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fine dining dilemma

r
rosencav Feb 3, 2007 03:53 PM

A friend and fellow foodie is coming in from LA for dinner on a Saturday in April. He's been to NoMi, Naha, Trotter, Spring, Blackbird and Avec. We've been to all of the above plus Les Nomades, Tru, Moto, Follia, Green Zebra, Spring, Custom House, Topolobampo, and Schwa. Aside from Alinea (which is definitely an option), any must try suggestions?

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  1. nsxtasy Feb 3, 2007 04:21 PM

    I assume you're asking for ones you "must try" that neither of you has been to.

    In order, starting with the most "must try":

    1. Everest ( www.everestrestaurant.com )
    2. Avenues ( http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dining_01.html )
    3. One Sixty Blue ( www.onesixtyblue.com )
    4. Seasons ( www.fourseasons.com/chicagofs/dining.html )
    5. Butter ( www.butterchicago.com )

    You don't mention any suburban places, but there are some worthwhile contenders out there too (e.g. Tallgrass, Michael, Vie, Oceanique, Le Titi de Paris). Throw in Milwaukee - not that far away - and then Sanford immediately goes on the list, too. And I just hate putting together a list of places like these without mentioning other worthwhile places like Fulton's, Sola, May Street Market, MK, Sweets and Savories, etc, but as good as these also are, I don't think they're quite at the culinary level of the above.

    Of all of these, if you're looking for the most creative and diverse food (and it sounds like that's what you're going for), EVEREST (under Jean Joho) and AVENUES (under Graham Elliot Bowles) are the two of these that absolutely belong on your list, head and shoulders above anything else in town that you haven't already hit (along with Alinea, of course). IMHO.

    BTW, you've already achieved quite an impressive assortment!

    1. r
      rosencav Feb 4, 2007 04:49 AM

      Thanks so much for this list and for correctly understanding an important point that I managed to delete by mistake in my effort to edit. Our major criterion here after qualityof the food is that we'd prefer someplace none of us has tried. I should have added One Sixty Blue, Oceanique and MK to our list of already trieds. We sometimes use 160 to recruit new hires -- mostly we've had good experiences there, though we've also had a couple of ho hums. We only tried MK once and had a very bad experience, but that was probably 4 years ago at least, so it might qualify as a new restaurant for us at this point. If anyone wants to pitch recent performances I'll pay attention.

      To prevent future suggestions I also should have added Aigre Doux, May Street Market (not Cafe), and Kevin to the list to the already trieds as well.

      I should also mention that our friend is a serious wine guy. A BYOB might fit the bill here as well as any place that has a strong list of its own. If anyone is interested in adding more on the following -- and from very recent experience -- I'd be grateful for whatever thoughts you have:

      May Street Market (the BYOB on Cermak, not the place on Grand and May)
      Butter
      Sweets and Savories
      Everest
      Avenues
      DeLaCosta

      (Alinea remains high in the running, but there's plenty of detailed press out there to consult already)

      1. r
        rosencav Feb 4, 2007 04:51 AM

        Sorry about the triple post! Something very bad seems to have happened when I tried to edit my note about May Street Market. Anyway the one we *haven't* tried is the Cafe on Cermak, not the Market on Grand.

        1. nsxtasy Feb 4, 2007 05:52 AM

          I can speak to Everest from recent experience. If you're discussing the very best places in town, like Alinea, Tru, and Trotter's, then Everest very much belongs in the bunch (and I think most local critics would agree, not that you're looking for opinions from critics here). It is still one of the very best restaurants in Chicago (and IMHO THE best one out there), with awe-inspiring food that you will remember for a long time. The service is also exquisite - sure, you expect ANY high-end restaurant to have excellent service - but I've seen things there that make the service memorably so (e.g. the maitre d' approaching another seated dinner party to delicately direct a question to a five-year-old girl, asking her if she would like him to lower the blinds because he noticed that the sun was in her eyes). Also, the view from their location at the top of the Chicago Stock Exchange building is amazing.

          Everest
          440 S. LaSalle St., 40th Floor
          Chicago, IL 60605
          (312) 663-8920
          http://www.everestrestaurant.com
          Tribune review: http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/dining/mmx-20440_lgcy,0,2944150.story

          Incidentally, it's worth checking out the websites of all these restaurants to view their menus and get a better feel for what to expect in the way of their food offerings. Here are the links to websites for the places you're asking about that haven't already been posted above:
          Sweets and Savories - www.sweetsandsavorieschicago.com
          DeLaCosta - www.delacostachicago.com
          May St. Cafe - www.maystcafe.com

          There have been several very recent discussions about May Street Cafe here on Chowhound, with detailed reports:
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358202
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/114907
          If you search these forums, you'll find discussions mentioning the others you're asking about, but not as recent or detailed as these two topics about May Street Cafe. Hopefully others will be happy to chime in with more comments.

          Oh, and regarding editing topics - you can only edit them within two hours after posting. Since the new software was installed, I've found that I sometimes need to refresh the web page to let me edit my post.

          1. n
            NDJ Feb 4, 2007 08:11 AM

            nsxtasy gave you May St Cafe, not May St Market (yes, it's one of those weird things that 2 perveyours opened restaurants around the same time with smilar names but unrelated). May St Market is considered the more high end restuarant, but I would avoid it. It is not near the caliber you are looking for. The place lacks soul and I found the food to be way too heavy and over-seasoned.

