3 Brothers w/ Wives in 3 nights (6 'Hounds)
My brothers and I (ages 37, 40, 48) are descending upon Chicago with our wives (kids at home w/ grandparents!) for three nights of fun. I am a Sr. Producer at Food Network in NYC, another brother owns two restaurants in San Francisco, and the 3rd might as well work in the industry, too, but he is too busy conserving land with the Nature Conservancy in New Hampshire. Each of our wives have as much of an appetite for restaurants, both fine and obscure, as we do.
We are staying at The Four Seasons in late October and trying to plan out the weekend (Fr-Mon.). We don't have a car, but cabs are not a problem nor is the subway or any other transport. We want to achieve a nice balance over the weekend -- we love a high-end dining experience, but it is not critical. We are most interested in great food, good local scene, and an environment that will allow a table of six to actually hear each other as we have much catching up to do. We all love the under-the-radar hole-in-the-walls, but nothing too down and dirty as we are a large group with some differences in tolerance, ultimately!
I have assembled a list of contenders -- again, we want to break it up so if you had three nights and some brunch/lunch options to squeeze in, how would you proceed -- any and all suggestions welcome!
The only criterion besides getting in a good pizza is that one of those nights in a birthday celebration as well. Thank you all ;)
One Sixty Blue
Hugo’s Frog Bar
Shaw’s Crab House
Home Run Inn
Vito & Nick's
Father & Son
New Maxwell St. Market on Sunday
Sol de Mexico
That is quite the list. Good luck finding what you are looking for. I'm surprised at the omission of Indian food. No Indian food fans in the group?
Not a place for a "Chicago Style Dog" if that's what you are looking for. If you were looking for a Chicago dog, I would rec a bunch of places, but Portillo's is easy to find, and there's one in the touristy section, and you can also get a DECENT beef sandwich with hot giardinera which is a Chicago institution as far as sandwiches go.
Adobo Grill is not gonna be very memorable. Sol De Mexico has a better chance of that.
P.S. - No Love for Bayless's spots (Topolobompo / Frontera Grill?)
Cinnamon rolls and Turkey Benedict. It's a Chicago institution that Ann Sathers, but please note that it's not really GREAT breakfast fare. Most go for the cinnamon rolls that come with your breakfast. They are the big draw.
Consistently 'good,' and nothing more. You may not find the food memorable, but the decor and briskness of this place is. It's good. Don't go in expecting 'great.'
I REALLY like Rose Angeles. When they are on, they are GREAT. I've been there three times out of 8 where they were kind of just so-so. But the times they were great really made up fo the bad times. Their inconsistency irks me when I am expecting really good things.
I'd cross Giordano's and Gino's East off. Check out some of the pizza threads, and go to a lesser known place for Stuffed. Sure, Giordano's and Gino's are fine, but you'll do just as well and maybe even better at a smaller non-chain place. Just search for the pizza threads - you'll find names very quickly.
Re-consider Indian restaurants. Not sure if you forgot about those or if there are not Indian food fans in your group. We have some pretty good offerings here.
That's quite a list!
In the "general" category, you have mixed some real high-end splurge places with tons of creativity (Avenues - it's plural, Alinea, Moto, and Schwa) with others that are more casual, but still have great food. Both kinds are excellent, but they are different from each other. (Think about back home - sometimes you are in the mood for a splurge and you go to Per Se or Le Bernardin, like for a birthday celebration, but sometimes you don't want to get as dressed up and not have such a "grand experience", you just want great food, right?) Since you mentioned you don't want noisy places, for that reason I would knock out MK and Blackbird. I haven't been to Sepia, but the others are all very good. Best food for a non-splurge place - one sixtyblue; most unique atmosphere - North Pond.
Under Italian, you include Spiaggia. This, too, is a high-end splurge place. It's excellent indeed, but this makes it a very different place from the others. As for the others... well, I would recommend not going to our Italian restaurants, other than Spiaggia. They're good, but you have so much good Italian food back home, I think there are better choices in town, for food different from what you're accustomed to. But if you really want to do Italian other than Spiaggia, I think Vivere is excellent and so are Cafe Spiaggia and Coco Pazzo.
