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Looking for Chicago hidden gem for 5yr anniversary

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My husband and I are celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary this Saturday. I wasn't sure he'd be in town, so this is a little last minute. I'd love some suggestions for dinner.

We live out near Naperville but are seeking some place in the city. Nothing terribly expensive (we aren't splurge eaters), something unique and different, but not not overly adventurous. We love trying different ethnic foods.

Thank you so very much in advance!

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  1. What about Emilio's, for tapas? If you've never been there, you could try the original, in Hillside, if you don't want to come all the way into the city (or, you can try one of his places in the city, if you prefer). www.emiliostapas.com

    As another alternative, you could try one of the "fusion" type restaurants, that combine several types of ethnic foods in new and interesting ways, such as:

    Cuatro (Latin fusion) - www.cuatro-chicago.com
    Vermilion (Indian-Latin) - no website AFAIK
    Le Colonial (French-Vietnamese) - www.lecolonialchicago.com
    Red Light (Asian fusion) - www.redlight-chicago.com

    11 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      We've been to Emilio's and have even had tapas in Spain. We enjoy it but not at the top of our list.
      We love latin flavors, so Cuatro sounds great. Cafe Laguardia and La Pomme Rouge have also been recommended by friends... any thoughts?

      1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

        I haven't been to either of those, sorry, but I see there are some comments about Cafe Laguardia in the topic at www.chowhound.com/topics/417346

        FWIW, Cuatro is a lot of fun, and the food is excellent (actually tastes as good as it sounds on the menu).

        1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

          Just did a post on another thread about Naperville. You might check out Raffi's at the Fifth Avenue Station in Naperville. Nice atmosphere, Mediterranean cuisine (not an ethnic restaurant per se). Look at their website and check out their menu. If you go on Saturday night, you should make a reservation

          1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

            I've never hear of La Pomme Rouge before. Looks like it could be interesting, or maybe just trendy beyond belief.

            The press release on line made me smirk - La Pomme Rouge shall adopt the salon motto “to please and educate.” …La Pomme Rouge exudes the decadent beauty of La Belle Èpoque…La Pomme Rouge envelops revelers in the folds of graceful indecency… dishes that are elegant, each component coaxed into a state of harmony….Salon Paradis is a semi-private room where up to 25 guests can choose to sit in front of the fireplace or in one of many luxurious antique divans."

            Oh yes - a divan would be divine!

            There's an English major out there finally making good on that $80K Liberal Arts degree.

            If you do go, please report back.

            Otherwise I could recommend Cuatro, although for pure atmosphere I would lean towards Le Colonial.

            1. re: wak

              Definitely (or hopefully) not an English major. Probably a bad translation (from a nonspeaker) or a Frenchman trying to sound eloquent in English (the equivalent of an opera diva trying to do country).

              1. re: jbw

                I just quoted a few key lines. You can read the entire release in its gracefully indecent harmony here...http://www.prleap.com/pr/80848/

              2. re: wak

                Le Colonial looks wonderful. It had been recommended years ago but we had moved to Atlanta and never tried it. Is it just for atmosphere? Or is the food really good?

                My husband and I don't dine in the city often anymore, so I guess I am making this decision more difficult than it should be. Other spots that have caught our eye...
                Spring
                The Gage
                Sepia
                I know they aren't "hidden gems" but we want something good and special without going overboard.

                1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                  I would not be surprised if you came away from Le Colonial feeling a little ripped off. The food is good, but not THAT good. Although, I'm a firm believer that ambience / atmosphere is HIGHLY overrated. I'm more about the food. I think there are some spots on Argyle that server up better fare than Le Colonial. Just an opinion. Again, it's good, but not THAT good.

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    I guess it depends on what you want. Le Colonial is in a prime spot in the middle of the Gold Coast, its in a beautiful building with wonderful atmosphere and good service, and you pay more for all of that but for me those things make for a more ejoyable overall dining experience. From a pure food standpoint, you can certainly get food as good or better than Le Colonial elsewhere fro less money (see my comments on Spoon Thai below) but for a special occasion, I prefer the whole experience. You can get a good feel for the restaurant from their web site. I've never felt ripped off going there. In fact quite the opposite. But as I said, it depends on your expecations for the evening.

                    http://www.lecolonialchicago.com/

                    FYI, another excellent French/Vietnamese downtown is Le Lan where the food has been better than Le Colonial, but its also pricier, and the chef has changed since last time I was there so I can't comment on the quality of the food, but I have heard that its still quite good.

