STL to Chicago: NEED GOOD RECS!
Hello fellow chowhounds,
My fiance and I are heading to Chicago for 4 nights at the end of July. We are St. Louis foodies who have had some great, but not AMAZING meals in Chicago over the past few years. We will have just finished taking the bar exam and would like to stuff our faces with delicious food at any cost. We're staying in the Gold Coat area and are fine taking a cab, but would rather not travel too far away from the city. More info:
- We would like to do sushi one of the nights. We care more about the food than the "hip" factor. We eat just about every item a sushi restaurant can offer, but we are sashimi fans first and foremost. People who recommend Tsunami need not respond to this post :) Yikes!
- Contemporary French or American bistro fare would be a pick for the second night. We aren't steakhouse people, nor do we like restaurants which are only well known for large portions. Good sized and delicious will do...any good price fixe menus in Chicago?
- Tapas is also a favorite of ours. Spanish...Cuban...South American...whatever. Maybe a place with good ceviche, or at least where all of the options aren't pork and/or fried. Oh, and a place with some good sangria or other signature drink would be great.
Thank you so much! I am a long time reader/first time poster and am excited to hear your recommendations!
If you want a good sushi experience without the blaring music of a hip sushi scene, head over to Meiji, in the 600 block of West Randolph (a short cab ride away from the Gold Coast). Very good sushi, but the real reason to go is the chef's omakase, or tasting menu (you have to call a day ahead to order it). It is stellar, and features not only unique sushi and sashimi, but also a variety of kaiseki courses (the haute cuisine of the tea ceremony). Another place I'd recommend is Ginza Fish, on Ohio, for very good, traditional, sushi and sashimi - very fresh fish, despite the seemingly seedy location.
I agree with SuzMiCo that you should try at least one of Chicago's top restaurants, even though they don't conform to what you say you want to eat (I'm not trying to be unkind, but maybe one of the reasons you've only had great, but not amazing, meals here has to do with your criteria). Instead of tapas, for instance, try Frontera, or the more upscale Topolobampo - both operated by Rick Bayless, both top restaurants offering exciting (and uncommon) Mexican cuisine. However, the AMAZING dining experiences are to be had at Alinea (call well in advance), Avenues (in the Peninsula Hotel, with several prix fixe menus), Tru, and Spaiggia (haute-Italian).
First - if you are looking for amazing meals and price really is no object, you should go to one of the top-flight $$$$ places - Alinea, Charlie Trotter's, Tru, etc. These don't necessarily fit the criteria you've listed for your time in Chicago, but they are AMAZING food experiences.
- Mirai Sushi - excellent food. Don't be thrown off because its hip.
I don't think French food is where Chicago excels. For contemporary American (although all of these have other influences), I think you can't go wrong with
- Scylla - my favorite. The food is delicious, the service is really good without being at all pretentious. It is in a small house, with a wonderful, intimate atmosphere.
- Boka - I haven't been there since they got a new chef, but all the reviews have been great. They have a beautiful outdoor seating area.
- Sola - Lovely food. It would be a longer cab ride than the other two, but it has a very relaxed neighborhoody feel.
Tapas - most of the tapas places in Chicago are good and fun, but not great. They are generally more about the atmosphere than the food.
- Cafe Iberico - decent food, lots of fun, long waits on the weekends.
- Cafe Ba ba Reeba - further from your hotel, good but not great food, also has long waits on the weekend.
Frontera Grill, which is Mexican, has really good Ceviche. You can search the Board for tons of opinions on Frontera Grill. They only take reservations for small parties on the day of, though. You can search the board for tons of opinions and tips.
Thank you for your recommendations! I made a reservation for Mirai for one of the nights. I made it on a Monday night so it (maybe? hopefully?) won't be as crowded. The menu at Scylla looks wonderful, and I think we are going to make a reservation there as well. I'll let you know how it goes!
There are a couple of very good French Bistros in Chicago - and one of my favorities - La Sardine - has a Tuesday night dinner special - choose any appetizer, entree, and dessert for $25. Its a great deal, and very good food. I've been there half a dozen times and always enjoyed myself.
I agree with all of SuzMiCo's recommendations, although I am not a big fan of Cafe Babareeba. I prefer Iberico, but my favorite Spanish Tapas are at Emilios on Fullerton. Note that there is also an Emilios farther south on Ohio where I have been a more diappointed - food, decor, and service were all second rate.
I would also recommend Frontera for a very good Mexican experience, although the reservation policy is wacked. Basically, call between 8-10 am on the day you want to go and try to get a reservation. Another excellent Mexican option is Salpicon. If you go to Salpicon, order the fried cheese appetizer. Had it last week and yum yum yum. Despite your comment about no fried food, this was delicious. Three thin slabs of fresh cheese, lightly fried, with stripes of outstanding green and red chile sauces. This is not the Chi Chi's deep fried mozerella sticks - more like a bit of Mexico City street food before you move on the the chipoltle encrusted lamb. Note that these are your typical taco/quesadilla joints - they are high end, delicious restaurants run by chefs who have immerseed themselves in traditional Mexican cuisines.