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1 nite downtown Chicago - fun, young, but delish client dinner

I've spent some time scanning the boards, but still need your help.
I'm coming to town tomorrow (3/12) for an 8am mtg on Tuesday.
From what I gather, downtown is not the best place, but this is where we're committed to.

Any recommendations? Doesn't have to be Chicago-centric food. Ideally would like a place that has seafood options. Should be young and hip, but still splurgey enough to bring a client to.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. I have only *heard* about this place, but never been.

    Blue Water Grill

    520 N Dearborn (at Grand)

    1. sorry, i should have clarified a couple things:
      1) i'm coming from NYC, so would prefer to go somewhere I can't go in NY (Blue Water Grill being one of them)
      2) ideally, I'd prefer not touristy, even though I'm asking for suggestions in a touristy area
      3) i'm staying in the gold coast area, so that would be ideal
      4) please no italian!

      Thanks, again!

      1. Hmm... sorry, I actually didn't know that BWG was a chain. Again, I've never been there, but I do have a client lunch in a few weeks there.:)

        Another option, is Tavern on Rush. That is in the Gold Coast, "Chicago-centric" (a lot of people think beef is very Chicago), not too touristy restaurant (too high of a price for the run of the mill visitor) but in a tourist area, and not quite italian.


        1. Thanks for your quick reply!
          Can you think of anything that is smaller, and maybe more intimate and "special" feeling? Ideally I'd like not to go to a huge restaurant.

          BWG is not bad, by any means. And I wouldn't really consider it a chain. In NY it's actually a great place to take clients for lunch!

          1. First, "downtown" covers a wide area in Chicago. It's like referring to all of Manhattan when you're talking about "downtown" in New York. "Downtown Chicago" usually includes the following areas: Loop, South Loop, West Loop, River North, Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast, and Streeterville. And those areas have many of the best fine dining restaurants in the city. If you need a place within a specific one of these neighborhoods, please let us know which one (or a hotel or address you need proximity to).

            Second, you will find seafood items on the menu at just about all of the top restaurants in the city.

            Is this for a Monday dinner, or for Tuesday? Many places are closed on Mondays - not all, but many - while almost everyplace is open on Tuesday. That can determine which might be an appropriate recommendation. I will indicate below which places are closed on Mondays. Note that many of our restaurants accept reservations on opentable.com which makes it easy to see which are available on a Monday.

            My top two recommendations for "fun, young, but delish" are among our best "casual fine dining" restaurants, both of which have a hip yet splurgey "feel" to them, and neither of which is particularly big:

            Aigre Doux (in River North) - www.chowhound.com/topics/365436
            One Sixty Blue (in the West Loop) - www.onesixtyblue.com (closed Mondays)

            One more place, if French bistro cuisine/atmosphere works for you:

            Bistro 110 (Mag Mile) - www.levyrestaurants.com

            A couple more choices, if you're looking to *leave* the "downtown" areas, would be to go to Bucktown/Wicker Park, which is about three miles northwest of the Loop, and has several nice places with excellent food including seafood options:

            Spring - www.springrestaurant.net (closed Mondays)
            Scylla - www.scyllarestaurant.com (closed Mondays)

            If you are interested in places that *specialize* primarily in seafood, you might also consider:

            Fulton's on the River (in River North) - www.levyrestaurants.com
            Shaw's Crab House (in River North) - www.shawscrabhouse.com
            Hugo's Frog Bar (in the Gold Coast) - www.hugosfrogbar.com

            Shaw's and Hugo's both have a more traditional "feel" (like old-time East Coast seafood restaurants).

            1. I would probably vote for Hugo's as the 'most intimate' of the entire group of *excellent* suggestions.

              1. Mirai Sushi (a cab ride away in Wicker Park), is where I would go. It definitely has young, hip crowd, and excellent food.

                Japonais is also young and hip, but if you are coming from New York it will probably feel like a Nobu knock-off.

                Scylla was a great suggestion, it's small and intimate, the food is really good and service is excellent, but unpretentious.

