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Visiting Chicago - need advice

We are going to Chicago for my sister's 40th birthday weekend. We would like it to be a memorable experience for her, so I'm looking for...

1.) A great restaurant for dinner on Sat. We have had recs. for Tru, NoMi. Spiaggia and Carnivale. Which of these is the best, or do you have any other recs?

2.) We would like to get tea Fri. afternoon. Which is the best place for high tea?

3.) Best Sun. brunch or breakfast place?

4.) I also need a great bakery to get a cake (or even better, cupcakes from). Proximity to our magnificent mile area hotel would be helpful.

Thank you

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  1. 1) All of those have great food, but the view alone puts NoMi on top, especially if you can get a window table. Start off with a drink in the outdoor bar, and finish the night with a carriage ride from the Water Tower.

    2) The Peninsula

    3) For a Chicago experience, it's Lou Mitchell's or Wishbone.

    4) Can't help you there.

    1. Sweet Mandy B's in Lincoln Park has excellent cupcakes and cakes (no website, apparently, but a "menu" is on chicago.menupages.com). Closer to your hotel you could try Fox and Obel, a gourmet market with a cafe and bakery.


      Sweet Mandy B's
      1208 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

      Fox & Obel Food Market
      401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611

      1. 2) Tea at the Four Seasons is wonderful. My family goes every year in December. I haven't been to the tea at the Peninsula, but I've heard it's great too.

        3) If you search this board for brunch you'll get lots of options. Among my favorites: I love Orange (they have two locations, but their South Loop location on Harrison has shorter waits and is closer to your hotel). Orange is known for great juices, frushi (fruit sushi - I'm not wild about it) and their pancake flights. Four stacks of silver dollar pancakes prepared in variations on a theme. Lou Mitchell's is definitely a Chicago institution though, plus they give you a donut hole as you walk in the door.

        1. 1) We just went to NoMI over the 4th of July week and it wasn't so great. The view was nice, but the food was not up to the standard of the other places we ate. Spiaggia and Tru are certainly contenders, as is Everest. These were the best places in our opinions. As a plus, Everest has a great view as well. Spiaggia has a solid view as well.

          1. On number 1, I have only been to Carnivale, but it really is in a different class than the others. I like Carnivale, good and sometimes great food, and am amazing dining room, but not the four star experience of the others or even close.

            1. For brunch, if you'd like something laid-back and fun, try PJ Clarkes on State st. Their brunch starts with free OJ and a basket of muffins and mini bagels with all the fixins. Plus the menu is yummy. And, if it's nice out, they open the front windows so you can people watch on State and get some sun.

              PJ Clarkes
              1204 N State Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60610

              4 Replies
              1. re: reubensandperrier

                Let me disagree and say I have eaten at PJ Clarkes twice and been let down by the food and service both times. And the place is not authentic Chicago at all, usually filled with out of towners.

                1. re: Chargenda

                  That's unfortunate :( I lived a few doors down from it awhile back and loved getting brunch there every weekend, and loved it every time. DId you have brunch or dinner? Just out of curiousity.

                  1. re: reubensandperrier

                    I have just done dinner. So, maybe brunch is much better.

                    1. re: Chargenda

                      Ahh, I totally agree. I went for dinner once and it was pretty bad, food and service-wise. Funny how different it can be depending on the time.

              2. You have some very good suggestions. I do have to point out that Americans have a very erronious idea of what Tea and High Tea is. High Tea is plain and simply supper for the working classes. You might get a cup of tea and some beans on toast. There is nothing fancy or special about it.

                Afternoon Tea which I am assumng you want is a restorative to carry you over for dinner which may not occur until 8:00 PM or later. Little sandwiches, scones, different cakes etc. And of course tea, maybe several from which to choose. There also might be sherry and bubbly depending on the occasion

                2 Replies
                1. re: Candy

                  Re: High Tea/Afternoon Tea, there was a thread on this a while ago: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/119617

                  1. re: Candy

                    I used to live and work in London, so I am familiar with tea. I'm looking for the tea experience that hotels offer.

                  2. Best Sunday brunch? Oh man. I've been to many, but there are a few I like more than others
                    Toast (Lincoln Park)- Their marscapone stuffed french toast is to DIE for.
                    Orange (Lakeview or Loop)- Awesome.
                    Wishbone(Lakeview or Loop)- They make really great hashbrowns.
                    Nookies (Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Old Town)-always solid.
                    All of these places have websites and/or reviews on citysearch, etc.

                    1. 1) NoMi is a terrific place, though Everest is also a contender as someone mentioned. Carnivale has a thoroughly different feel; if you are in search of a more casual, celebratory meal, Carnivale might be the place to try.

                      2) Four Seasons and Peninsula are great recs. Personally I find that the service at Lutz's in the old German Lincoln Square neighborhood is a great treat and steal. Fantastic Viennese pastries, delicious coffee and a very elegant setting. The waitresses are dressed in chambermaid uniforms and speak German whilst they serve you your porcelain setting.

                      3) Love Wishbone. I've done Lou Mitchell's and don't really care for it. Nookie's is a diner and not worth travelling for. You can get a similar, if not more tourist-friendly, experience at the Original Pancake House.

                      4) Personally I think the cakes at Lutz's are out of this world. I dream of their tortes. In the immediate area around you, you'd be hard-pressed to find a bakery aside from Cheesecake Factory.

                      1. Sarah's Candies makes pretty good cupcakes and is right by the Mag Mile. They recently moved to 70 E Oak St. I would call them a few days ahead if you want to order a bunch of cupcakes. 312.664.6223. She also makes some good confections.