HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >


One Night (Sunday) in Chicago?

If you only have room for one "fancy" meal in Chicago on a Sunday night in October, what do you recommend? On my last visit in May, I went to Blackbird and Alinea. My pocketbook can't handle Alinea twice in year -- maybe twice in a decade. Blackbird was superb, but I'd like to try something new.

Can I go wrong with Spring?

I'll be staying in the Theatre District.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Spring is excellent but it can be expensive.

    Greektown is close to the theatre district. There are quite a few restaurants here so competition is fierce and food quality high.

    Santorini at Halsted and Adams serves excellent food in a serene Greek Islands atmosphere. It's often referred to as the very best in Greektown. Known for seafood and lamb dishes. One of the higher priced Greek restuarants in Greektown but definitely not high-end expensive. More upscale feel here when compared to some of the other Greek restaurants.

    Greek Islands also at the same intersection is excellent as well and less expensive than Santorini. This place can be packed daily with 400ish locals and tourists alike. More casual atmosphere here. The whole red snapper I had the other day was melt in your mouth incredible and pretty reasonably priced.

    1. Although my husband and I liked the food at Spring, we found the service (friendly college girl waitrons) to be a bit too casual and disorganized for our taste (and at that price point!). Since you obviously like fine dining, why not try Avenues, in the Peninsula Hotel? They have a variety of differently priced degustations, including a three-course menu that (when we were there) was $75. The service is faultless and the food is superb, by an award-winning chef. Here's a link: http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dini...

      1 Reply
      1. re: Akatonbo

        I strongly second Avenues. I took my mom there for her birthday and we loved it. The service is absolutely fantastic - warm, but beyond professional. I even commented on a dish I particularly liked to our *lead* server and she had one of the chef's email me a version using simplified make at home techniques. And the food is great - innovative and of the highest quality without being pretentious.

      2. Spring is very good, but there are other restaurants that I much prefer, including Blackbird. One restaurant which is a little closer to where you'll be is NAHA (a 15-minute walk or a very quick cab ride). It's just a notch below Blackbird in my opinion, but it's outstanding and I think better than Spring. Here's a link to the menu:


        Avenues is a great rec, but it could get close to as pricey as Alinea. I'd also recommend Moto which I would place in the same dining classification (i.e., creative) and price range as Alinea and Avenues (although Alinea would likely be the priciest).

        One other restaurant that does not receive the attention it deserves is Sweets & Savories in Lincoln Park. While the atmosphere is relatively casual, the food is anything but simple. The 7-course, $60 tasting menu is one of the best deals around and the food is fantastic. Here's a link to comments about S&S:


        Finally, if you're really after creative seafood, I personally prefer Scylla more than Spring (fyi - they're very close to one another), and Scylla's chef used to be at Spring. Here's a link to Scylla's menu:


        Good luck -- you'll enjoy your meal at Spring or any one of these places.

        1. Thanks for the recs. I have read about and would love to try Avenues, but I don't know if this will be the visit for it. I'll be running the marathon that morning, and my body may not want molecular gastronomy that afternoon. NAHA may be the ticket.


          2 Replies
          1. re: LPM

            Just want to correct a misunderstanding: Avenues does not do "molecular gastromony" (that would be Moto). Alinea is actually much more "molecular" than Avenues. Also, I would disagree that it is as pricey as Alinea. Alinea (for my husband and me, at least) was about twice as expensive as Avenues (and we had the most expensive of Avenues' several menus). The food at Avenues, while innovative, has quite a traditional foundation. I am sure you'd enjoy it.

            1. re: Akatonbo

              I would certainly agree that Moto and Avenues are very different, although both excellent. I might call Avenues whimsical to some degree, as opposed to Moto which is certainly more scientific and gimmicky (not in a bad way). In any event, utilizing Pop Rocks and Altoids in courses (as GEB does at Avenues) is certainly not typical of what most restaurants in Chicago (or elsewhere) are doing.

              With respect to pricing, Alinea is $125 for the 13-course menu, while Avenues is $138 for the 12-course menu. Sure, Alinea has a $175 menu and both Alinea and Avenues have other menus, and wine adds to the cost, but really the two are not that much different in price. For me, Alinea and Avenues ended up being comparable in price with Alinea slightly more due to alcohol, although I much preferred Alinea (and that's no knock against Avenues which is outstanding).

          2. I think the OP meant after running a marathon that she/he would want more "traditional" meal rather than a series of events. I know after I ran it all my body wanted was comfort and relaxation and I would want a restaurant that had great food but that I wouldn't feel bad about zoning out and missing something.

            1. Can I impose on you chowhounds once more? Sunday night is proving to be more difficult than I realized. Blackbird is out. NAHA closed. Ditto for Avenues. Don't want to go to Alinea again. Spring just got slammed at another thread. Not sure I want to go all-in on fish at Scylla.

              Any other recommendations? I'll cab it as far as necessary. How about if I just want a steak? Is David Burke Primehouse any good?

              1. Here's a thread on David Burke's:

                If you are still thinking of non-steakhouse options, you might want to search here and on lthforum.com for discussion of some other 3-star places (i.e. in the Blackbird range, not in the 4-star Alinea range): North Pond Cafe, Sweets and Savories, Merlo on Maple, Cafe Spiaggia.

                good luck in the marathon!

                1. Gibsons/Hugos Frog Bar are always good for steak, although Smith and Wollensky is a walk from your hotel and not bad for a chain. Nice location on the river.

                  Two other non-steak within a 5 minute cab ride are Coco Pazzo (Italian) and Crofton on Wells (American). They've both been around for a long time and are very consistent. I'd think some pasta might go down well after 26.2 miles.

                  1. I'm going to hit Coco Pazzo for pre-race carbo-loading.

                    1. The Atwood Cafe in the Burnham Hotel has been the source of a few great meals that I've had, and is very close to the Theater District. For a short cab ride, mk is an excellent restaurant, where I've had more than a few great steaks, as well as a fine tasting menu option. And on a Sunday night, Opera (in the South Loop) will have their $25 prix fixe menu, a hard to beat value for some excellent food. Any starter, entree and dessert on their menu for $25 on Sundays and Tuesdays.

                      1. I really like the food at the Atwood Cafe in the Burnham, but I find that the room is cramped and not particularly comfortable to sit in. Seems to me, if you have just run a marathon, you want a restautant with comfortable seating, as well as good food. Two that I would recommend, which are both within an easy walk of where you are staying are:
                        Petterino's, which is in the same building as the Goodman Theater at Randolph & State.
                        Shaw's Crabhouse, north of the river at Hubbard, west of Wabash.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: masha

                          On my last visit to the Atwood Cafe, in August, my sweetheart took us there for our 18 year anniversary of unwedded bliss, and having made a reservation to that effect, we were seated in a 1/4 round banquette/booth that was almost couchlike. VERY comfortable. They also comped our dessert for the event.