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Near Bin 36? And other fun ideas for 6 girls downtown

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Hello!
I will be joining about 5 girlfriends in downtown Chicago in late September and we're looking for some fun places appropriate to smallish 20-something budgets.

I am smitten with Bin36 and would like to go there for wine and cheeses before or after dinner. Can you recommend a place near there (River North?) to have a reasonably priced dinner? No sushi (*sigh*) or super-spicy stuff, unfortunately. How is Mambo Grill?

Also, any ideas for a fun meal on Saturday night would be greatly appreciated as well, preferably in a walker-friendly neighborhood. I'm considering tapas places, like Cafe Iberico or X/0, or perhaps Maza (Lebanese) or Rose Angelis.

Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!

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  1. The first idea that came to my mind is Frontera Grill. It's at 445 N. Clark at Grand Ave - a few blocks from Bin 36. It is Mexican, but it is the best Mexican you will ever have (now 12 people are going to write back with 15 other Mexican places in Chicago....)

    You said you don't want spicy, and Mexican is not bland. But if you tell the waiter you don't want spicy, it won't be too hot. In addition to incredible food, they have the best Margaritas you'll ever have.

    Here is their dinner menu: http://www.fronterakitchens.com/resta...

    One thing to note: they do not take reservations and the wait can be long on a weekend night. Since you'll be filling up on wine and cheese, you should be fine. But it's best if everyone knows ahead of time about the wait.

    Another place in that neighborhood that gets good reviews for food and reasonable prices is Osteria via Stato (though I haven't been myself).

    Greektown is very close, but you'll want to take a cab (I'd guess the cab fare between Bin 36 and Greektown would be about $6). Greektown is on Halsted, just west of Bin 36. Lots of very fun, reasonably prices places there. Do a search for "greek" on this board and you'll get a lot of hits.

    Cafe Iberico is excellent. But like Frontera Grill, they don't take reservations and the wait can be very, very long.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Darren72

      The last time we went to Frontera, we put our name on the list and the host said to come up to the host stand in 30 minutes for a buzzer, when we got the buzzer it took about 10 minutes for it to buzz. Now, if you get there at 5:30 and the host says "come back in 90 minutes for a buzzer" I don't see why you couldn't put your name down, go to Bin 36 for wine and cheese, and then come back.

      I didn't hear them call any names of people without buzzers but we were seated quickly so I may have missed that.

    2. Two more options:

      1. Tizi Melloul, http://www.tizimelloul.com/
      This is higher-end Middle Eastern meets trendy. The food is good and the atmosphere is fun. Good drinks. Good place to go with a group. They also do group tasting menus.

      2. Avec, http://www.avecrestaurant.com/
      You would have to take a cab here from the area around Bin 36. But it would be a very cheap cab ride. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, as well as many others' favorite. It's been discussed on this board a ton. The food is small plates-style, French and Spanish inspired. Excellent wine list, with many/most in the $20-$40 range. A lot of wine by the glass or carafe. Also an excellent place for going with a group so you can order a lot of different things.

      One big problem is that they also do not take reservations. Another problem is that they have group seating, but since you will be in a party of 6, you'll likely get your own table. So, put your name on the list and have a few drinks.

      1. I would take Quartino over Osteria via Stato - I think Quartino's food is a lot better, and the small-plate concept allows you to order just as much as you want, whereas Osteria has a prix fixe dinner with unlimited sides (a recent post reported that they were getting stingy with those sides, too). Quartino can be very crowded, and the noise level is off the charts, but we still enjoyed it greatly when we went.

        As for Frontera, see today's post about eating at the bar. There are a few tables in the back of the bar area, and six people could possibly commandeer them with a much shorter wait than you'd have trying to get seated in the restaurant. Between appetizers and their tacos al carbon, there are plenty of inexpensive choices, and the food is top-notch.

        For your fun meal on Saturday, I'd recommend my own neighborhood, Lincoln Square. It's "walker-friendly," easy to reach on the Brown Line El, and has a lot of good dining choices. Pizza D.O.C. has great Italian pizzas, cooked in a wood-fired oven, and tasty pastas, too, as well as a few other "made-dish" items. Then there's Bistro Campagne, which has a nice outdoor patio (don't know if it'd still be open in September, though), a great menu of French bistro food, and a wonderful selection of wine, beers and ales. Further down on Lincoln is Cork, a small-plates/wine bar place (haven't been there, but have heard good things). Square Kitchen is another popular place on Lincoln. Bocca della Verita, also on Lincoln, is a bit more formal than Pizza D.O.C. (though both are white-tablecloth places), also with good food and inexpensive wines.

        Here are a few links:

        http://www.toomanychefs.net/archives/...
        http://www.bistrocampagne.com/templat...
        http://www.laboccachicago.com/

        2 Replies
        1. re: Akatonbo

          UPDATE: I actually went to Ostria via Stato the other night and they offered me the Prix Fixe menu or the a la carte menu at my table (in dining room). Maybe this is a new thing? I really like the food there, and it's less noisy than Quartino. TH

          1. re: TrixieHelper

            Sounds new to me - and that might be enough to get me back there - because it is most definitely a LOT less noisy than Quartino! (Although Quartino does have a lot of choices -hmmm - what a dilemma).

        2. In easy walking distance of Bin 36 is also Brasserie Jo for dependable French cuisine with an Alsatian touch at midlevel prices ($40-50 apiece).

          http://www.leye.com/restaurants/rest_...

          By the way, along with wine and cheese flights you could add pizza soups and charcuterie and make a meal of it at Bin 36, too

          1. I really second the Quartino recommendation. We went there - a group of 20 something girls with varying incomes...some grad students, some already professionals - and it was very agreeable for everyone's wallet. Its fun, too, because you can just get a whole mess of things and nibble.

            Iberico is also a wonderful option. The food is decent, fun atmosphere, reasonable. I've been there with large groups of girls for various occasions...birthdays, going away parties...and we've always had fun without breaking the bank.

            1. Actually, Frontera does take reservations for parties of 6 or more so you could call them and see what they have open.

              1. Caveat: Do not go for wine and cheese before dinner. You'll wind up feeling so full that you won't enjoy your meal. Definitely plan to go afterward.

                1 Reply
                1. re: mr_jerry

                  This is true, if you eat too much, and adjust your main meal accordingly. I love to go for drinks, or drinks+apps, before a meal. It just requires thinking ahead about portions.