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Weekend in Chicago

Hi Chicago Hounds,

I'm meeting up with my bf and his father in Chicago 2 weekends from now. While my entire family is from the Chicago area I haven't been in awhile...and usually when I visit we are going to Grandma's favorite early bird special joint.

I'm vaguely familar with the dining scene there but mostly I know the super high end spots (Tru, Everest, Charlie Trotters etc.)

We will be there Friday, Sat, and Sunday and I'm trying to do a little research on some of the best restaurants in town that are under $100/person. For Sat. night we will probably go to the nice, expensive, we-are-being-treated-by-Dad dinner. We are all fairly adventorous eaters--although the bf and I are more so then his Dad. But he's into various ethnic foods and likes good Italian, French, American etc. So what would you suggest? What are some of the hottest restaurants right now?

We are also looking for other suggestions for Friday night dinner (will be more on the later end when we get in...probably around 8pm or so) and Sunday dinner...earlier end before we fly out.

Unfortunatly I don't know where we are staying yet, so I can't give you direction there. But various price ranges and styles would be great.

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  1. Oh I should also mention Spanish or Latin cuisine is also a good choice.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Elyssa

      Elyssa, first off you should drop me a line for when you are going to be there- our tastes are similar and we've chatted a lot on the dc board- jpschust@gmail.com (I'm moving there at that same time).

      Anwyays, I'd focus on Avec, Gene and Georgetti (a classic), Blackbird, Moto if you want to get totally funky and weird.

      Another option I love for a very nice lunch if it's nice out is the roof deck off the lounge of NoMi

      1. re: jpschust

        I've read about Moto a little bit. Certainly on the short list for me...we'll see how funky my boyfriend's dad wants to get though! lol

        Thanks jpschust. I was surprised when I first saw your name...use to seeing you over on the DC board. I'll be interested to hear what you think about the Chicago dining scene.

        1. re: jpschust

          I made a reservation for MK on Sat night.

          On our short list for Friday and Sunday are the following:
          Moto--if we can get in
          Topolobampo--ditto
          NoMi
          Blackbird
          Carnivale
          Sola
          Salpicon
          Aria
          Red Light
          Cafe Spiaggia

          We might also do one of these for brunch on Sat if it's offered.

          Any opinons? Good list? Any we should try first over the others? Thanks for all the help!

          1. re: Elyssa

            That sounds like a great list, and its all over board as far as cuisine goes, so if you can narrow it down to a type of food, you can just pick from the list:

            Moto - Molecular Gastro ($$$)
            NoMi - Japanese/West Fusion ($$$)
            Topolobampo/Salpicon - High End Mexican. Salpicon from my experience has been a little inconsistent, but outstanding when it all comes together.
            Blackbird - Contemp American - since you already have MK, maybe try something else?
            Carnivale - Nuevo Latino. One of my regulars. Good food, although not a the top of this list from a food standpoint. Good, consistent, fun place for a meal.
            Sola - East/West Fusion - Very good, less expensive than NoMi, but kind of far north if you're staying near the loop.
            Aria - this is the first I have heard of it.
            Red Light - It's a faulous space, but I have found the Pan-Asian cuisine a little unfocused. Lots of variety, but not really outstanding in any one area.
            Cafe Spiaggia - Italian. I'd also consider Coco Pazzo if you want Italian and can't get into CS.

            All things considered, I think you'd have the most memorable culinary experience at Moto, although you'll get in an out for $100 a person if you get the 5 course menu and drink water. NoMi is at that same level. Topolobampo is close - espeicially if you want a few glasses of wine.

            1. re: wak

              Ya seeing that MK is contemporary American I was thinking Asian/fusion or Latin for the next few nights.

              Also...I don't think I really have this on the list, but French or French Fusion is also an option. It's hard to narrow it down when a)I don't know exactly where I'm staying and b) there are so many amazing restaurants to choose from. :) You guys are lucky!!!

              1. re: Elyssa

                NoMi is French Fusion. Brasserie Jo is a my current favorite mid-priced French - just North of the River. La Sardine in the West Loop is also quite good and more of a traditional Bistro.

                1. re: wak

                  Do you know if Brasserie Jo is owned by the same folks as the one in Boston? There is a good restaurant by the same name in Boston...was wondering if it became a mini-chain.

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Yes. Jean Joho is a Chicago based chef. His main restaurant is Everest (also French) and he set up Brasserie Jo as a more casual spot. I've heard mixed reviews of the Boston location, but I've always liked the Chicago location. He also runs the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Vegas.

      2. Carnivale is under the $100 per person tab. It's Nuevo Latino and quite fun. Vibrant atmosphere, creative food, and fantastic views of downtown from the balconies.

        www.carnivalechicago.com

        702 W Fulton St
        Chicago, IL 60661
        (312) 850-3017

        1. Hi Elyssa. First off, just want to say you need to make reservations right away. I like Room 21 (great outdoor space) at 2110 South Wabash -- one block north of it is a great Latin spot called Cuatro (live music, too). I also like Blackbird on West Randolph, Aigre Doux on Kinzie, and North Pond Cafe (Lincoln Park). Enjoy.

          9 Replies
          1. re: VinceViagra

            North Pond looks excellent...especially their Brunch deal. Do you recommend it for brunch?

            How about Saturday brunch spots?

            1. re: Elyssa

              Frontera Grill serves brunch on Saturday (only). I've not been for brunch but have had numerous great meals over the years at Frontera/Topolobampo (including quite recently).

              1. re: Pugman

                Thanks Pugman. It looks quite good! :)

                It's either brunch or Gino's East...the bf has never had real Chicago pizza. Both my parents are from the city so I was brought up on the stuff.

                1. re: Pugman

                  I just noticed that this is a Rick Bayless restaurant which I would LOOOOVE to try. But is it impossible to get reservations only with a week or so advance?

                  1. re: Elyssa

                    Salpicon on Wells is excellent as well. It is one of the many Rick Bayless spin-off restaurants. The Chef Pricilla Satkoff, from Mexico City, used to work for Rick at Frontera/Topolabampo.

                    1. re: Elyssa

                      Elyssa, if you can try to get into the topolobampo side- it's a little more your style i think.

                      Also you REALLY want to drop me a line, I promise.

                      1. re: jpschust

                        Hahaha ok I will I promise.

                        My Dad (who's originally from Chicago and a major foodie) just sent me a list of places and Topolobampo was at the top of his list. So I'll be giving them a call tomorrow.

                        I just made a reservation for MK for 4...didn't want to wait around for the rest of the group to make a descion...MK looks great to me!

                        1. re: Elyssa

                          If you want to go to Sunday brunch, and it's a special occasion, then consider the Signature Room up in the Hancock building. Great views, and great food.

                          1. re: thebelly

                            Not really a special occasion...except for the fact that we are all spending a nice weekend togther. But I actually need Saturday brunch if we are going to do brunch because Sunday will be spent out in Willmette with the Grandparents. (Hopefully at Walker Brothers!!!!!)

              2. I'd second North Pond - it's my favorite in the city. If you're looking for french, both Bistrot Margot and Kiki's Bistro are quite good. Also, if you'd be interested in "upscale" Mexican, I think Salpicon is a great place as well...

                1 Reply
                1. For Italian, I really like Merlo on Maple. If you are into Oso Buco, you will love it. I still have dreams about that dish, and have not been able to order anything else on the menu since I frist tried it.

                  This is not a "Hot" restaurant, but it does have great food and wine.