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Jul 25, 2006 11:17 PM

Top-Notch Resto in Chicago?

I am the proprietor of a fine-dining establishment in Manhattan.
I will be in Chicago for a wedding at the end of August.
This is my first visit to the windy city, and I want to have a superb meal.
The obvious is Charlie Trotters, however, I am young (27) and it seems too stuffy. Someone recommended TRU, but I've read some mixed reviews. I want something upscale, price is not an issue, just want to see if Chicago is up to par with the NYC dining scene.
Reccomendations please! THANKS!

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  1. Here are some recs:

    Spring: Seafood based with very calm atmosphere. Great service and food all around...and they can get relatively inventive with some dishes (coffee and cigarettes: tobacco infushed coffee dessert with homemade cinamon doughnut)

    Blackbird: Kind a hip, trendy tip of place. Very modern, minimalist interior, but really great food. If you want a restaurant with more of a scene, this is it.

    Custom House: Same chef/owner as Spring. A modern steakhouse. Really great space with fantastic food across the board. The black truffle risotto is to die for, as is the sirloin and braised short ribs with horseradish puffs

    Alinea: Really high end dining. Extremely innovative cuisine. Grant does amazing food and makes you go, "how'd they do that?". Similar to wd-50 in NYC, but does not put presentation and shock factor over taste as much as Wylie does at wd-50.

    These are just a few recs (they are all high end dining). I think that Chicago is on par with the NYC dining scene. Might not be as many choices, but the quality is there across the board. And this is not a bias opinion...I don't even live in the midwest.
    PS I had a great meal and experience at TRU when I went. Dessert cart and cheese cart are killer and the wine list is top notch.

    1. Charlie Trotters is not stuffy at all. There was a very good, long review of it by a chowhounder within the last couple of months. Tru has been getting mixed reviews recently, as you said, perhaps because the chefs/owners have been working on their new restaurant.

      Read my response on this thread for more about four star places:

      Then search earlier posts for many others experiences. You might also read reviews on

      It is hard to recommend something since you haven't told us much about your tastes (other than you don't want "stuffy"). If you want to stay under the four-star level, I'd recommend Schwa, a relatively new and very innovative restaurant. See other recs in my post above.

      By the way, you'll probably get a more favorable response if you lose the us against them attitude. People in Chicago know our restaurants are excellent and don't really care much about how they stack up against others.

      1. You can read my review of Trotters here:

        I'm 26 and generally look for stuffiness--part of me really wanted to leave thinking "I wasted my money but now I never want to come back"--but it was top notch, service was excellent, not a hint of stuff at all.

        Lots of people here have very strong negative opinions of Trotters for reasons which seem pretty valid, but all I can speak for is my experience which was fantastic.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chris

          This was the *excellent* review that I was referring to above. Thanks again Chris for writing it. I've referred many people to it.

        2. Thanks for the quick replies.
          My tastes are varied, I am up for anything.
          But definitely want a fine culinary experience...high end for sure.
          I did not mean to offend...just have no idea what Chicago is about...
          Being that I am a born and bred New Yorker and restaurateur, who dines out frequently, I know that we have some of the best restaurants in the world.
          Hoping that after my trip to Chicago, I can say the same!

          1 Reply
          1. re: alexnyc33

            If money really is no object and you want a true culinary experience, I would head to something from this list: Trotters, Tru, Spiaggia, Alinea, Moto, or Avenues.

            Trotters, Tru, and Spiaggia are contemporary, but I wouldn't say avant-garde. Alinea, Moto, and Avenues are avant-garde. goat's comparison above of Alinea to wd-50 is good. This is one of the most celebrated new restaurants around, and it's generated as much controversy as praise. Definitely read the reviews here and on egullet and lthforum to get a better idea about the differences between these places. All are excellent, but have different styles.

            Finally, as you probably know, the restaurants' websites themselves will tell you more about the cuisine itself than reviews.

            Have fun and please report back on your experience. We'd like to hear your perspective.

          2. I forgot one place in my post above: Topolombapo, Rick Bayless' masterpiece of gourmet Mexican cuisine. The food is definitely four stars and perhaps the best Mexican food in the United States. The atmosphere is not quite as formal as, say, Charlie Trotters.