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Chicago's Best

Okay, so I'm a food slut. Complete, total, unapologetic. I don't care how much it costs and I never met a restaurant check I didn't happily add 25% to. In return, I merely ask for passion, defined thusly:

- Shockingly great food. I don't confuse great with trendy, but rather with a chef who eats, breathes and sleeps flavors, and who knows that great food restores the soul. If there are unusual combinations, great. But there's got to be a point to it. I have cried over great food, and if they make me cry the tip will be 35%. But don't think you're going to fool me with some flabby foiwe gras, because I've been to Alain Ducasse. 'nuff said.

- Top service, i.e., knowledgable, gracious and present without hovering. I want servers who are really glad to be there. After all, they're going to get a $200+ tip from me with no begrudging, so the least they can do is fake it for a couple hours.

- If I get a multi-course wine-pairing meal, I expect that a lot of thought went into it and that the servers and sommelier will explain it without sounding like robots

- I do not equate a loud restaurant with an exciting one like too many jaded foodies and critics do. The only headache I want to have is from the alcohol. I am suspicious of loud places; I wonder what they are trying to distract me from.

I've been to Trotter's (a few years ago) and liked it a great deal, although I didn't get the sense that the waitstaff was allowed to eat the cooking or taste much wine because they didn't seem to know a whole lot. Not a disaster by any stretch, but the service wasn't world class like the food. I am thinking of going back -- after all, as long as they don't spit on my plate the food is still king -- but I thought I'd get some opinions here.

So where should we go? I'm thinking about Dec. 30th.

p.s.: Absolutely no reverse snobbery allowed. Don't tell me that the little hole in the wall in Greektown is better. I'll go there a different night and enjoy the hell out of it, but this night is going to be the best restaurant in Chicago.

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  1. Try Alinea if money is no object. Also, Les Nomades and Everest are excellent.

    5 Replies
    1. re: gardengirl453

      I'm not nearly as hostile as this will sound, but I've got an on-line Zagat's guide and can get a list of names anywhere. WHY are those places great? I promise that if you ever need restaurant recs in other cities (including Seattle, where I live) I'll return the favor. And speaking of Zagat's they give a very high rating to a place called Carlos, in Highland Park, I've never heard of it. Is the place really that good?

      1. re: Willy3000

        I've been to that place...it was pretty good, but not earthshattering. I live in San Fran, so I'm a little spoiled...the food was solid, but the service was a little haughty. My husband and I are major foodies - but we look youngish (though we're in our late 20s) and we're used to being treated well at restaurants in San Fran. It seemed like our waiter wasn't used to having younger people in his place and wasn't particularly thrilled we were there, although we had a full five course meal and weren't difficult in any way. Huh.

        1. re: megamalone

          Which place are you talking about?

      2. re: gardengirl453

        Les Nomades has seen its best days.
        Everest still is at the top of its game though.

        My favorite remain Alinea, Avenues, and Tru. Each is a masterpiece of a meal.

        Have five hours and an open wallet? Alinea is the place to go.

      3. Since you've already tried Charlie Trotter, do Alinea... great Chef, great wine sense, nice atmosphere... you won't have "screaming foodies"... it's a culinary emporium of the first order... exactly what you're looking for...

        Tru would be second choice, you're not likely to be disappointed at either...

        There's alot of 3rd choices that you'd also surely enjoy, but if I can only choose 2, there they are.

        1. Go to Everest. It is EVERYTHING you are looking for. Food where every bite of every dish will knock your socks off. Service that is accommodating, gracious, and efficient while remaining unobtrusive. A wonderful view (but I'm like you, I'd eat in a dungeon if the food bowled me over). It is THE best restaurant in Chicago, by far, IMHO. http://www.everestrestaurant.com

          I've been less than thrilled by Alinea and a previous restaurant of his, as the food generally struck me as creative (unusual combinations of ingredients) without tasting divine the way food should be at the very top places.

          Carlos is very good but no more so than a couple dozen other restaurants downtown and elsewhere. I have no idea why it has a food rating in the latest Zagat one point higher than anyplace else in town. If you're staying in or near downtown Chicago, it's not worth the trip up to Highland Park (but if you're on the North Shore anyway, then by all means go there).

