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Aug 7, 2007 02:19 PM

New Yorkers coming to Chicago

My friend and I are coming to Chicago for five days in a few weeks. We like going out to good restaurants in New York and hope to enjoy some great meals while we're in Chicago. We've both been before and had Chicago pizza, Chicago hot dogs, the typical things. I've also been to Japonais, Gibson's, and Joe's. Looking for chefs with innovative dishes--just something a little different...

Thanks in advance!!

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  1. Well, all of our fine dining establishments - whether it's the haute cuisine of many of the top chefs in the country (Alinea, Avenues, Everest, etc), or the more casual "contemporary" type places (one sixtyblue, Aigre Doux, Blackbird, etc) - offer innovative dishes that are quite a bit different from your steakhouses and such. You'll find lots of details about them in the discussion at

    Other than that, things that are not found elsewhere include our Greek restaurants (see ), barbecue ( ), and tapas ( and ). And many places offer innovative dishes for breakfast and brunch; see

    1. Have you been to Topo? I would suggest going to Fronterra for brunch, different and very tasty.

      1 Reply
      1. re: LIfoodie

        Good suggestion. Both of these restaurants from Rick Bayless are worthwhile stops with innovative dishes. You can find more information at

      2. Jen: since you clearly have great taste--I miss Olga's and Leo's too, I'll give you some of my thoughts. I will stay away from the fine dining spots since they're all very good if you want to spend $100+/person.

        Fun for interesting appetizers and good drinks (never eaten dinner there it's a bit touristy) -- Republic Pan-Asian (E Ontario and Wabash).

        More fun Asian and what I think is always great for dinner any night -- Red Light (W Randolph).

        Great fresh mediteranean influenced food in a cool spot, I really like this one -- Naha (N Clark and Illinois).

        New American in a nice neighborhood not to far from the hipster bar scene, great patio and nice wine list -- Meritage Cafe (N Damen just past W Armitage). This is a 10 minute cab from downtown. You can then hit that bars down the street in Buctkown.

        Check for more specific addresses and other details.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jbontario

          I'm not sure which "fine dining spots" you are referring to, but the prices at one sixtyblue, Blackbird, and Aigre Doux are no higher than those at Naha - all have most entrees in the $28-36 range - and only a few dollars higher than at Red Light and Meritage. You'll generally pay the same roughly $80-110 per person including tax/tip and moderate alcohol at any of them; they are all among our better "casual fine dining" restaurants. I enjoy all these places, but I've found that the food at the first three (one sixtyblue, Blackbird, Aigre Doux) is "to die for"; the latter three are good, too, but not quite on the same "to die for" level.

          As for the top chefs at Alinea, Avenues, Everest, Tru, Charlie Trotter's, etc, they are a different experience entirely, and not comparable to the more casual places. If you enjoy going to Per Se and Le Bernardin and their ilk in New York, you will appreciate the experience these places have to offer (and they are no more expensive than their counterparts in New York).

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Chill Winston.
            Thanks for all your clarification--it is true that food is science and math as much as just feeling and taste. I guess I should continue to clarify, when referring to $100 per, I intended to mean pre-tax and pre-tip. You do provide a great list of what I term fine-dining: Alinea, Avenues, Everest, Tru . . . Thanks. My anecdotal statement re: Naha being great for dinner any night would also apply to the restaurants you listed. I would go to Blackbird or Aigre Doux on any Tuesday--I can walk to both. So I think that after a long dissertation, we've agreed that for $100, all in, you can eat at one sixty blue and at Trotters, you can't.
            jrazzle, enjoy your time in our great city. Agree with Pete, Spring and Hop Leaf are both worth a quick cab ride.

          2. re: jbontario

            I have to differ about Red Light. We went there for our last anniversary and we have noticed a steep decline in quality. While the price was about $125 for two including drinks, there was no difference, in our mind, between the food there and Ben Pao. It was definitely not worth the money and the service was marginal at best. Since we had picked it for our anniversary we were extremely irritated. I'm not going back there...there are so many other places to try in Chicago. Try Avec, Sushi Wabi, or one of the newer places on Randolph.

          3. Blackbird and Spring are the two that leap to mind, given your description. And everyone I send to Hopleaf, a bistro driven by Belgian ales instead of wine, comes back happy. I know I do. For cheap eats, take the Red Line to Argyle St., and go to Pho 888, Tank, or one of the other Viet restaurants there. I lived in NYC for many years, and apart from Saigon and the late, lamented Pho Bhang, there wasn't much authentic Vietnamese available.

            1. Something that doesn't get recommended enough is Arun's. NYC doesn't really have any high-end Thai restaurants in the vein of Nobu, Morimoto etc. Chicago does and it's a very special treat. The chef pays great attention to the presentation as in the Royal style of Thai cooking bringing you artistic dishes as beautiful as they taste. If you visit, it's certainly going to be a change of pace from Spice or Tastee Siam II!

              4 Replies
              1. re: JungMann

                Arun's is fine, but after experiencing some of the more authentic Thai stuff at places like TAC Quick Arun's feels like a major-league rip-off.

                1. re: jesteinf

                  Comparing the 12-course tasting menu at Arun's to the pad thai and spring rolls at TAC Quick is apples and oranges. Both are certainly good, but one is a complete sensory experience. One has a James Beard award-winning chef; the other a talented cook who knows how to put out great food. One takes great ingredients and makes great food, the other takes those ingredients and elevates them into an art. If the OP is looking for an innovative and unique experience, and one that she cannot repeat in NYC, Arun's is definitely a place to visit.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    If you're ordering Pad Thai and spring rolls at TAC Quick then you're missing the point entirely.

                    1. re: jesteinf

                      As the one who has spilled more ink raving about TAC than anyone else, you know that I am in full agreement with you, Josh, but you may have erred in assuming that JungMann has even been to TAC Quick.

                      At any rate, ask a Thai person: TAC's phat thai is consistently rated the best in town. Then again, Thai people don't eat at Arun's...