I lived in San Fran for nearly 17 years and therefore took UA
most of the time I traveled. I literally can't count how many United flights I've been on, and the service, from the booking agents to the gate agents to the F/A's to baggage claim, has never been anything less than A++. I have no idea where it's gotten its negative reputation from. I get top-notch courtesy and consideration from them, and I'm always flying on deeply discounted, coach-cabin tickets; I'm also not some elite-level frequent flyer.
On flights of the LGA
length, if you're in coach, don't expect anything more than a beverage and MAYBE a light snick-snack (pretzels, nuts, etc.). I'd bring a few protein bars, maybe some almonds, buy maybe a sammich to go from some airport eats. Since you're transiting through ORD
, that means you can stop at Uno's!!
Sorry, I've never flown on award ticket so I can't answer the seat selection question.
Pancakes are delicious.