                  2. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                    I'm a bit confused. One of the problems I'm having in trying to figure out what is an appropriate recommendation for you is that you are asking for someplace "good and special" while at the same time mentioning how you enjoy ethnic food. Not that the two are incompatible - they aren't - but ethnic food often consists of a nondescript storefront with formica tables (no tablecloths), a friendly server (hopefully), BYO alcohol, etc. That experience is very different from a "finer dining" restaurant, where you typically get a higher level of service, fancier surroundings, a wine list and full bar, etc. You can get great food in either type of place. But I don't consider the storefront Thai restaurants mentioned by others, or the Vietnamese restaurants on Argyle, to be "special", except in the sense that many of them serve very good food. When I think of "special", I think of the level of service and decor etc that those finer dining places offer. Maybe your definition is different - if so, please provide further guidance.

                    Personally, I think that Spring is a *wonderful* place for a 5-year anniversary. But it is obviously not ethnic in any sense, and it's not inexpensive. The Gage is more of a pub type atmosphere which you may or may not find appropriate for your occasion - just as you may or may not find a storefront ethnic restaurant appropriate for your occasion.

                    So, to answer your question - yes, I think the food at Le Colonial is good. However, I suggested it primarily because it offers somewhat unusual ethnic food in a rather special/upscale atmosphere. Without the "ethnic" constraint, there are lots of places which, like Spring, offer excellent, special food and surroundings, including North Pond (another wonderful choice for a special occasion), Blackbird, one sixtyblue, Naha, Aigre Doux, Sweets and Savories, Custom House, and literally dozens more. But again, like Spring, these places aren't inexpensive ($80-120 per person including some wine and tax/tip is typical) and they aren't ethnic. In the same non-ethnic finer dining genre, if you're not limiting yourselves to going into the city, there are places in the suburbs where you can similarly get spectacular food in special surroundings, including Vie in Western Springs and Tallgrass in Lockport, just to mention two that are a lot closer to Naperville than going into the city. Either would be a superb place to celebrate a 5-year anniversary, IMHO.

              3. re: nsxtasy

                Vermilion has a website: www.thevermilionrestaurant.com

              4. Tac Quick. Thai. Ever been?

                4 Replies
                1. re: gordeaux

                  No, we haven't been. I love cooking Thai at home and haven't found it to blow my socks off when we go out for it.

                  1. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                    I make Thai food at home all of the time, and Tac blows my socks off every time I go. It's just a suggestion. It isn't the most glamorous place as these recs have gone, but it is a very good Thai place - you will see multiple recs for it if you search. Your steaments, "Nothing terribly expensive (we aren't splurge eaters), something unique and different, but not not overly adventurous. We love trying different ethnic foods." Immediately made me think of Tac. It is REAL good stuff, the place really tries to be as nice as it can without being trendy, and the prices are a few bucks more than yer average Thai joint, but well plated, and worth it. The first time I went there, I was hoping the food lived up to the prices, and was blown away because my final conclusion of the meal was that it was a bargain, and I would have paid more and been happy.

                    I agree that a lot of Thai places are kind of ho-hum if you learn how to make a good arsenal of thai dishes at home. This is my major problem with MOST restaurants - if I can make it at home, I get very disappointed when I go out, and get a meal I could have done better for 1/3 the price. You may be more schooled in Thai cooking than I am, but I do pretty well, and think Tac is a really good place to check out, even if not for your upcoming anniversary (congrats , by the way.)

                    1. re: gordeaux

                      Spoon Thai is another great one. Similar to TAC. My previous experiences with Thai food had been good but not outstanding - a lot of Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, and other standards popular in the US. Spoon had a large menu with dozens and dozens of specials I had never heard of, all made with authentic Thai ingredients that imparted new tastes I had not experience before. It really opened up my eyes to Thai food.

                    2. re: Gelato_in_Roma

                      If you go to TAC order off the specials board - there are often some very good and unusual things that come and go with what is fresh and available. They also have a translated Thai menu available (thanks Erik M!).

                  2. I'm surprised Topolobampo hasn't come up (unless it has and I've missed it). Seems to meet a lot of your requirements in that it's special enough for an anniversary, not hugely expensive, and "ethnic" without being too adventurous or downscale. Certainly not a "hidden" gem, but a gem nevertheless: http://www.fronterakitchens.com/resta...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: jbw

                      Oooo. Yeah. JBW. Good one! Actually, ( even tho the dinner has passed) That got me thinking of the Sol De Mexico / Dorado / Salpicon / Fonda places. Gelato, please let us know where you wound up.

                      1. re: gordeaux

                        t
                        Thank you for everyones suggestions. I have put them all on a list of must visit!
                        unfortunately because we were seeking saturday night reservations at such last minute it was impossible to get into most of your suggested spots. We decided to celebrate at home on saturday night and go on sunday. We went to North Pond for brunch. It was very nice. I had wanted to go there for many years.
                        Again, thank you!