            I agree on the Avenues pick, though I cannot wait for them to finally address the decor. The restaurant as it stands now looks like the hotel restaurant that it is, however, the food is exceptional.

            I can't help but think that Spiaggia would be your best option. Spiaggia is one of those stand by's that has its ups and downs, but I would consider it on a major uptick right now. The food, view, service, and wine are exceptional. They have the most exquisite and delicate pastas I have had in Chicago, and the entrees are equally exceptional (mostly wood roasted but in a very elegant way). It's one of those treasures that we know is always there, doesn't get a lot of buzz, but is completely satisfying in every way. One thing I love about Spiaggia, and I know it is a little thing but then again those are the touches that get you back, is that bottled water (still or sparkling) is included complimentary (of course built into the food prices, but no matter) and parking is FREE in the building with validation. Don't you just hate after you spend $300 on a meal and then have to pay $15 for parking? Of course it's not a big deal on a bill of that size, but I just find this a nice thing Spiaggia does.

            1 Reply
            1. re: NDJ
              nsxtasy Feb 4, 2007 10:04 AM

              > nsxtasy gave you May St Cafe, not May St Market

              It was clear from rosencav's posts that he/she understands the difference between the two. My first post mentioned May Street Market, and his response (and follow-up clarification) indicated that he has been to May Street Market and was asking about May Street Cafe. Both restaurants are located on east-west cross streets at May Street (around 1130 West), hence the similarity in names.

              I have been to May Street Market, and I thought it was quite good, although not at the level of most of those also mentioned here; however, the OP mentioned already having been there, so I'm sure he/she has already formed his own opinion. I have not been to May Street Cafe but based on reports it does not appear to me to belong in the above list of top-tier restaurants.

              Many top restaurants (including the previously mentioned Everest) have arrangements for free valet parking and/or free self parking in the building or nearby. I, too, hate it when top places don't have parking arrangements.

              Spiaggia is one of the best Italian places in town, and is worth including when discussing the very best restaurants in town. Website: http://www.levyrestaurants.com/Levy/D...

              I would never, ever recommend Crofton on Wells. I had the worst service experience of my life there; the staff was abusive and confrontational! And some of the other places mentioned below, although the food is very good, don't fall into the "creative upscale fine dining" genre that you appear to be asking about.

            2. c
              Chicago Mike Feb 4, 2007 10:15 AM

              I would add:
              Cafe Bernard for rustic french
              Spiaggia for "creative Italian"
              TAC Quick for near-perfect authentic Thai
              Rique's Regional for Mexican
              Crofton on Wells and North Pond for very nice "haute general"
              Andalous for very nice Moroccan
              .....

              1. n
                NDJ Feb 4, 2007 10:23 AM

                I got confused because the OP mentioned May St Market (not cafe) but he really actually did want the Cafe! One of these places has got to change their name. There needs to be an armwresling match or something.

                Also, I wouldn't say that Everest and Spiaggia constitute a "lot" of places that have complimentary parking. In the city, I cannot think of any other high end restaurants that offer compimentary parking. Trotters, Avenues, Alinea, Moto, Tru, Les Nomades, Spring, Custom House, David Burke's and any other high end steakhouse, MK, Blackbird...all have valet parking for fee. This is not to say that you cannot find street parking at times near these, but it is definitely a nicer experience to park at the restaurant, especially this time of year. Do you know any others that offer complimentary valet service?

                1 Reply
                1. re: NDJ
                  nsxtasy Feb 4, 2007 10:51 AM

                  I haven't done a citywide survey, as I don't generally use valet parking services, but I believe Kiki's Bistro is another place that has complimentary valet service.

                  Of course, the further you get from downtown Chicago, especially in the suburbs, the more likely a restaurant has a free parking lot available on site.

                2. nsxtasy Feb 5, 2007 01:49 AM

                  I would be interested in hearing how your friend (and you, if you have spent much time in L.A.) would compare the variety, quality, and value of Chicago's fine dining scene with that of L.A.

                  1. leek Feb 5, 2007 04:33 AM

                    If wine is a major consideration, Everest is supposed to have one of the best lists in the city, and one of the best selections of Alsatian wines in the US.

                    1. d
                      deesher Feb 6, 2007 06:29 AM

                      I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Schwa. It's very creative and is BYOB (and I would strongly suggest bringing your own glasses) only. I would put it in the upper tier of Chicago dining experiences. There are about 24 seats and the only real dining option is the 9 course degustation (currently $105). The quail egg ravioili is regularly listed as one of the best dishes in Chicago (but I think that unfortunately the white truffle are gone). Their website can be found here www.schwarestaurant.com/ . The only downside is that it takes some effort to reserve a table. You should be able to book a table for April now. It's not a particularly fancy place (any dress goes), but the environment is quite pleasant and the service is outstanding. Best of luck.

                      1. d
                        deesher Feb 6, 2007 06:34 AM

                        Oops. After rereading the OP I fully understand why no one has mentioned Schwa.

                        1. c
                          catergirl Feb 6, 2007 12:12 PM

                          I'm surprised that no one has mentioned North Pond. It's one of the most beautiful locations in the city, set in Lincoln Park with a great view of the skyline. It's got a great wine selection and it's gotten excellent reviews in Chicago, Bon Appetit & Gourmet in the past year.

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