          1 Reply
          1. re: nsxtasy

            I've grown a little suspicious of Zagat's in the past few years. They've broadened their list of reviewers past the high-end corporate road warrior core that it used to be, and one result is ratings that are too high. I suspect that they get a bunch of people who do the splurge of their life and, like my Golden Retriever, really don't have too many words other than "Wow!!" in their vocabulary.

            p.s.: Hey everyboym, sorry about the misspelling of foie gras in my original message. When I re-read it I cringed. It was a typo, honest.

          2. Everest strikes me as a great Corporate destination. Also can be quite romantic if a bit stuffy...

            I've enjoyed meetings there. But I find the main dining room to be a bit tight... there's nothing in that part of town after dark, the whole place just feels like "haute corporate" dining...

            That said, the food is good, the wine matches will be good, and I doubt that you won't like your meal, just wouldn't be the first choice for an out-of-town haute cuisine slut.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Chicago Mike

              So Alinea vs. Everest, huh? Well, I'm an ex-corporate food slut with far too much experience on the high-end, boil-in-a-bag four-star hotel banquet food crapola scene. Now, I couldn't care less what else there is to do near the restaurant. It could be on the moon for all I care, but are you saying Everest lacks personality? That it's like a fully reclining first class airplane seat that looks great in the ad except that you still can't find a comfortable sleeping position?

              When you say Everest's dining room is "a bit tight," are you saying they cram the tables too close or is that a more figurative comment about an uptight atmosphere? I hate it when tables are too close. I don't want the next people over sneezing in my food. That's a real consideration in Chicago in December. Someone's going to have a cold, and you just know it's going to be the guy at the next table.

              1. re: Willy3000

                You left Avenues out of the equation. I would definitely try Avenues before Everest. Jean Joho is brilliant, but if you like Ducasse, then you've done something similar. Chef GEB over at Avenues will be a new experience.

                1. re: Willy3000

                  The tables at Everest are NOT close together. Not at all. In fact, it's the kind of place where you feel like you've got your own private dining room - not that you can't see other people, just that you never notice them and no, you NEVER feel like it's crammed together. Exactly the opposite.

                  I'm not even sure what "corporate" means, unless it means that people are dressed in business attire, in which case most of the highest-end restaurants qualify. Everest is certainly NOT stuffy; its personality, if you will, is along the lines of "welcome to this very special place, we hope our dinner will be your ultimate food fantasy, and we will do everything we can to give you a meal that you will never forget". I disagree with the "nothing in that part of town" comment, too; it's at the south end of the Loop's financial district, in one of the exchange buildings, next to the new public library and just a couple blocks north of what is the "South Loop", a trendy up-and-coming residential neighborhood with a bunch of good eating places.

                  I like your analogy about the airplane seat. That's the way I feel about Alinea - it's like a seat that has new features and functions but it just isn't comfortable (food that is creative but doesn't taste as good as the very best around). Everest is far, far better IMO.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Thanks much for the descriptions. I think I've kinda sorta settled on Alinea because of the "tour," but Everest sounds great. Can't kiss all the chefs, huh? And you never know, maybe we won't be able to get into Alinea at all. I'm also pretty interested in Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel, mentioned by Skeeters above. Got an opinion about the place?

              2. Alinea hands down over Everest. Grant is doing the most innovative and interesting cooking in the US. If you want a low tech version, try Schwaa. Micheal Carlson also does amazing food in an almost diner-like atmosphere. Its BYO and that includes bringing your own wine glasses if you dont want to use their juice glasses. He was profiled in best new chefs Food and Wine.

                1 Reply
                1. re: gardengirl453

                  Thanks for the Schwa but it's not going to work for this meal. At least not from what I read elsewhere. Described as great food but cramped. And "bring your own" including the wine glasses? Some other time. I could imagine doing that in warm weather when I feel loose. In cold weather, man, I want to be waited on. Character flaw, I suppose.

                2. If you're looking for a French-inspired, multi-starred (with a terrific wine list) experience as well as a great, memorable view Everest is the one. If you're looking for creative, cutting edge (but not so much that it bleeds, that's Moto) ingredient-inspired cuisine, that's Alinea (altho, in the battle of wine lists, the former may be superior). If you're looking for the new kid on the block with superb attention to absolutely every detail on the plate, that would be Schwa (where you get to choose your own wine, since it's a BYO).

                  Altho this discussion might all be moot, since at this late date I'm not certain you can get a reservation at any of these places for what is a very popular Saturday night (Schwa is probably booked up until the Spring).

