a.m.), closes late (2 a.m.) every day.
Wishbone, 1001 W. Washington Boulevard, 312-850-2663. Down-home, Southern-style cooking. I'm addicted to the biscuits and gravy. A good choice for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Valet parking available.
Ina's, 1235 W. Randolph St., 312-226-8227. One of the city's best early-morning options for longer than I care to remember. Ina's Heavenly Hots (pancakes) are legendary, but there's nothing on the menu I don't love. Breakfast and lunch only. Free parking lot.
Lunch, dinner breaks
A Tavola, 2148 W. Chicago Ave., 773-276-7567. Delightful, quiet Italian fine-dining spot with arguably the best gnocchi in town. Open for dinner only. Reservations a must; this place is tiny.
BellyQ, 1400 W. Randolph St., 312-563-1010. Modern Asian barbecue with small plates (Belly Bites), table cooking (optional) and much more. Sort of a grown-up version of Urban Belly and Belly Shack, Bill Kim's other restaurants.
Billy Goat Tavern, 1535 W. Madison St., 312-733-9132. Do I even have to explain this one? Cheeseburgers, of course, and actually a breakfast menu. Plus, walking distance to the United Center.
Davanti Enoteca, 1359 W. Taylor St., 312-226-5550. The look of this Taylor Street Italian is rustic, but the cooking is modern and creative. Terrific wine program too.
De Cero, 814 W. Randolph St., 312-455-8114. An upscale taqueria with traditional and creative tacos and great margaritas. Open for dinner only.
Grange Hall Burger Bar, 844 W. Randolph St., 312-491-0844. The name pretty much says it all, although there are hot dogs and other nibbles on the menu too. Good for lunch and dinner, and Farmer breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.
Tufano's Vernon Park Tap, 1073 W. Vernon Park Place, 312-733-3393. Terrific old-school Italian in the heart of Little Italy, where chalkboards take the place of printed menus and cash is the only way to pay.
Need a ride? Restaurants with free/cheap UC shuttle service
(Please call ahead to confirm shuttle schedules)
Carmichael's Chicago Steak House, 1052 W. Monroe St., 312-433-0025. Large, attractive restaurant (beautiful rest rooms, seriously) with a first-rate steak list. Complimentary shuttle service.
Hawkeye's Bar & Grill, 1458 W. Taylor St., 312-226-3951. Convivial Taylor Street pub with burgers, chicken-breast sandwiches, other bar food. $5 United Center shuttle.
Market Bar Chicago, 1113 W. Randolph St., 312-929-4787. Think sports bar, with much more serious cooking than you might expect. Also good cocktails. Lunch and dinner, plus a Saturday-Sunday brunch. Free shuttle.
Park Grill, 1645 W. Jackson Boulevard, 312-243-4276. Sprawling (10,000 square feet) sports bar with a couple dozen TVs and a menu of sandwiches, pizzas, animal tots (think poutine) and other pub-food fare. Happy hour (half-price bar snacks) 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday. Free shuttle service to the United Center.