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NYC couple visiting Chicago for 2 nights

Hi My boyfriend and I will be in Chicago for only 2 nights (three days) in January. One night we are going to Alinea and are looking for suggestions for the other night. Neither of us has been to Chicago before. Money isn't an issue, we just want really good, interesting, well thought out food. Some ideas we are thinking about are Schwa, Blackbird, Avec. We are up for any suggestions. Places were we could get lunch would be great too because we only have 2 nights and one is already filled. My boyfriend is a chef in the city and I work in restaurants as well. Food and restaurants is basically our life so thougtful suggestions would are much appreciated. Oh we will be there Friday-Sunday (Saturday night we are at Alinea.)

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  1. Blackbird is open for lunch on weekdays and is wonderful, so you might want to try that as an option on Friday if you want to save your other dinner for something else. Avec is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago, so I would normally recommend that. But Avec and Blackbird are sister restaurants, so you might want to expand your prospects a bit.

    1. What about Arun's thai tasting menu?

      1. Arun's is generally considered way past it's prime.

        How about the Sweets and Savories chef menu? Excellent bang for the buck(the best risotto I've ever had...tho' the auteur is Ameri-French-based). Idiosyncratic waitstaff. AND, you'd experience one of the top venues in Chicago's burgeoning boutique restaurant...um...urgh...scene. See also: Schwa.

        2 Replies
        1. re: aelph

          I guess Arun's just took away from the atmosphere of that miserable city! It was a few years ago. Thanks for the heads up.

          1. re: Nutritious Jane

            "miserable city!?"

            Just to qualify...Arun's, once-upon-a-time, was top of the pops for a Thai "haute cuisine" prix fixe. What with Chicago's burgeoning mom n pop restaurants offering divers "authentic" Thai cuisines...Arun's doesn't have the same cachet it once did...

            certainly, many still enjoy it...a good friend got engaged there a couple years back and subsequently eco-honeymoon'd all over Thailand and Cambodia...she certainly enjoys Arun's food

        2. I was going to reply and say Sweets & Savories, too. I think that for a NYC foodie you will be blown away by the food and the amazing value of it. Plus, you get out into the non-downtown neighborhood, which not enough tourists do.

          1. I would highly recommend Schwa, but if you choose Schwa, you better reserve early or you'll be left out in the cold. It might be the hardest reservation to get in Chicago. Sweets & Savories is also an excellent idea. The tasting menus at S&S and Schwa are among the best values in town, not to mention great food.

            I love Blackbird and Avec (sister restaurants). If you are a pork fan (especially pork belly), don't miss Blackbird. Blackbird is one of my couple of favorite restaurants in the city, perhaps just behind Alinea.

            A couple other ideas: I think Chicago really has some excellent Thai and Mexican restaurants. As for Thai, you can really have an amazing feast at Spoon Thai (or Sticky Rice or TAC Quick). I don't believe you will find anything quite like them in NY, and even though you say money will not be an issue, you can't help but be happy with the very inexpensive offerings. Make sure to ask for the translated Thai language menus for some real treats unlike what you might find on the ordinary Thai menu. I believe all three are open for lunch also. Here's a link that should help:


            As for upscale Mexican, I would highly recommend both Salpicon and Topolobampo. Topolobampo is also open for lunch; Salpicon does not do lunch, but does do Sunday brunch.

            1 Reply
            1. re: BRB

              I called Schwa yesterday for reservations and they really are booked until January. I've never been there, so I can only imagine that they have great food. I'll let you know in January...

            2. This site is awesome cause youre on track for a killer weekend of dining... Alinea, Blackbird, and lunch at Topolobampo would be amazing... perfect!!

              1. I will second the suggestions for Topolobampo, Salpicon and Sweets and Savories. I've had great meals in all of them. And Sweets and Savories is a wonderfully quirky little place with great, creative food.

                If you have never had one, I'll also encourage you to get an Italian Beef sandwich from either Mr. Beef on Orleans or Al's #1 fairly close on Ontario(East of Orleans). Not exactly gourmet stuff, but a wonderful sandwich available only in Chicago. Order it wet, with either sweet peppers, or hot gardinera. Or both.

                1. Might try the top of the Handcock tower for lunch. Never tried the food but they have a reasonably priced lunch buffet, and the view is awesome.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bcd2

                    don't do it! The food isn't good there. The view is great, so stick to an afternoon cocktail or something, but avoid the food.

                    1. re: Chargenda

                      right on the money

                      go for a drink at the bar above the restaurant...but nothing more

                      okay...I've had decent bar appetizers there, too

                  2. Gotta have Malnati's deep dish sausage pizza and an Italian Beef sandwich.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: bcd2

                      I live and cook in New York, and I really enjoyed Red Light when I was in Chicago in May. It's PanAsian, and the chef, Jackie Shen, is amazing. Place is "trendy," and can be crowded, but the food is great. Open for lunch, also.

                    2. My husband and I were recently at Sweets and Savories and thought it was excellent...a little quirky but the staff and atmosphere are very approachable and friendly. Highly recommend the tomato bread soup and filet or the tasting menu.