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: jbw

                    I agree with the prior post (although I was very impressed by the wine choices at Alinea).

                    Realistically, it is very late to get reservations at any of those places. You may still be able to get reservations at Naha, One Sixty Blue, or Custom House, each of which would be a great experience.

                    1. re: Skeeter

                      I hear you about the rezes. I've kinda sorta settled on Alinea. The 20+ course "tour" sounds like one of those things everyone's got to do at least once. But I just found out that their administrative office isn't even open on Monday. So I'll wait until tomorrow. Fortunately, I'm flexible about the dates and the times; I had been thinking that Dec. 30 might give us a better chance because of the alternative to New Year's Eve. I hadn't even noticed that it was a Saturday.

                      Fortunately, I'm perfectly okay with going, say, on Thursday the 28th at 5:30 p.m. The only thing I'm inflexible about is this: If I take, say, the 5:30 table, or the 9:30 table, I absolutely don't want to be someone's squeezed-in afterthought. Wherever I go, I'm going to have pretty high expectations.

                      1. re: Willy3000

                        "I absolutely don't want to be someone's squeezed-in afterthought."

                        That will not happen at Alinea.
                        I am a person who made dinner reservations for Paris before plane reservations. I travel to St. Bart to eat. I take food seriously.
                        Based on my travels, Alinea is truly among the elite anywhere. The service, room, wines, and overall quality of the food are simply spectacular.

                        The interesting thing about Alinea is that although they definitely do some of the interesting science things, that is not what the place is about. Some of the best stuff is the simplest. A piece of lamb with eucalyptus (spelling?) leaves. A simple dish, no science involved, but the taste is amazing. It is also one of the few places that I find the wine list interesting. They will serve me things that I have not had before, and they don't do it just to be strange, but because they have tasted the food and tasted the wines and at times have come to the conclusion that, for this dish, the only wine to serve is a Late Harvest Zin (or some other obscure wine). The food, wine and service all work well together. It is a rare combo. Although I miss Lucas Carton in Paris (and nothing will match the experience of Taillevent the day prior to my anniversary and Lucas Carton for the anniversary), when it comes simply to the quality of the food, nothing currently around matches Alinea.

                        Gourmet Magazine was right. Alinea right now is the best place around.

                        That being said -- if you can't get in, try Avenues. Similar food, not quite to the same level, but an incredible experience.

                        1. re: Skeeter

                          We might wind up going to both places. My companion says there's a seafood restaurant in Chicago near the river that's out of this world, and it sounds like Avenues might be the one. So it sounds like I can put myself in the hands of the sommelier at Alinea? I don't do that very often, but every now and then it's a good idea. With 20+ courses how do they handle this, anyway? It's not like you can do a pairing with each thing you serve when there are that many courses.

                          By the way, I was at Taillevent during the '03 heat wave. Went there for lunch. I had called a couple hours before we were due to arrive to ask whether, in view of the blistering heat, they'd mind if we didn't wear coats and ties. They said don't worry about it, we understand.

                          So we get there looking like the archetypal Americans right out of National Lampoon's European Vacation. I was so embarrassed that we almost didn't go in, but my hunger conquered all. My companion was in poor health; had we dressed up we'd probably have had to skip our lunch for having keeled over on the street. It was really that hot out. Thank God the place had air conditioning. When I heard later on about how many people had died that summer it really didn't surprise me.

                          Anyway, they couldn't have been more gracious. My profuse apologies must have helped. We had a four course lunch with the pairings. What really stands out in my mind was a fish breaded in an impossibly light batter, served with a white Corton. It had happened that, in the previous spring, in reaction to that Fox News boycott of French wine I had decided to buy nothing BUT French wine (and go to Paris -- hey, what's an affluent Democrat to do??), and along the way we had consumed a few bottles of Corton.

                          Well, I really hadn't liked the Corton too much because of its floral nature. At Taillevent it was perfect, and I told the waiter that it's not often that lunch is perfect in every way plus being an education. They served that Corton with the right food, and 1 + 1 = 3. Truly memorable, as was their complete graciousness toward what had to have been two of the worst dressed people to show up there in quite a while.

                          I will always have very fond memories of Taillevent, and I'm sure I'll be there again before too long.

                          1. re: Willy3000

                            With respect to an out-of-this-world seafood restaurant in Chicago, I'd be a little suspect about that...

