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Suggestion Please, Top 3 in town

Coming from Boston, with an expense account, yay. Where to go? Not interested in a steak house. What are your top recommendations.

So much good press on the Chicago food scene these days, I'm so excited.


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  1. Alinea
    Charlie Trotter's

    1. You're going to get different answers from different people, but if money were no object my top 3 are:

      1. Alinea
      2. Avenues
      3. Tru

      Honorable mention: Schwa

      3 Replies
      1. re: jesteinf

        Don't you also have a restaurant that the chef uses an ink jet printer to cook? Is that worth considering, or is it one of the above suggested?

        1. re: chefboyardee

          That's MOTO. I have never been but it's been discussed here and on lthforum.com. People seem to love it or hate it. But the general consesus is to go and experience it. I will once my pocketbook catches up to my tastes!

          1. re: lbs

            I wouldn't put Tru on the list. I ate there in February and found it to be pretentious and not as good as I'd hoped. The tourists are beginning to take over and someone snapped a photo every 15 minutes or so. It is a pretty room, though, and if you want to experience it, go somewhere else for dinner and go there for dessert.

      2. I'd go with:
        North Pond Cafe
        Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

        1. "Top 3" based upon what? Critical acclaim? Buzz (what's hot now)? Value?

          There have been some good responses already (Alinea, Avenues, Tru, Trotters, Moto). I'd add Blackbird to that list. Still firing on all 8 and delivering an outstanding dining experience.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Original Kman

            "Best" is an elusive, probably meaningless, category. Here are three places where we've been often and consistently well pleased:

            Custom House

          2. Among Chicago's Top 3 meals I have a hard time not including one of our incredible authentic Thai restaurants.

            There are alot of haute cuisine restaurants all over the U.S. but rarely have I found anywhere in the country as good and authentic Thai cuisine as you'll find in Chicago.

            Make one of those meals a BYOB with riesling, gewurztraminer, and a fine wheat microbrew at TAC Quick, Thai Avenue, or Spoon Thai.

            1. No one has mentioned Spiaggia. If I were on an expense account, that would be my choice. Beautiful atmosphere, terrific food.

              If you're interested in top-notch seafood, you should try Spring.

              4 Replies
              1. re: profjmm

                In the category of "best places in town" - among the very best chefs and restaurants in the entire country - I would rank them thus:

                1. Alinea - Grant Achatz - www.alinearestaurant.com
                2. Avenues - Graham Elliot Bowles - http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dini...
                3. Everest - Jean Joho - www.everestrestaurant.com
                4. Charlie Trotter's - Charlie Trotter - www.charlietrotter.com/restaurant
                5. Tru - Rick Tramonto - www.trurestaurant.com
                6. NoMi - Christophe David - www.nomirestaurant.com
                7. Schwa - Michael Carlson - www.schwarestaurant.com
                8. moto - Homaro Cantu - www.motorestaurant.com
                9. Spiaggia - Tony Mantuano - www.levyrestaurants.com

                However, I am also a huge fan of the "casual fine dining" restaurants, where business casual attire is the norm and prices are typically around $75-125 including moderate alcohol and tax/tip (I know money doesn't matter, but I enjoy the casual atmosphere). Of this latter group, I recommend One Sixty Blue, Aigre Doux, Blackbird, Spring, Custom House, Naha, Sweets and Savories, etc.

                I assume you're looking in the city only; if not, please say so, as there are more great fine dining places in the suburbs (Michael, Oceanique, Vie, Courtright's, Le Francais, Carlos, etc).

                You can't go wrong with any of the places named here.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Thats all for the great list. I'll try Alinea first and see if we can get in. Question, is the dress code for the restaurants listed in nsxtasy's list formal, like suit and tie. Practically all restaurants in Boston are biz casual, or even more casual.

                  1. re: chefboyardee

                    Virtually all the gentlemen in all of the nine places on that list, with the exception of Schwa, will be wearing a sportjacket, and usually (but not always) a tie.

                    Most restaurants in Chicago, even fairly expensive ones, are business casual or more casual, but these "top tables" are the exceptions, along with a few other fine dining places I didn't rank (Ambria, Les Nomades) and a few in the suburbs (Carlos, Le Francais, Tallgrass).

                    I'm not familiar with Boston, but I know that most of the top places in New York are the same way as here.

                    Like Boston, many of our nicer restaurants (including six of those nine) accept reservations on opentable.com where you can find the dress code indicated on the restaurant's listing there. Of course, if you're not sure about a particular place, you can always call them and ask.

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      I have worn jeans to every restaurant I've gone to in Chicago except a handful of top places - the ones nxstasy lists above - although I wore jeans to Schwa and felt completely comfortable. Then again, Schwa is kind of an exception to all rules. So I may not be a gentleman, but I do tip well, and no one has ever complained :) That said, I did suck it up and wear a coat (but no tie - collars are for dogs, not for men...) to Trotters, and I'll have to do it again next week at Avenues. I see it as my penance for the dining experience.

              2. Your expense account won't accommodate Alinea. Take that off the list right now. Charlie Trotters also. Whatever you do, after dinner, go to the Back Porch on Rush Street for some great Jazz.

                2 Replies
                1. re: FDawson

                  Well, no dollar limit was stated by the OP, so it's impossible to tell what the expense account will or won't accommodate. But it's worth noting that the total at Alinea and Charlie Trotter's, including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, is typically in the $250-400 per person neighborhood. Which is a very nice neighborhood indeed. ;) Tru and moto are close to that range too. Most of the others are more typically $175-250 per person. Everest is a bit less, even more so if you go early and get their $50 three-course pre-theater special (available at 5:00 or 5:30 every night they're open except Fridays). Schwa, where the tasting menu is $100, is an oddball because it's BYO, so if you enjoy alcohol, you would need to stop at a liquor store, and I don't know whether your company would object to seeing that expensed.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    And if your expense account will cover Alinea, then I want your job!

                    If you are looking in a different price range, let us know and we can give some different recommendations. Preferred cuisine/location would be good to know too.