Seafood - I do *not* recommend Bob Chinn's. It's just not that good, IMHO. Yes, the seafood is fresh, but the preparations are nothing special. And it's quite a hike from downtown, definitely not worth it. Shaw's is very good; so is Hugo's, which also offers the option of excellent steaks (thanks to its association with Gibson's next door). If you really want the very best seafood in the area, IMHO, you should go to one of the seafood-oriented restaurants such as Spring, in the city ( www.springrestaurant.net ) or Oceanique, in Evanston ( www.oceanique.com ).
For pizza, you have some real drek choices mixed in there. Aurelio's is the worst pizza I have ever eaten in my life, and Home Run Inn is close. I recommend sticking to the Chicago deep-dish places like Giordano's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Bacino's, etc. (Giordano's is by far the best place for stuffed pizza in Chicago, IMHO; Lou Malnati's is best for pan pizza.) These are the GOOD places in Chicago, the ones that made us famous for deep-dish. If you want to do thin crust, maybe Spacca Napoli for Neapolitan pizza if they've re-opened. NOT the other ones you've mentioned.
For Mexican, I assume you are not considering Topolobampo or Frontera Grill because they're relatively noisy...? Sol de Mexico is good, but inconvenient by public transportation and expensive by cab (finding a cab for the return may be an issue too). If you insist on going there, renting a car for that day might be the easiest way. Otherwise, I think enough good Mexican places are a lot more convenient that I wouldn't worry too much about hitting Sol de Mexico.
For breakfast, I consider Ann Sather's nothing special. There are lots and lots of excellent breakfast places in Chicago, places like Orange, Flo, Wishbone, M. Henry, Bongo Room, Lou Mitchell's, etc. You can read more recommendations in the topic at www.chowhound.com/topics/364403
The rest of the choices are fine.
Very comprehensive list
A few comments:
Many of the places you list in your general category are some of the most recommended, and higher end places in the city. Good choices.
The seafood choices, I have never cared for Hugo's, a lackluster menu, and it is part of the whole Viagra Triangle scene that Gibsons feeds into. Shaw's is a better choice. As for Bob Chinns, I do not consider it a seafood restaurant, it is a crab house, and for a place to go and crack some crabs, it serves its purpose. If you are coming in after Oct 15th you could hit Joes Seafood, Prime Steaks, and Stone Crab for some freshly flown in stone crab claws, since they come back into season Oct 15th. Their steaks are also top notch. there is no need to go outside of Chicago for some good seafood.
Pizza, I would skip the chain places like Giordanos, & Ginos East as well, and hit the non-chain options. My favorite pizza in Chicago right now is at Coalfire on Grand Ave. Its thin crust, and excellent.
For hot dogs, Hot Dougs is not be a place I recommend to anyone. They do a Chicago style dog, but they seem to focus more on different meat variations that is not a true hot dog in my opinion. Portillos is a good rec. they are probably the best chain restaurant in the country, and do serve the Chicago sandwich the Italian beef, or the beef and sausage combo. Typically decent, but there are better around.
Enjoy your visit.
Once again pretty good list.
I copied and pasted your list and have included my two cents on the places I have been.
Aigre Doux - I've enjoyed the food, but it hasn't been particularly memorable. Some on this board love it. I'm basically indifferent.
Blackbird - other people love it. I didn't particularly enjoy it, but I don't eat any pork products, which severely limited my menu options. The dessert I had was outstanding.
NAHA - I love this place. Everything I've had has been fresh and seasonal and extremely well prepared.
Possible addition: Boka - really wonderful food.
Spiaggia - amazing, but as nxstasy said, it's in a completely different class. This is formal, expensive dining. The sister restaurant, Cafe Spiaggia is also wonderful, and more casual and affordable (but still not cheap).
Vivere - I'm not a fan. The food is fine, but nothing special.
Possible addition: Coco Pazzo - great food; lovely, but occasionally slow service. Usually not too loud for good conversation, but sometimes on the weekends it gets noisy.
Osteria Via Stato - a fun pace with a group. They have a $35 pp prix fix, where they bring family style apps and pastas and each person get to order an entree. The food is reliably good, and the place is fun.
Hugo’s Frog Bar - I'm not a fan. I can't stand being there with all the tourists. I haven't had anything bad there, but there are better places for catching up.
Bob Chinn’s - their downtown location closed a couple years ago. Not worth the trip to the burbs. Also, its huge and crowded and very suburban-feeling.
Shaw’s Crab House - also huge, but the food is generally good. Given your other options, I would skip it.
Possible addition: I agree with nxstasy, Spring is better than any of the places you listed.
