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SF Foodie needs Chicago reccomendations

I will be in Chicago later on in the week and I would like some restaurant reccomendations. I am going for work and my expense account is generous but not unlimited, so looking for $$-$$$ rather than $$$$ type places. I went to Gioco last year when I was in town and thought that was terrific. I would love to go to a really great Italian place and I would also like to try something that exemplfies some of the more innovative food in your city.


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  1. Here are a few ideas. If you are in the Loop, Trattoria No. 10 has excellent food. A bit north of downtown ($12 cab) is Think Cafe, also Italian and BYO. Check out reviews on Metromix (the Chicago Tribune's site). For Japanese (and some great cooked items in addition to sashimi/sushi), try Oysy.

    1. Check this topic for a discussion of the best Italian places in town:

      For innovative food, the nine chefs and restaurants listed in my post in this topic are arguably the most creative in town:
      However, all of the nine are at least fairly expensive and a few are extremely so. Schwa is BYO so has a cost advantage for wine drinkers. The regular menu at Everest is a bit less than many of the other top places, and in addition, they have a three-course pre-theater menu for ~$50 at 5:30 each evening they're open except Fridays (also 5:00 on Saturdays in addition to 5:30).

      For a little bit less creativity, and a lot less money, but absolutely outstanding food, consider Aigre Doux, a new place that opened last month and has a huge amount of "buzz" - it's absolutely wonderful, see my report in this topic:
      or else One Sixty Blue ( www.onesixtyblue.com ) or one of the other places mentioned in that other topic (Blackbird, Avec, mk, Les Nomades, Ambria, Spring, Custom House, Naha, Sweets and Savories).

      Make sure you make a reservation. Many of the top places in Chicago use opentable.com for reservations, and it's an easy way to check, especially at the last minute. Six of the nine "top chef" places use opentable, as do Aigre Doux, One Sixty Blue, and many of the others.

      1. Thanks a lot! These look like wonderful reccomendations

        1. If you liked Gioco then you'd probably really like Riccardo Trattoria also....

          1. Hot Chocolate in Wicker Park. Avec and Blackbird are fantastic. They are also next door to each other and are sister restaurants.

            1. An always winning fave of mine that hits your $$$ range is Bistro 110, right across from the Watertower. Always great food and atmosphere. Chef Dominique is a personal friend of mine.

              Upscale Italian all the way is Spiaggia. In fact, its one of the most critically acclaimed restaurants in the country. BUT, its $$$$. I would say that you should make the effort to go and spend the extra $ if you can for the finest Italian fare you will experience. Chef Tony is also a friend of mine ;)

              Both restaurants have been Chicago favorites for many many years, a true taste of our city's culinary veterans.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefRoger

                If you don't want to spend the extra $ on Spiaggia, it has a sister restaurant Cafe Spiaggia which is also wonderful, but somewhat cheaper.

              2. A quick note. The three places recommended in these last couple of posts - Bistro 110, Spiaggia, and Cafe Spiaggia - are all Levy restaurants, which means it's worth adding that you can look up their menus, hours, and other information on the Levy website at www.levyrestaurants.com ...and don't rule them out just because they are "chain" restaurants! Levy gives tremendous autonomy to their restaurants, and each is very different from the others; that's how they can have multiple fine dining restaurants with different concepts. Oh, and Levy has a fourth restaurant in Chicago, called Fulton's on the River, which is one of the best seafood restaurants in town.

                All four of these are very good, but - keeping your original request in mind - Spiaggia is IMHO much more "innovative" than the others (which is why it is one of the nine places I mentioned above as "arguably the most creative in town").

                If you want to get an idea of prices at any particular place to see if it fits in your budget, many restaurants (including all of the Levy restaurants) show prices on the menus on their websites. For places that don't, it may be helpful to look up prices noted in listings and restaurant reviews in Metromix, the entertainment and dining website of the Chicago Tribune, at http://metromix.chicagotribune.com/di...

                And if you get the idea that there are many, many wonderful restaurants here, you're right. Don't agonize too much over which of these to choose; they're all good choices! Just pick, go, and enjoy yourself!

                1. Chicago has great food but you do need to make reservations before you go!

                  I second Chef Roger with Bistro 110, They have good food in a nice casual atmosphere (the artichoke is fabulous).

                  My other favorites are Marche (just for the decor alone, but the food is also great) and Topolobampo ( I had the best roasted pork baked in a butternut sqash dish- I keep trying to duplicate that dish) and there is always Bandera for good basic midwest type food.

                  Finally, if you can go down the loop to Evanston and try Pete Sellars, the lobster bisque is the best I have had anywhere, rich and creamy with nice lumps of lobster in soup.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Lobstah

                    > if you can go down the loop to Evanston and try Pete Sellars,

                    The name of the restaurant in Evanston you are referring to is Pete Miller's, which is a steakhouse (which also has excellent seafood). Peter Sellers was an actor. ;)

                    Nothing wrong with steakhouses, although they aren't necessarily what I would term "innovative". If you DO get a hankering for a good steak during your visit, this topic discusses the best steaks in Chicago (city and suburbs):

                  2. oops! my apologies to both Petes and anyone who might have looked for the pink panther in Evanston....