                            Based on 12 years in Florida it's my opinion Chicago is seafood-challenged. As you're from Seattle... it's doubtful Chicago is going to measure up.

                            1. re: Chicago Mike

                              I've told my friend the same thing, but he insists that there's a great seafood joint there. Says it's an established Chicago restaurant somewhere in or near the Loop, and that it's not Avenues.

                              1. re: Willy3000

                                They must mean Catch 35. They do get fresh fish, but I think you can do as well or better in in Seattle. In fact, I know you can. If you want something really special seafood-wise, check out Oceanique in Evanston, which somebody else suggested earlier.

                                Oceanique
                                505 Main St
                                Evanston, IL 60202
                                (847) 864-3435
                                http://oceanique.com

                                Catch 35
                                35 W Wacker Dr
                                Chicago, IL 60601
                                (312) 346-3500
                                http://www.catch35.com

                                1. re: Roger Spark

                                  I'll bet it's Catch 35. When I calls tonight, I'll ask.

                                2. re: Willy3000

                                  Probably Catch35, or Nicks Fishmarket, but I'm just guessing. There's also Joes Stone Crab (ubiquitous) and Bob Chinn's Crab House in the general vicinty. They should all serve very acceptable seafood... but it's not like living on the ocean in Florida or the Carolinas, IMO... much less Seattle.

                              2. re: Willy3000

                                For Alinea, go with the by the glass pairings. There is no way that any bottle will work with the diverse menu.

                                I've done the 12 course meal twice. It takes about three to four hours and is actually many more courses than that.

                                I note that for my wife they had some interesting non-alcohol pairings. Also, just remember that you are not obligated to drink everything put in front of you (I sometimes forget that). On a few courses, I just had a few sips to understand the pairing.

                                I know what you mean about the boycott. I like Bordeaux, and whether or not I agree with decisions of the French government is not going to stop me from buying the wine. The French people have treated me well in Paris and St. Bart and I like their wines. That's all that matters to me.

                        2. re: jbw

                          Good point. I called Schwa back in mid Nov. and they were booked through the end of the year. I imagine that all the above mentioned are in a similar situation. Even for a normal non-Holiday event, you often need to book 6-8 weeks in advance for a prime weekend slot.

                        3. Sometimes you can get a reservation without booking that far in advance if you're not too picky about what time you eat. It's not uncommon to be told "We have openings at 5:30, or at 9:30, but not in between". If that works for you, fine.

                          In any case, I would suggest calling to get a reservation wherever you're considering. Don't rule anyplace out without at least trying; call them and find out for sure.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            I couldn't agree more. It's really kind of amazing to me that so many people just give up on the rez front. I've gotten tables and rooms at plenty of places by having the attitude of, "What the hell, why not call? The worst they can do is say No." It's funny how often they say Yes.

                            1. re: nsxtasy

                              I just called and snagged a table for two on the 30th at 9:30 p.m., with us wait-listed for an earlier table. I told them we're going to do the 24-course tour and that the lateness is no problem for us as long as the restaurant's endurance will match ours. I'd lay odds that they'll find a way to move the reservation earlier.

                              1. re: Willy3000

                                Sounds good. Where?

                                It's funny that it turned out to be the same 9:30 time that I threw out as an example in my previous post...

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  Oops sorry for not saying: Alinea

                                2. re: Willy3000

                                  Congratulations.
                                  What a way to do an early New Year's Eve celebration.
                                  You are in good hands there.
                                  If they offer you the upgraded wine pairings -- go for it. The regular selections are very good, but the upgraded are even better.

                                  1. re: Skeeter

                                    Thanks for the tip. If they don't offer the "upgraded" then I'll ask for them. Hey, by the way, my friend says the established seafood place is on an alleyway. So maybe it's not Catch 35, which is listed on Wacker Drive. Could it be on a stub off of Wacker? This is like a 20 Questions game, huh? I wish he'd just remember the name of the damn place.

                              2. The upgraded wine pairing started about 1/2 way through the meal. The pairing were the same for the first few, and then changed. The price, in the context, wasn't really all that significant. Still, I would mention it early. My experience in any place on that level is that when you show enthusiasm, good things happen. Also, although I've only done the 12+ course, you may want to take a short stroll between a few of the courses. The 12 is a lot of food, and with 25 you almost need a break. Still, what a way to spend a night.