Giordano’s - I love Giordano's. When it comes to stuffed pizza, I think you are better off with the chains.
Bacino's - fine, nothing special.
Home Run Inn - yuck.
Aurelio's - it's OK, again nothing special.
Barnaby's - yuck
Adobo Grill - not terrible, but not great. They have good margaritas and apps, I've been disappointed in the entrees. There is better Mexican in Chicago.
Red Light - good food, and lots of energy
Ann Sather’s - I would say its worth a trip, but I agree with Gordeaux.
Other options: Lou Mitchell's - another Chicago institution with really good diner-style breakfast fare.
Orange - a really interesting menu, but the execution has been going downhill recently. The pancake flights (four stacks of silver dollar pancakes with different interpretations of a common theme) are usually still worth it.
Hmmm, very interesting group of hounds...why not take a local along? Invite me LOL. No seriously, here are a few comments regarding your list:
Genarro's and Rose Angelis are overrated!
Spiaggia is excellent but kind of has a corporate feel..nice view though. Cafe Spiaggia has a cozier feel and of same kitchen & chef and much less expensive.
Vivo for Italian on west Randolph has been around for quite a while and is very good. It deserves morre attention.
Salipicon on Wells street is excellent. Pricilla Satkoff of Mexico City used to work for Rick Bayless. Fantastic food and margaritas!
Lachetts and Resi's Bier Stube are right accross the street from eachother. I like Resi's and especially in the summer or fall in the beer garden.
FUSION: Carnivale is Latin Fusion. Very good food in a great festive space. Take a stroll on the balcony to enjoy the great city views.
Lou Malnati's on Wells Street or Gino's East on Rush street for traditional Chicago Deep dish.
Spacca Napoli is the best for authentic Naples pizza.
Superdawg drive-in is the one for you. There's nothing like it. Same owners for decades.
Hot Dougs is worth the trip!
I love Portillo's. This place would thrive anywhere!
Ann Sathers and Orange are overrated!
Ina's on west Randolph for great breakfast; plus lunch and dinner too.
Wishbone for Cajun, Mexican, Southern inspired breakfast.
Cafe Selmarie in Lincoln Square (great neighborhood for exploration) for great breakfast; plus lunch and dinner.
Lou Mitchells downtown only
WORTHY PUB GRUB:
Hopleaf in Andersonville is a fantastic Belgian Pub with great beer and Belgian bar food. Unique atmosphere and located in a great neighborhood.
Jake Melnicks on Huron for sports and grub. Very good skirt steak, burgers, fries, etc.
DON'T FORGET TO GO TO THE GREEN MILL IN UPTOWN FOR ONE OF THE WORLDS BEST JAZZ BARS, BEEN AROUND SINCE 1907.
ALSO CHECK OUT THE VELVET LOUNGE ON CERMAK FOR OPEN MIC
I'd also drop Shaw's. You can easily do just as well in NYC.
If you like pancake flights (especially the rich sweet kind) I find Bongo Room to be far more dependable than Orange, at least in the South Loop.
Go to Hot Doug's, not so much for the Chicago-style hot dog (which you can find elsewhere) but for the great offerings of distinctive sausage,
One restaurant you might want to add to your list is Gioco. It's on the south end of The Loop area, so not necessarily in your prime territory, but it's not ridiculously far. I had dinner there last year with a big group of women -- very good cooks. Not professionals, but picky ladies! We loved the place. The food was excellent, the wine list was interesting and well thought-out and the atmosphere was kind of dark but elegant and hip. Our ages ranged from 19 to 50 and everyone loved it.
Thanks for posting your list! I'm planning a trip with my girlfriend in November and will be watching this thread. I'm tempted to go back to Gioco, but I like mixing things up a little.
With respect to the places in your "general" category, I would divide this list into really high-end and simply high-end. In terms of really high end, if you can go to Alinea, do it. The food is phenomenal and the service is outstanding too, without the least bit of pretension. I would place it above Avenues and Moto (which are both outstanding). Schwa probably fits into this category, but at the same time it's "no frills" -- a simple storefront, busier street than most, and byo. The food will knock your socks off and thanks to it being byo, your wallet won't take the hit it will at the above three.