                Red Light is good, and closer to the loop. Asian food. There are a couple other good restuarants on the same street that you could try - Sushi Wabi, Blackbird (I don't know how young the crowd is a Blackbird, I haven't been there, but it gets raves on this board).

                Cafe Spiaggia has excellent Italian food. It isn't the young, hip place, but it doesn't feel stuffy and is a great place for business dinners. It doesn't feel too businessy. Plus, it is very conveniently located (at the very north end of Michigan Ave,)

                1. There is a Japonais in New York. It's a Chicago knock off. Ironic, no?

                  1. You might consider Jacky's Bistro (sp?)...or Tru. I enjoy Japonais.

                    I would not recommend fish to anyone on a Monday night. Odds are that in the Midwest it won't be fresh. Even the best restaurants.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: marilyn9

                      Fish is flown in to cities all over the country, including Chicago, every day of the week. The best restaurants, the ones that maintain the highest standards of quality for their food, work with their suppliers to ensure that they receive only the freshest ingredients. If they can't get an item at its freshest on any particular day, they leave it off the menu.

                      Jacky's Bistro is good, but not exactly convenient to the Gold Coast. (It's off Central Street in Evanston, about 14 miles, and 30 minutes by car, north of the Gold Coast area.)

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        My apologies and thanks for the correction. Meant KiKi's bistro which is approx 1 mile west of the gold coast.

                        I've had too many lousy fish dinners in this town to count. If you're eating fish on Monday night and you're not sitting next to an ocean you do so at your own risk.

                        1. re: marilyn9

                          Kiki's Bistro is a good place. Long-time Chicago residents may remember Le Bordeaux, a French restaurant below street level in the middle of the Loop in the 1970s and 1980s. Kiki is the owner of Le Bordeaux, which closed in 1990, I believe. Good place. Along with Everest, Kiki's is also one of the few places in the downtown area that provide free parking for diners.

                          I've had excellent fish dinners every night of the week in and around Chicago. The most consistently outstanding seafood restaurant in the area, IMHO (and Zagat's), is Oceanique, in Evanston, which is open Mondays. Try it if you haven't been there - any night of the week. www.oceanique.com

                    2. I may be too late but consider DeLaCosta, it's young and hip and has good seafood. I had a really good sea bass, my partner had decent scallops, and we enjoyed the fire and ice ceviche, though not the other two ceviche we sampled, too much lime for me. The dining room is ultra hip, too hip for us probably, but we were seated in a more intimate side room that was nice.

                      1. Thanks, everyone for your speedy and helpful replies! How sad that I had such a short visit to Chicago!
                        We ended up at Japonais.
                        Had reservations at DeLaCosta, but left it up to the client for the final say. That website for DeLaCosta is kind of useless and, unfortunately, turned off my dining partner.

                        Even though there's a Japonais in NYC, I knew I'd never end up there, so I was glad to go to the original. the space was a bit large for my taste, but definitely remarkable. Food was so-so to decent.

                        To my memory, this is what we ordered:
                        steamed buns - eh. tasted kind of frozen and microwaved. Not that that stopped me from eating them.
                        toro tartare - this was a bit fishy for my taste. consistency was more like mashed toro, than a tartare
                        spicy octopus roll - delish in that newfangled roll kind of way
                        a trio of sashimi (can't remember what they called it), but it was tilapia and 2 other fish. the garnish on top was good, the fish/cuts were fine
                        6 east coast oysters - these were actually kind of warm, even though they were sitting on ice. they were definitely rinsed, too. the 3 sauces were nothing to write home about.
                        apple ginger crisp - the crisp wasn't so crispy, but the flavor was decent
                        fresh berries - delish, though the lychee garnish definitely tasted canned
                        ceviche - pretty good. nice and bright tasting
                        i think we ordered some other items, but i can't remember them for the life of me!

                        i know this sounds like a pretty negative review, but it's actually not. it's a good place for clients. the food won't wow the adventurous, but presentation / ambiance are perfect for entertaining. the restaurant was lively from the moment we sat until we left (around 10:30). Service and staff were super friendly upstairs (downstairs in the lounge was so-so).
                        On my own dime, I would never return, but to treat out of town guests (I was out of town and so was my client), it was a pretty good choice.