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Dec 3, 2006 11:34 PM

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 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. The original comment has been removed
        1. 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.

            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?