Avenues is closed - what now?
I am very excited to be visiting Chicago in July. We are planning it to focus quite a bit on food for this trip. I was planning on going to Avenues for the big dinner, but they are closed every day that we will be there. Now I have to pick another place. The problem is that we do not like fish. We like some seafood like shrimp and lobster though. This seems to be a problem at some of the high end restaurants with set menues. I am currently thinking that Spiaggia is my best bet, but I am driving myself crazy trying to figure what will be best. I have looked at Les Nomades but heard little about it in my research. Any suggestions besides steakhouses - we want to go to at least one top restaurant but we want it to work for our tastes. Are Alinea or Tru flexible with their set menus? I know that Tru has an a prix fixe menu, but is it a good value? Ok, enough questions. Thanks for any help that you can give.
When you say Avenues is closed every day you will be there, I'm curious what you mean. Are they going on vacation for the period you are here? Or are you only here on Sunday or Monday, the two days of the week they are closed? The reason I ask is that many restaurants here are closed on those days, but many others are open, and if it's a day of the week thing, we can tailor our recommendations accordingly.
IMHO, these are the top chefs and restaurants in town:
1. Alinea - Grant Achatz - www.alinearestaurant.com
2. Avenues - Graham Elliot Bowles - http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dining_01.html
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
ANY of these places should be flexible and happy to accommodate your preferences, including avoiding filet type fish and any other requests you may have. These are all great choices for a splurge meal, each with a slightly different mix of characteristics; for example, Alinea, Avenues, Trotter's, Schwa, and moto excel in the ultimate creativity (although all are good), Everest and Avenues for service (although again, all are good), Everest for the view and for price/value, Schwa for casual attire and BYO, etc.
Les Nomades is very good too, but I think all of these places are even better.
Since you mention value - obviously, within this group, value is a relative term - Everest is a top pick, since their prices are somewhat less than the others, even if you don't go early for the $50 three-course pre-theater dinner (available at 5:00 or 5:30 every day they're open except Fridays) - and if you do, so much the better. Schwa is a good value if you enjoy wine, because it's BYO (their tasting menu is $100, which isn't bad for a tasting menu, but I don't think they have a less-expensive a la carte option). The others are all going to be pretty expensive ($200-400 per person with tax, tip, and moderate alcohol), with Alinea, Trotter's, Tru, and moto a bit more than the others.
If you are REALLY concerned about value, don't hesitate to consider other places like One Sixty Blue, Aigre Doux, Sweets and Savories, North Pond, Naha, Blackbird, etc., places which will typically total $75-125 per person and which have wonderful food. Sweets and Savories has a $60 tasting menu which is $50 on Mondays.
Thanks for your comments. I am coming on vacation the first week of July and they are closed that entire week. I mention value because I don't want to drop $200 per person if I am going to be stuck eating fish and things that I don't really like. Also, I've heard that Spiaggia is very expensive for very little food relative to other top restaurants. I am willing to spend the money, but I would like the top return on my money (ie. the best meal for me). I didn't realize that places like Alinea would be so helpful and leave fish off the menu. That is great so I think that I will go for the big splurge and try Alinea. Why not go for the best?
I have been to both Tru and Alinea with a non-seafood eater and both are more than willing to accomodate. Just make sure to mention it when making the reservation. My friend had meat substituted for all of the fish courses, so she got to experience the same dish, but with pork tenderloin, bison, etc... instead.
Tru has a couple of menu options. You can do an a la carte, seasonal or grand tasting. I did the seasonal, which was $110, with the grand tasting being around $135 if I remember correctly. Food was really great and was definitely not hungry when I left. Add the cheese course if you like cheese because it will be worth it. Plus you get dessert, petit fours and candy, chocolate truffles to go if you want and cookies to go on the way out. One warning is that it is actually hard to find many bottles of wine under $100 at Tru, especially any Cab or Cab blend. Most were $200 and up.
If you can only pick one, Tru is a more classically French, with very professional service and great food. Alinea is more of a food experience, still with great service, but just a bit more whimsical. Good luck!