GUIDEBOOK SMACKDOWN

Chicago Deep Dish

Because no one knows a place as well as the locals do, we asked a trio of Chicago residents to give us their opinions of three recent guidebooks about the city.

Chicago guidebooks

TOP PICK!
* A gold star goes to the guidebook that the insider finds the most useful.

THE JUDGES

Victoria Baker
Originally from England, she's an insurance underwriter who has lived in Chicago for seven years.

Phil Hoffer
A city resident for 20 years, Hoffer owns a real estate consulting firm and lives downtown.

Shifra Lipson
The Spanish interpreter and translator was born in Chicago and has lived there for 15 years.

THE BOOKS

Frommer's Chicago, 2008 ($18)

Victoria Baker: Surprising errors make this guide hard to trust. The entire Pink Line is missing from the El train map, and at least one restaurant—Filter in Wicker Park—has closed. The book is also pretty tame and unimaginative, sticking mainly to the major sights, hotels, and restaurants.

Phil Hoffer: * Focuses on the eating and sightseeing spots that should be on the top of every tourist's list—the very best the city has to offer. Add extremely in-depth info on festivals and architecture, and you have the most well-rounded book of the three.

Shifra Lipson: Tells you how to reserve a seat at a special chef's table at three restaurants—a delight for foodies. The overall tone, though, is slightly tedious. An 11-page history of city architecture reads like a really boring college textbook.

Fodor's Chicago, 2008 ($18)

Victoria Baker: * Written for the visitor who wants to eat and drink like a local, with a wide mix of restaurants and bars outside the main tourist areas. And it's packed with trivia. (Who knew the city's name came from a Potawatomi Indian word for "skunk"?)

Phil Hoffer: Captures the flavor of neighborhoods with an insider's expertise. The beach and waterfront section is also the best of the guides. On the downside, in the entertainment listings only bars and lounges are categorized by neighborhood; clubs, theaters, and music venues are not.

Shifra Lipson: * Highly recommended restaurants have been compiled in a spread and sorted by price, cuisine, and experience—a very handy feature. This book is more fun than the others, with a section on slang to help you speak like a native. The list of freebies in the city is extensive.

Wallpaper City Guide, 2008 ($9)

Victoria Baker: Aimed at hipsters with money to burn, the guide only really lists the hottest places to be seen, so it's probably not for Joe Tourist. But it does show people the city from a design standpoint, and the pictures are fabulous.

Phil Hoffer: Wallpaper's book is well versed on the city's latest architecture, but the maps are poorly marked, and there's barely any mention of public transportation. If you can afford to take cabs everywhere, this is the guidebook for you.

Shifra Lipson: The obsession with clean lines and right angles is almost as annoying as the use of words like PoMo. All those photos of empty restaurants make Chicago look like a beautifully designed ghost town. Not one of the places listed is family friendly, either.

Budget Travel and Frommer's are owned by different companies and have no affiliation.

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