In terms of the next grouping -- simply high end -- I would place Blackbird on the top of the list. Yes, they do wonders with pork but there are really only a couple of pork items on the menu: blackbirdrestaurant.com. The food is simple, yet flawless. My only warning: it does get loud, but I love it and I've gone there with groups of four and had no problem conversing. North Pond is also outstanding and the location might be the most beautiful of any restaurant in the city. It's also conversation friendly. NAHA and One Sixty Blue would be just behind the above two in my opinion -- NAHA can be loud. All four of these restaurants do a wonderful job of featuring locally raised/grown products and you will have an outstanding meal at any one of them. But Blackbird is my favorite for food (easily) and North Pond is my favorite for atmosphere and conversation.
Italian - You're coming from NY and SF . . . skip the Italian spots. With the exception of Spiaggia, I'm sure you can do better in your own cities. Spiaggia is fantastic; Merlo (the one on Maple) is very underrated, particularly their homemade pastas; Pane Caldo is very nice, but leans French and caters to an older crowd (not a knock, just that you're likely to be the youngest people in the place); Gennaro's is a decent Taylor St. red sauce spot, but you'll do a lot better in NY. The others could drop off the face of this earth and only a few Chicagoans would care.
Seafood - Again, none of these will excite you, unless you're looking at globs of seafood on a plate. They're all good (although Chin's is quite the circus) and you can get just as good and likely better seafood in NY and SF. Spring might be an alternative -- almost all seafood, most with Asian accents, and it's excellent. I wish I could still recommend Scylla . . . whose chef used to work at Spring and offered a largely seafood menu with a more Mediterranean approach, but sadly she has up and left for the Pacific Northwest . . . a big loss in my opinion.
Your list of pizza places doesn't really excite me. If you want to try Chicago deep dish, I would veer away from the crowds and try Lou Malnati's or Pizano's. Since they're both owned by Malnati brothers, the pizza at both is nearly identical, and both are excellent (in my opinion). Order the buttercrust for some added flavor and crunch. I'm just not a big fan of Gino's or Giordano's -- wildly inconsistent pizzas have caused me to cross them off my list of acceptable recommendations. I like Bacino's more, but not as much as Malnati's/Pizano's. A number of excellent thin crust spots have opened up in Chicago in the last couple of years, but you can probably do better in NY. Avoid Coalfire, which has great pizza but you won't like the service. Spacca Napoli is my favorite and offers authentic Neapolitan pizzas and as friendly and accommodating owner/chef as you will find anywhere.
Mexican - In my opinion, this is one cuisine that you must avail yourselves of in Chicago. Sol de Mexico would be a perfect meal for a group of six. If you like moles, you'll have the perfect size group for sampling all of them and this is the place to go. The food and service are top notch at this little byo neighborhood spot -- one of my very few favorite restaurants in Chicago. I also like Fonda del Mar quite a bit, and if you are more interested in seafood (though they also do a coupe of moles, including a wonderful mole negro), this would be another great choice. The Adobo in Old Town is generally pretty good (a bit dumbed down), but Salpicon is much better. I live just a couple blocks from Los Nopales and it's a nice neighborhood joint, but I would highly recommend Sol de Mexico first, and then Fonda del Mar. And enjoy the wonderful Mexican street foods at the Maxwell Street Market.
German - Laschet's and Resi's are both excellent. I see someone else recommended Hopleaf, which is a great spot for mussels and frites and Belgian beers, many of which are hard to find. It gets loud and crowded, but boy is it good. Their Montreal smoked meat sandwich is also better than the ones I've had in Montreal. The only reason I might suggest Hopleaf over Laschet's or Resi's is that there's a little more to see and do walking north of Hopleaf, although both Laschet's and Resi's are conveniently located within a couple of blocks from the Irving Park Brown Line "L" stop.
Breakfast - I'd skip Ann Sather. If you want Swedish pancakes, head to Tre Kronor which is so much better in all respects. Everyone likes Ann Sather's cinnamon rolls, but really they're just sweet . . . really sweet. If you're looking for a more creative breakfast, I would first recommend Bongo Room, although I also like Over Easy, M Henry and Orange, not necessarily in that order.
Hot Doug's - I love it -- check out hotdougs.com. Doug is a great guy and puts out a wonderful product. Be prepared to wait in line twenty minutes or more.
Fusion - Red Light is hit and miss. I'd skip it. I have not been to Cuatro, so I cannot comment. I do like Vermilion quite a bit though (a little like Tabla, so you might want to skip).