                                I'm not sure about the fish place. Chicago is a great food town, but I wouldn't call it a fish destination. Avenues was formerly a fish place, but now the menu is pretty diverse. I can't imagine that your friend is referenceing McCormick and Schmidt (since they are everywhere). Bob Chinn's is on the river at about La Salle. Good, but not a destination place. I wouldn't go out of my way to go there. Catch 35 is good, but also not outstanding.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: Skeeter

                                  I'm sort of hoping they'll switch the rez to something earlier so we can do an intermission halfway through. My ass gets sore after a couple hours. The fish place turns out to be Shaw's Crab House, which has a raw oyster bar. I love oysters. How is the place? I know it's not haute cuisine but just a fish house. So, at that level, how is it? I'm skeptical as hell of fish anywhere but the coasts.

                                  1. re: Willy3000

                                    I wouldn't worry about being sore. First, the chairs at Alinea are probably the most comfortable you will ever sit in at a restaurant. Second, if you do the Tour with wine pairings, you could be sitting on a granite slab and you would feel no pain.

                                    We ate at Alinea last New Year's Eve. 27 courses served over 5 hours. It was truly one of the great meals of my life (and no, my ass didn't get sore).

                                    1. re: Willy3000

                                      I would pass on Shaw's. It isn't bad, but why bother?

                                      Instead, try some place a step down from Alinea but that still has outstanding food. Naha, Blackbird, and One Sixty Blue are the obvious choices for high quality food.

                                      If you like Mexican, try Frontera Grill. Rick Bayless does wonders with Mexican.

                                      Cafe Spiaggia is also a good choice. The food is similar to Spiaggia, but few courses and a lower price. Of course, Spiaggia was a finalist this year for the James Beard Award for Best Restaurant in America. And the room has some nice views from some table.

                                      1. re: Skeeter

                                        My friend's got an emotional tie to Shaw's, and emotional ties to food must be honored. But I am sort of curious about it. Do they have any house specialties, signature dishes, etc.? As for Frontera Grill, I absolutely loathe Mexican food. Truly hate it, and no one is ever going to change my mind.

                                        Hey, what about some lunch places? Does Spiaggia serve lunch? How about Shaw's?

                                        1. re: Willy3000

                                          Spiaggia does not serve lunch, but Cafe Spiaggia does. The two restaurants share a kitchen and the food at Cafe Spiaggia is also excellent.

                                          Shaw's is open for lunch too. The food there is good and it is a Chicago institution, but it isn't of the same caliber as the other places you are looking at.

                                          Other great lunch options - Kevin (contemporary American with Asian influences), Blackbird, Vermillion (really interesting Indian-Latin fusion, but generally lousy service).

                                          1. re: SuzMiCo

                                            SuzMiCo, thanks for the comment on Shaw's. I thought I made it pretty clear that I'm not expecting the place to be at the same level as Alinea, etc., but in case I didn't then I hope this will do that. Does Shaw's have any particular things that it's known for? Don't say "seafood" because that's obvious. Is there a particular dish there?

                                      2. re: Willy3000

                                        All I can say is we've had stone crab from Shaws for private dinner/wine tastings and they've been fine. Expect something like "average to high end Las Vegas" seafood-wise and you probably won't be disappointed.

                                        There's great fish around here... Walleye, Pike, etc., but you won't find that on a restaurant menu, unfortunately.

                                        Wine-wise, those stone crabs with a nice basic chardonnay and a chunk of brie and that's pretty close to perfect food.....

                                        1. re: Chicago Mike

                                          Actually, Shaw's does have Walleye Pike, Lake Erie Yellow Perch and Lake Superior Whitefish on the menu.

                                          1. re: Roger Spark

                                            I'm curious... what's your favorite area fish ??

                                    2. Two of the best seafood places in town are not on the river, but rather in the Bucktown and Wicker Park neighborhoods. Scylla is on Damen in Bucktown and Spring is on North Ave in Wicker Park (they are about 8 blocks from each other). I prefer Spring as the service is more refined and the room very comfortable. Both are great.

                                      I hope he was not thinking of Fulton's on the River in the old Bob Chinn's place. Bob Chinn's has a national reputation, but is located way out in Wheeling. They had a short-lived location on the river but it was not very good and was quickly closed and picked up by Levy Restaurants as Fulton's. I've heard it's ok, but nothing special.

