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Apr 25, 2007 09:08 PM

Blackbird booked - need another restaurant for 7

Hello all,

I am planning a dinner for 7 in June (besides me, all from out of town) and wanted to book at Blackbird but it only has a table for 7 after 10pm on the day I am looking at. I have been to Blackbird before and loved it (I also regularly go next door to Avec) and am considering simply going to Avec instead. However getting 7 people into Avec may take awhile (if you have tried, how long did it take to get seated?).

Therefore I am looking for a place where I could make a reservation. It should be modern, minimal, and cutting edge, as good at Blackbird, both in terms of food and architecture, or at least something so different (good rustic food would also work) that it stands on its own terms. Any recs would be appreciated.


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  1. Avec for 7 people - on a week night, before 6:30 pm, no problem and little wait at all. As you get later in the evening, it gets harder. On a weekend, it will take longer. We regularly go with 4 and it maybe takes 1/2 hour tops to get a table, but I have never tried more.

    1 Reply
    1. re: leek

      Thanks for the times for 4 people (I usually go in a pair). However will be going on a Friday and likely late so 7 likely will be impossible.


    2. 160 Blue? Its just a few mintues down Randolph from BB/Avec. It hits all your criteria - modern, minimal (sort of), cutting edge, food, architecture.

      4 Replies
      1. re: wak

        Thanks for the rec, but every time I check out 160 blue it feels a bit corporate, like its trying to hard to be hip. However I will take another look, but any more recommendations, places with the ease and simple elegance of Blackbird, would be apprecieated

        1. re: AvantGardeMolecularGastronomy

          What about one of Shawn McLain's places - Green Zebra, Custom House, Spring?

          A little more minimal. A little less corporate. Still excellent food.

        2. re: wak

          I second the recommendation of One Sixty Blue. The food is sinfully spectacular. And the decor is modern and hip (hardly what I would call "corporate").

          One other place I would throw into the mix is Sweets and Savories. It's more "minimalist" than modern. "Ease and simple elegance" applies, along with a friendly, unpretentious approach to everything they do. If you can picture a restaurant with modern, creative, top-quality new American food, in an ultra-casual setting in a small storefront location where you would not expect to find such a great place (from the street it looks like nothing special at all), that's Sweets and Savories.

          If I had to rank my personal opinion of all the casual fine dining restaurants in Chicago, Sweets and Savories would be in the top 10-20 percent, which is very good indeed. One Sixty Blue and Aigre Doux would be battling for the number one spot on my list. (However, I'm not sure of Aigre Doux's ability to seat a party of seven.) Sweets and Savories gets added points for being in such an unlikely location, and thus for lower expectations walking in. One Sixty Blue gets points for top food and hip decor. Either place will give you a wonderfully satisfying food experience.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Strange, during a recent visit I found the "approach" at Sweets and Savories to be notably pretentious and not particularly friendly. Food was very good overall but not especially consistent and far from outstanding. Perhaps they had an off night but I don't plan to return anytime soon. As an alternative, I much prefer Scylla in virtually all respects and would recommend it without hesitation. Wonderful food, poised and unobtrusive service, lovely setting. Go.

        3. I second the Spring recommendation. Definitely fits your requirements. Also Delacosta. It doesn't fit the minimal requirement, but it definitely is different, would be a good place for a large group, and the food is fantastic.

          1. I probably wouldn't suggest Green Zebra, unless you know that some folks in your group are vegetarians. Non-vegetarians may be disappointed with the lack of meat dishes on the menu (usually just one chicken dish). Spring and Custom House are both good; Spring leans toward seafood, whereas Custom House leans toward meat entrees.

            Another suggestion... since this isn't till June, you may want to go to some of these places within the next week or two, to see how you like them, before committing to any particular place for your large group.

            (If you start with One Sixty Blue, you probably won't bother with any of the others.) ;)

            1. I second the "corporate" feel of OneSixtyBlue.

              Spring, Green Zebra are both good, also may want to check Schwa or Vie (Vie is in the 'burbs though) Avenues, with Graham elliiot Bowles is a solid choice, though in a hotel.

              7 people after 7 at Avec on a Friday, I don't see that happening in a timely manner.