You don't mention Thai, but Chicago has some outstanding Thai restaurants, my favorite being Spoon Thai. Here is a link to a discussion of both Spoon and TAC Quick, which also contains a link to their translated Thai language menus for some amazing and less ordinary Thai finds: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/333148
Have a great trip and enjoy your eating.
I think if you are coming to Chicago you want to exerpience the best we have to offer. I would use Nastasy's list. Skip all your seafood places. they are not great and go with Spring. I like Frontera et al.
They are probably different than you have at home. No one has mentionsed La Normade. which is one of my favorites. NAHA, too. On the high end, Avenues, Moto and Alinea are places you won't find just anywhere. For a fun breakfast I like to go to Flo's which is not too far from downtown(Mexican) You can even pick up the 66 bus on Chicago Avenue and ride right down. North Pond and Blackbird are great as well but not like Charlie Trotter's( another high end. )
General: I’d say Schwa, but its an odd little place. Plain storefront. No formal waitstaff – just cooks who bring out the course when they are ready. No wine service – its BYO. In fact, they don’t even have wine glasses. But it’s the most creative food I have had in the city, (note – I have not been to Alinea,) and the best relative deal on a high end restaurant. The food, with the exception of one course, tasted exquisite. Definitely the 9 course meal if you go. Very tough to get reservations, so call ahead. Not that they are snooty or anything, but there is just no staff other than the cooks to answer the phone. Another nice benefit – if you are interested in the ingredients and preparations, just ask the guy who brings you the plate since he is the one who just prepared it. I find that they love talking about the food and that can make for a fascinating overall experience.
Avenues was the best overall meal I have had in Chicago, but it’s a little too formal for my taste. Once again, get the tasting menu (with wine parings) and let the chef do his thing. Several of the courses were amongst the best I have had in the city. Dinner for two was $750 inclusive.
You didn’t mention it, but personally I would skip Trotters in favor of some of the younger/newer restaurants that seem to have a little more energy and excitement.
North Pond is the other one I would recommend. 160Blue. It’s a little corporate, but the food is good. If you get them on a good night it’s wonderful.
Italian – well you come from NY, so I don’t know how unique this will be to you, but I would say Café Spiaggia or Coco Pazzo – both strong contenders. Spiaggia main restaurant is a very formal, high-end experience. Some say the best food in the city.
Seafood – I wouldn’t come to Chicago for Seafood. Its not our specialty. Instead you might consider a steakhouse – Saloon or Keefers – although once again, it’s not like there are no steakhouses in NY.
Pizza – I think Pizza as a general concept is overrated, except for the thin, crispy, Italian style which I have not found yet in Chicago. If you do go, I’d recommend deep dish at Lou Malnatis on Wells, but everyone has their favorite.
Mexican – You could go wild with this one. Maxwell St. is an experience. Take bets the night before on who gets to eat the eyeball taco. http://www.sptsb.com/MaxwellStreet.htm.
Or go to one of the recommended places outside of the city center (ex. In Cicero).
Salpicon is more refined and pricier, generally excellent, and when it all comes together I think it’s the best Mexican in town. Also, if you walk North on Wells St. from Salpicon you go by dozens of interesting shops, bars, restaurants, and most importantly the Spice House which is our best spice store. They have Chicago themed spice mix collections that make great gifts or souvenirs. At the corner of Wells and North is the Second City comedy club – So a stroll on Wells, dinner at Salpicon, and entertainment at 2nd City, followed by more drinks on Wells, would be a fun night.
Regarding ethic food in general, I would highly recommend Spoon Thai on Western. Its outstanding Thai food far beyond anything I have seen in other cities. TAC Quick and Sticky Rice also get rave reviews. Spoon is also BYO, so bring a few bottles of wine along.
Another great resource for out of the way, neighborhood restaurants is here:http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewforum..... Lots of good Mexican recommendations on that list. In fact the web site is another great resource for Chicago food, although not quite as open to the “coming to town, tell me where to eat” inquiries.
German – Honestly, most of the old school German restaurants have closed down over the years. It’s not a tradition that still holds on and prospers. The more recent Mexican (and Thai) immigrants are doing much better, more varied, and creative food in Chicago these days.
There is one restaurant in town – May Street Market – with a young chef who trained in Austria that has many dishes that include interesting turns on German cuisine – like an outstanding Maytag Bule Cheese Cheese Cake appetizer. Certainly not traditional German, but worth considering.
