New Orleans girl needs dinner recs
Ok. Hubby works in restaurant in N.O. classified as contemporary creole, dinner for 2 about $200, give or take. His boss has offered to buy us dinner at a comparable restaurant while we vacation in Chicago. I've done some checking and am looking into Blackbird (leaning towards here), Spring (close 2nd), Mk, Northpond, Custom House, and Spiaggia. Some other restraurants looked great, but trying to stay somewhat contemporary, not too ethnic, since this is for "research". Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I think you'll be very happy at all of those. To me, it depends on what you want to eat. I know this may not seem helpful, but I think the best move is to check out the menus on line and see which appeals to you the most.
Having said that, here are some thoughts: To me, Blackbird is the definition of "contemporary". I don't know much about Creole cuisine, but my guess is that to the extent that your husband's restaurant and Blackbird both have French roots, this may be the best choice, researchwise.
You probably know this already (in which case I apologize): Spring will lead you in a seafood direction, with an Asian influence. The food is absolutely great, though.
Blackbird and Spiaggia are the best places on your list, IMHO. North Pond and Spring are also very good, but a notch below the other two (plus, I found the service at Spring to be jarringly unpolished for the level of restaurant that it aspires to be - our cheerful, friendly college-girl server had a totally laid back attitude about when to take our order or deliver our wine).
Since you say "not too ethnic," that may knock out Spiaggia, which is definitely Italian - however, if by "ethnic" you meant something else, Spiaggia is great - best in the city for northern haute-Italian. As for Blackbird, it's a wonderful place with sublime food - just be sure, if you go there, to ask for the table for two against the west wall - the place can be noisy and the tables are closely spaced - the two-top against the west wall is in a dog-leg that insulates it from some of the noise, and you don't have anyone right up next to you. And if they have any kind of pork belly item on the menu, be sure to order it - it must be one of the chef's favorite things - no matter how it's prepared it will be ambrosial.
I would run to all of the restaurants that you listed -- they're all excellent. But one thing, in my opinion, separates both Blackbird and North Pond from the rest of the list. These two are not only contemporary, but they specialize in showcasing locally raised and grown products (along with great food).
If I had to choose between the two, I'd take Blackbird any day of the week based upon the food, and North Pond any day of the week for pure atmosphere and location. If I still couldn't decide, I'd go to Blackbird. And as Akatonbo says, if you see pork belly on the menu, don't miss it -- it's sure to be outstanding.