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The honest truth: Can't-miss dining in Chicago

Hi!

I'll be flying from DC to visit my boyfriend in Chicago next week, and we have ONE night (Friday) to dress up and celebrate our time together. We're both young professionals, so money does matter, but we are also obsessed with good food and will be willing to pay (within reason) for a truly extraordinary meal.

I've read some of the previous posts about the "top" restaurants like Alinea and Charlie Trotter's -- are these places are really worth the trip? I've read about One SixtyBlue and Blackbird being comparable in quality but a bargain in price, but posts like this one - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/404709 - make me wonder. If you could recommend one restaurant for a happy, special reunion between two young foodies, what would be my best bet?

I really appreciate your help with this topic, and I'm so excited to be visiting Chicago!

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  1. Alinea is worth it, Trotter's hasn't been worth it in a long time.
    Moto is worth it if you want a very surreal food experience.
    Everest isn't, especially if you're on the younger side.
    Nomi is, in my opinion.
    If you're coming from DC a steakhouse might be a nice treat since other than Ray's I don't think there's a decent steakhouse in all of DC.

    7 Replies
    1. re: jpschust

      In all honesty, practically every "famous" steak house in Chicago also has a branch in DC. And in my opinion, Ray's is way better than all of them (and much better than anything you can get in Chicago).

      1. re: thomasec

        I'd agree with Ray's being better than the chains in Chicago, though something about the ribeye at Gene and Georgetti has my heart.

      2. re: jpschust

        Well, I was all excited about our dinner in Chicago and now I am a bit skeptical due to your response. My boyfriend and I are in Chicago for one night. We wanted to eat at a quality restaurant, with a romantic ambiance that is not too contemporary/modern. Everest was recommended to us by a few posts, and so I booked it. Why do you agree??? Sorry, just trying to get the scoop. There is a lot of pressure on me in choosing the restaurant we eat at our only night in Chicago.

        1. re: bawood

          You will have a WONDERFUL experience at Everest. It's the perfect choice for what you're looking for - romantic ambience, traditional decor, wonderful view, and spectacular food.

          Read as many posts, from as many people as you can, and don't be swayed by a single person's negative posts (or, for that matter, a single person's positive ones, either). The food, the service, the atmosphere, the view - all are exquisite. Everest has the very best service I have EVER experienced in a Chicago-area restaurant, by far, and the food is absolutely sublime.

          If you'd like to read another report on Everest from this month, from a couple on their honeymoon, go to www.chowhound.com/topics/440437

          1. re: nsxtasy

            How on earth can you guarantee that? If get a server who's actually trained in fine dining and knows how to serve a table, along with a palatable first course that is more than bland, yes- you might have a very good time, or you might have the time we had. There are plenty of places we've been where we know the service and staff to be consistent, Everest simply isn't one of them.

        2. Go to Japonais. Great food, great atmosphere- it is young and hip - and where all the celebrities flock to in the city (when they visit)

          Blackbird would also be a great place to go - but isn't as romantic. Japonais is right on the river, and the downstairs cocktail lounge outside is not to missed

          1. I would place Alinea, Avenues and Moto in a class all by themselves based upon the creativity that goes into the food, and I would put Alinea at the very top, hands down.

            I love Blackbird -- the food's always fantastic -- but it's in a different class . . . just a simpler, albeit excellent approach. However, Blackbird tends to be pretty loud. I would highly recommend one of the first few. Schwa is also excellent and byo, but I doubt you will be able to get a table on such short notice . . . it's very small.

            As for Trotter's, I disagree that it isn't worth it, although there are places I prefer.

            Japonais - I think it's decent but I think it's more about the scene than the food and it also gets loud, which may not be great if you're trying to re-connect. In any event, the chances of you getting an extraordinary meal there are nil.

            1. I think both kinds of restaurants are very good at what they do - the casual contemporary restaurants (e.g. Blackbird, one sixtyblue, Aigre Doux) turn out delicious food, typically in the $80-120 range per person including moderate wine/alcohol, tax, and tip, and the splurge restaurants (Alinea, Avenues, Everest) typically in the $150-350 range per person. All have wonderful food and excellent service, IMHO. The difference is in the level of service and creativity. You have similar choices back home in DC, I'm sure.

              Think of it this way. At the more casual type places, you are likely to have food you're familiar with - and (hopefully) all the food items will be absolutely delicious. Whereas at the splurge places, you are more likely to have food you've never had before, combinations you've never had before, things you may never even have thought of - and again (hopefully) all the food items will be absolutely delicious. Is the latter worth paying a lot more for, than the former? That's up to you. In either case, the three places I've named in each category would be my top picks for what you're asking for.

              1. In a deliberate back to back comparison of Charlie Trotter's and Avenues my girlfriend and I agreed that CT won, although not by much. Both had exceptional food and are worth every penny but we felt there was a slighly nicer flow to CT's menu. The big pluses for each - CT for outstanding wine pairings (highly recommend the pairing instead of a bottle or two) and overall service. Avenues - the kitchen "theater" sitting.

                You could not go wrong with either of these choices. If you do opt for Avenues ask the Captain to call ahead to the bar and reserve a table for an after dinner drink, it was a very nice ending to a wonderful meal.

                And opinions are just that so to add my two cents I COMPLETELY disagree that CT is not worth the money.