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Restaurant recommendations / Peninsula Hotel

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Hi Chicago area residents!
My girlfriends and I (7 total) are going to be in Chicago soon for a weekend and we're staying at the Peninsula Hotel. We are interested in a nice dinner Saturday night and we're looking for some recommendations as none of us are familiar with Chicago restaurants. We'd be open to American, Japanese, Mediteranean, Thai, Mexican, Spanish, Italian, basically any type of cuisine. Can anyone give us some restaurant recommendations? Our price range would be ~ $20.00 entree or somewhere in that area, with a fun atmosphere of course. We obviously are willing to take a cab, but don't want to go too far.
Any feedback would be appreciated.

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  1. Only 2 blocks from the Peninsula (North) is my favorite not-too-pricey place to eat, Bistro 110. It is casual upscale French, great freindly atmoshpere with always amazing food.

    A nice place for Tapas is only a few blocks West at Cafe Iberico, but it gets crowded! They have great Sangria as well.

    1. A block west (if that) is a Giordano's. I personally don't like Giordano's as much as others on the board but it is good and fits your price range. If you do go, definitely get the stuffed cheese and spinach and be prepared for a) 45 mins to get your table and b) use your fridge for leftovers. Re-reading your post, this is not fancy by any means. You may want to go as a lunch/early dinner on another night. Also, the Pennisula has a chocolate buffett that may be up your alley. You picked an awesome hotel BTW. Very convenient and elegent!

      1. For Mexican, definitely Frontera, which is within walking distance of the Peninsula (and will take a reservation for a large group like yours). Another recommendation for Mexican is Salpicon, also within walking distance (now that it has gotten "warm"). This is slightly off-topic, but Pierrot Gourmet, on the ground floor of the Peninsula, serves terrific breakfasts.

        1. For sushi and Thai, oddly enough, consider the Silver Spoon. I've only had sushi there so far but it was a great value and I've heard good things about their Thai. Don't be scared off by the name or two cuisine options. I was once a sushi chef, part time for a year, and I really appreciated the freshness and straight forward approach as well as the maybe too sedate for some vibe of the place. And the location is just one block off the Mile.

          1. Quartino is pretty close. It's Italian small plates and pretty reasonably priced given both its location and the quality of the food.

            Quartino
            626 N State St
            (312) 698-5000

            1. Quartino is lots of fun and great food for a group. Very loud, however. In that area there are not tons of places that are in that price range. I think Le Colonial might be good as well.

              1. Osteria Via Stato is another Italian Restaurant across the street from Quartino. It is a great place to go with a group - lots of big tables, and family style eating, except for the entree. They have a $35 prix fixe where they bring the table unlimited quantities of a their appetizers and pastas for the night and each person gets to pick their entree. $35 per person is probably what you'd spendon food at a place with $20 entrees if people ordered appetizers or dessert.

                If you want Sushi, Oysi Sushi is not too far away. It's pretty reasonably priced for Sushi (although it still might strain your budget a little) and it has a fun atmosphere.

                1. Bistro 110 for French bistro food, mentioned by ChefRoger, is a good recommendation. So is Cafe Spiaggia, the lower-priced cousin of Spiaggia, for Italian food, which is also close by. Both of these are Levy restaurants and you can view their menus, including prices, on the Levy website at www.levyrestaurants.com (Don't be afraid of them being a "chain"; Levy gives tremendous independence to each of its restaurants and they are not clones of each other.)

                  >> A block west (if that) is a Giordano's. I personally don't like Giordano's as much as others on the board but it is good and fits your price range. If you do go, definitely get the stuffed cheese and spinach and be prepared for a) 45 mins to get your table and b) use your fridge for leftovers.

                  Both Giordano's (for stuffed, double-crust pizza) and Gino's East (for single-crust pan pizza) are close to your hotel. Both are delicious. Larger pizzas at each place take 30-45 minutes to bake, so call ahead and you won't have to wait long for the table or the pizza. Follow the recommendations on their menus for the number of people served by each size and you won't have to worry about leftovers.

                  > Also, the Pennisula has a chocolate buffett that may be up your alley.

                  The "chocolate bar", as they like to call it, is an all-you-can eat dessert buffet with mini-portions of 30-40 different chocolate desserts. It's served in the Lobby restaurant (that's the name of the restaurant) at the Peninsula starting at 8:30 on Friday and Saturday evenings. I've had dinner at the Lobby restaurant several times (including the chocolate bar) and I've found that the food and service have been excellent. However, it exceeds your stated budget, with entrees in the mid to upper twenties; the charge for the chocolate bar is $30. But it's a good place. As another recommendation, if you can ignore your budget for a night for a meal you'll never forget, Avenues is the fine (or, finer) dining restaurant in the Peninsula, and it's one of the very best restaurants in the country, under young superstar chef Graham Elliot Bowles.

                  Lobby - http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dini...
                  Avenues - http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dini...

                  The Levy restaurants and the restaurants in the Peninsula accept reservations through opentable.com