One more German-influenced option is Brasserie Jo which specializes in Alsatian food. The serve a very good choucroute – big pile of sauerkraut piled with all sorts of sausages and smoked meats. I spent 4 years of my life in Germany and this is the one meal that reminds me most of Germany. I’ve had it with both the Moulin-a-Vent Beaujolais and several glasses of Tripel Karmeliet (Belgian beer) and when I close my eyes it transports me back to the world of Lederhosen and Half-timbered houses. Other good options here as well, but for the German experience, that would be it, although it really has no relation to Chciago’s German past. It’s a pile of food.
Fusion: I recommend Carnivale to a lot of people. Not Fusion, but pan-Latin cuisine (like Cuatro). Good food in an enormous, very fun, environment. I prefer the overall experience to Cuatro, although the food is about the same quality. I love the Guacamole.
Red Light is OK, but a little hit and miss as far as food goes. The space, however, is very cool. I could say the same about Japonais which has an amazing interior design. For east/west fusion, I would normally recommend Le Lan (French Vietnamese) but they have a new chef that I have not tried. Word is that its still quite good.
Hot Dogs – Grab lunch at Portillos on Grand. Nothing fancy, but they do a good take on the Chicago Hot Dog and Italian Beef traditions.
Breakfast: The only interesting thing that comes to mind is Wishbone in the West Loop. Right by Oprah’s studio. Southern influenced cooking with a twist.
Anything you missed…Avec is a true original. Food is just wonderful. Limited but excellent menu and wine list. But casual. No reservations. Long communal tables (I think they seat 10).
I also think that a fun night would be in Bucktown on Damen – Meritage for dinner (East/West fusion) and Hot Chocolate for dessert (not the drink – that’s the name of a restaurant that specializes in dessert). Bucktown’s a fun place to walk around.
I must say that while many of the old German mainstays have moved along, Resi's and Laschet's have stuck around. These are the kind of restaurants that have stood the test of time in Chicago because of their dedication to their customers and to the quality of their food. When I dine at both, I feel like I've stepped off of the streets of Chicago, and into a neighborhood restaurant/pub in Germany. Though many associate Berghoff's with Chicago, Berghoff's has not been Berghoff's for so many years. If you have not dined at Laschet's or Resi's, now's the time to find out what you are missing. You'll be impressed and you'll be treated like family the minute you walk in the door.
On another note, I think I've trumpeted Sol de Mexico quite a bit here. I love Moles and I've never found better in Chicago than SdM. Sure, it's a bit of a haul from downtown. But until you've dined there, you don't realize how worth it the trek is. Some others would agree: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?...
I'd like to add just one note to wak's comprehensive post, and that regards the price stated for Avenues. The biggest variable in the bottom line at the high-end restaurants is usually the wine/alcohol, and I'm sure that was much of the reason for the high price he/she stated. I ate there this past March, and at the time, the menu consisted of 3-, 5-, and 10-course meals for $90, $120, and $160. The four of us got the 10-course tasting menu, but we did not order the wine pairings; our wine was moderate (perhaps 2-3? bottles among us, not the priciest either), and our total including everything was $500 per couple. Not inexpensive, to be sure, but the price quoted by wak is 50 percent more than we paid, and we got the biggest tasting menu offered at that time. We could have paid even less, had we gotten one of the smaller food menus.
I agree with most of the assessments (esp. Ann Sather - skip it.) One more suggestion in Mexican. If you want to see a different part of the city, as opposed to downtown or the north side, come down to Pilsen and visit Mundial. It's BYOB and the food is fantastic (but skip dessert and walk down the street to Bombon for a pastry).
I have read all the suggestions (16 reply's so far) and I would be confused if I were you at this point. I think I understand that you want to mix things up a bit, eat at the best of Chicago, and be able to enjoy your family's company. I am very familiar with all of your list and other people's helpful suggestions. So I would like to give you a definitive "list" where you won't go wrong enjoying our great city. Notice there are some new reco's on my list.
Best of new in Chicago:
1. Table fifty-two - make reservations now! It only seats 37 people.
2. Sepia - good reviews, great service
Best Pizza all are super causal
1 .Crust - all organic
2.Spacca Napoli - out of the way, even though it's it walking distance from the el.