              7 Replies
              1. re: lebelage

                Thanks for all the recs. I wish I could do Schwa (one of my favorite restaurants, both in terms of the food, the space, and the service) but couldn't get a table. I will check out the Shawn McClain spots, Custom house looks like it may fit the bill nicely. Does any one know how big Custom House is? The smaller the better. I liked the look of their website, does the restaurant have the same sort of woodgrain/modern feel?


                1. re: AvantGardeMolecularGastronomy

                  Incidentally, if you're relying on for availability, it's worth noting that, just because a place is not shown as available in, does NOT mean that you can't make a reservation for your group at the time you want. Some restaurants, including One Sixty Blue and the McClain restaurants, don't accept reservations on for a group that large. Some others may not accept reservations this far in advance. In either case, that doesn't mean they can't accommodate you; it only means you need to call the restaurant directly to find out whether they can.

                  1. re: AvantGardeMolecularGastronomy

                    Custom House isn't cavernous, but it is fairly spacious, and I find it to be quite comfortable. I wouldn't call it "clubby" but it's hardly minimal. Also, I enjoy their take on American cuisine very much, altho I wouldn't call it cutting edge a la Alinea and certainly not Moto. If you're leaning in their direction be sure to take a close look at their menu to be sure that's what you're looking for. If it seems about right, I can assure you that the execution will be solid.

                    1. re: jbw

                      jbw, thanks for the comments. While may be not "cutting edge" in the Alinea mold it sounds like Custom House is not simply (after looking at their menu) regurgitating standard "New American" dishes but putting their own confident spin on the food. Will take a closer look.

                  2. re: lebelage

                    I would be reluctant to recommend one of our top tables with creative chefs, like Schwa or Avenues, unless you know that many in your group are true food aficionados who will appreciate more unusual items and will not mind paying the substantially higher cost of those places. (Schwa is $100 and is BYOB; Avenues is $90, $120, or $160 for 3, 5, or 10 courses, and of course tax, tip, and alcohol are on top of those figures). If you think these places would be suitable, by all means go for it! (I checked and it's showing availability for a group of 7 at Avenues for Friday June 8 at 7:30 pm.)

                    If you want to consider suburban places, say so (and say where), as there are plenty of places in the burbs that fit your needs (e.g. Michael in Winnetka, Oceanique in Evanston, Le Titi de Paris in Arlington Heights).

                    I should also note that, since you're looking for smaller restaurants, Sweets and Savories is probably the smallest of all of those mentioned, with the exception of Schwa.

                    P.S. I still don't see what's "corporate" about One Sixty Blue, but if "corporate" means spectacular food, I guess I should seek out more "corporate food". ;)

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      I am trying to stay in Chicago proper. While I agree on not forcing people to pay what they are not willing, exposing people to new food and places they wouldn’t normally go is a great part of the experience of dining with others. I may not want to XYZ place but if some one convinces me to tag along I may, to my surprise, find a new place or cuisine that I really enjoy.

                      That is why I like Blackbird and Avec; they are unusual restaurants that you will not find elsewhere. Avec’s space is unlike anywhere else, and the casual-formal-minimal dining experience of Blackbird is amazing. Where else can you dine where on one side of you a couple dressed in a Prada skirt and Ted Baker Suit, eating a full 3 course dinner with wine, and on the other is a guy in jeans and an American Apparel T shirt, who is simply having a salad and a beer after work?

                      Custom House seems like it may fit this bill, a place unlike that has a bit of a spin on the “standard” good restaurant. I think I will go test it out before hand. If it doesn’t fit I may go lower key, to Cocina Mundial Mestiza, while a different class of restaurant than those above it has that unique and engaging dining experience that really leaves an impression (along with great food).

                      1. re: AvantGardeMolecularGastronomy

                        My favorite restaurants in Chicago are Spring, Custom House, Schwa, NoMi and Naha. Naha is the only one not mentioned yet, other than NoMi which may be price prohibitive. The food is supurb at Naha. The chef is nice (!!), service is excellent and they are not shy about large parties.The menu is varied enough that even picky eaters will find something they are excited about. Local and organic ingredients prevail and they tell a nice story on the menu when describing each dish. You should be able to get in this far in advance. Enjoy.