                                      1. Shaw's is one of my favorite places for lunch (in the main dining room, not the more casual lounge). Very good selection of fresh oysters and competently prepared and fresh standard seafood selections. The ambience is like an old-school upscale East Coast fish house. We've always enjoyed excellent service. To me, this is a "comfort food" place that serves seafood. Because of air freight and the fact that Chicago is one of the premier dining cities in the country, it doesn't matter that we're not by the sea.

                                        But for my dinner dollars, I'd choose Spring or Scylla (as mentioned above) because their food is far more creative than Shaw's. Still, for a good downtown lunch I prefer Shaw's over the other seafood places (especially McCormick & Schmick's...ugh).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Pugman

                                          Thanks. I think lunch is the way to go. I hear ya on McC & S. Believe it or not, I once went there in Seattle without knowing it was a chain. I had a mediocre meal -- not terrible, just thoroughly mediocre. I actually laughed out loud at myself when I learned it was a national chain.

                                        2. I agree with most of the previous comments. Shaw's Crab House is a very good, but very conventional, seafood restaurant. There is no specific dish that they are known for. They are not "on an alley"; they are on Hubbard Street where the ground level is below the elevated portion of Michigan Avenue. If you're looking for very fresh seafood, competently prepared, Shaw's is very good and worth going. Last time I went there their desserts (e.g. creme brulee) were also excellent.
                                          Websites:
                                          Shaw's - http://www.shawscrabhouse.com
                                          Lettuce Entertain You - http://www.leye.com

                                          Other places which specialize in seafood include the previously mentioned McCormick and Schmick's and also Hugo's Frog Bar, next door to and owned by Gibson's Steakhouse. Both are very good IMHO.
                                          Websites:
                                          McCormick and Schmick's - http://www.mccormickandschmicks.com
                                          Hugo's - http://www.hugosfrogbar.com

                                          Some of the very best (and most creative) seafood in the Chicago area is found in the suburbs. Oceanique in Evanston is absolutely outstanding, the kind of place where every bite of every dish is heavenly, from the seafood to the soups to the desserts. I highly recommend it; it deserves its Zagat rating for the best seafood in Chicago. Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview is equally excellent, and like Shaw's, its ambience is a re-creation of a New England fish house. Parker's Ocean Grill in Downers Grove is another excellent seafood destination. Shaw's and Hugo's have additional suburban locations, in Schaumburg and Naperville, respectively.
                                          Websites:
                                          Oceanique - http://www.oceanique.com
                                          Mitchell's Fish Market - http://www.mitchellsfishmarket.com
                                          Parker's - http://www.selectrestaurants.com/park...

                                          Being part of a chain does not diminish restaurants which offer quality food. Most of these places are parts of chains. Shaw's is part of Rich Melman's Lettuce Entertain You empire (so is the fabulous Everest). McCormick and Schmick's is part of the chain of the same name. Hugo's is part of Gibson's. Mitchell's is the sole Chicago-area outpost of Cameron Mitchell's group of restaurants. Parker's is part of Select Restaurants. All of these places are consistently good, in my experience, and are among the very best places in the Chicago that specialize in seafood. (Oceanique, OTOH, is the sole restaurant owned by Mark Grosz and you can find him in the kitchen almost every evening.)

                                          1. Willy...

                                            Just make sure you're not exhausted...

                                            A major tour at Alinea is like seeing the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney on the same ticket... sleep in late... and "save room for dessert" :)

                                            Please demand their best attention to your wine pairing requirements, and report back.

                                            1. Carlos is good, however, I believe not worth the $$$. I love the fish at Francescas North in Northbrook. They also have a lentil & goat cheese salad that is wonderful. It's not a fancy restaurant, nor will it cost you an arm and a leg. It is noisy, but I am finding that most restaurants are! Good luck.

                                              1. I can't beleive no one has recommended the Green Zebra! A must go restaurant. The food is prepared perfectly with full-on flavor and the service we had there was immpecable. Very knowledgeable staff who knows what the food tastes like - and they can recommend wine pairings as well.

                                                1. Willy:

                                                  If you haven't read it already, check out Kevin's review and photos of his recent dinners at Tru and Alinea:

                                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/351145

                                                  As you are likely to conclude, you won't go wrong either way...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Chicago Mike

                                                    Avenues is not in the same league as Alinea or Tru. Just had a $500 meal there and it was not worth anywhere near the check. Attentive (almost too attentive) service, but out of the 12 courses only about half were any good. They want to play at high-end cuisine but the product is lacking.