3. Giordona's or Lou Malnati's tie for deep dish
Note: Spiaggia is very expensive and men must wear a coat. It is always good but I have never felt "comfortable" there. So I would recommend:
1. Coco Pazzo or it's more casual sister Coco Pazzo Cafe - (not related to the Coco Pazzo in New York.)
2. Riccardo Trattoria on N Clark
1. Ina's - very fresh
2. Lou Mitchell's (downtown)- Chicago institution very crowded but always good and fun
1. Alinea - the best! I'd make this number one on your list.
1. The Gage on Michigan Ave.
2. Park Grill in Millenium Park
1. Boston Blackies (super casual and fast if you have someplace to go)
2. NAHA - upscale atmosphere, great food and burgers. Maybe you can go for a margarita after at the bar at Fronterra Grill first which is across the street.
1. Blue Water Grill
2. Shaw's Crab House - We prefer the Oyster Bar, but it's hard to get a table for six.
Portillio's - can't go wrong and it's downtown
Hot Doug's - very unusual, try the duck fat fries
Pick - up picnic fare:
1. Bari's Italian market on Milwaukee ave. - great sandwiches in the back of this market
2. Fox and Obel market near Navy Pier
Fusion: agree with your choices - Love Red Light
1. NoMi - in the Park Hyatt
2. Tsunami upstairs Saki Lounge with a fireplace (great fresh sushi, too!)
3. RL in the Ralph Lauren store on Mich. Ave.
Agreed with everyone's comments on Mexican.
Enjoy and please let us know what you choose!
Based on your criteria I would suggest:
General- All of the restaurants on your list are great, you can't go wrong with any of them. I'd also definitely recommend going to Volo on Roscoe while you're in town. I LOVE this place (and based on your post, I think you'd really like it)
Italian: I love Rose Angelis. Spiaggia and Pane Caldo are also very good
Seafood- Hugo's is best on your list
Pizza- I like Giordano's, but for a less touristy recommendation try Pequods on Clybourn
Mex- Adobo Grill is one of my favorites; I'd suggest going there for lunch
Fusion- Either places you suggested are good
Hot Dogs- Hot Dougs is a really fun and quirky place to go. Food is great
Breakfast- Ann Sathers is good and a Chicago classic. I'd also highly recommend Lula's and Meritage (for brunch)
For your birthday celebration, I'd recommend going to Tizi Melloul and request to sit in the "round room"- a really fun and unique experience. The menu is Moroccan/Meditteranean
the homestyle food at RoseAngelis is great. you should know, though, that only a few dishes on the menu have meat. Only two negatives about Rose Angelis'-- 1) they don't take reservations and the wait can be long on weekends and 2) service can be slow during peak times, not the fault of staff, but i think they probably don't have the capacity in the kitchen for the size of the restaurant; service tends to be better in the winter since noone is eating outside.
Another great italian choice is Filippo's on Clybourn
Resi's Bierstube, in addition to getting all of their meat from the high-end Paulina Meat Market, also has the best beer garden in the city. It's a wonderful place and if in contention it should not (along with Blackbird) be missed.
I would like to know where your group finally dined during your time in Chicago and what you thought of the places.
Sorry for the incredibly late response, but here is what we ended up doing (almost 15 months later -- shame on me. Sorry!):
NaHa - great, inventive food, very cosmopolitan setting with a lot of hustle bustle and vibe. Very enjoyable and the desserts were sensational. I think I remember feeling like it was too exposed to the street, however, and some drapes would go a long way, but perhaps that is incorrect? As I said, my memory is more than fuzzy all this time later! Still, a solid choice and not regrettable whatsoever.
North Pond -- loved it; excellent menu, ambitious dishes, incredible room that takes you far, far away, and quite magical to walk out onto the park after dinner; great bar as well. We were a party of six and scored the round table overlooking the park in the room to the right -- it was a clutch table and the ambience and service matched the food pound for pound. A special evening.
We also hit a Greek restaurant but I can't remember if it was Venus or Santorini's or something else -- it's been too long to know for sure, but it was damn good and very relaxed on a Sunday night. I think it was Venus, though. We were sat immediately to the right at a long table against the widow looking out at the entrance/street. I do remember that you enter to the right and that there were two dining levels/platforms (or at least a ramp), other than that I am drawing a blank. Regardless, it was excellent and the service was warm and inviting. Def a slow night for them, though!
Loved Portillos for the beef sandwich -- that was a lot of fun and clearly an institution.
Net net, we loved everything about Chicago and can't wait to come back.