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Sep 24, 2007 08:46 AM

Downtown, excellent, fun for reunion w/ childhood friend!

I will be meeting a childhood friend whom I haven't seen in 12 years (but haven't really "known" for 16+!) for dinner on Wednesday night.

She says she will eat anything...(lots of help, I know!) I'm begging her to help me narrow it down, but doubt I will get help. ;)

My top off-the-cuff choices thus far are Frontera Grill (but nervous about wait time and noise level), Cafe Spiaggia, and Aigre Doux (again, also concerned about noise level). Also thinking about Sepia (went a couple of weeks ago with the in-laws and it was outstanding, but loud). We haven't seen each other in so long and will for sure be in for a long conversation, so I am concerned about noise level...

Can "fun," "excellent food," and "intimate" all be one place?

Your suggestions are much-appreciated. Would like to stick to the "casual fine dining" restaurants and under, price-wise (hoping for $50-$60 or under pp if possible). I don't know what her budget is, exactly, but I think she makes a very good living, so I'm not too concerned about it for now. Nothing fancy or over-the-top, though!

Downtown/Loop area preferred (where she is staying), but Lincoln Park or near north would be fine, too (where I live)!

Thanks so much in advance...

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    1. re: jpschust

      Thanks for that suggestion - I hadn't thought of it...

      However, I have an update: she is requesting Mexican! So is Frontera my best option, or does anyone have any other recs?


      1. re: DKS1

        Although I've never had a good meal there, somewhere located in-between for both of you is Salpicon. I really want to like this place, and have tried it three times, but my side dishes at Frontera have outshined any of the entrees I've had at Salpicon. It gets a lot of love though, so maybe it's just me.

        You also have Adobo Grill for a little less 'fancy.'

        1252 N Wells

        Adobo Grill:
        1610 N Wells (also in Wicker Park

        1. re: gordeaux

          I think Salpicon is consistently very good, but their styles (Salpicon/Frontera) are different. Check out the respective menus and see which is more appealing. I will say that I believe the quality is more consistent at Salpicon. I much prefer Salpicon and Frontera to Adobo.

          But I think Adobo in Old Town (skip the one on Division) is good -- the chef, Freddy Sanchez, is very talented. My only complaint is that I suspect the owners of Adobo don't let Freddy Sanchez run wild and the food and atmosphere are a bit "dumbed" down, at least in my opinion.

    2. Until you mentioned Mexican further below, I would have said both Cafe Spiaggia and Aigre Doux are excellent. While not as quiet as some places, I don't think either one is particularly loud. Especially on a weekday.

      In the Mexican category, I don't blame you for being nervous about the waiting time at Frontera Grill, but what about Topolobampo? That would be my first choice. But the two recommendations by gordeaux, Salpicon and Adobo Grill, are both very good choices too.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Yes, Topolo would be a good choice, especially with respect to securing a reservation. However, I think something a bit less pricey is in order for this particular dinner (but my goodness, I am DREADING the Bayless recording while on hold the morning of trying to make a Frontera reservation!!).

        I was a bit underwhelmed by Salpicon, too, upon my first visit. However, I'd be willing to go back to give it another try...

        I think I'll aim for Frontera first and use Salpicon as my backup. Then hubby and I can try out Adobo on our own when the mood strikes - haven't been there yet and although Uncle Julio's is our idea of comfort food, we DO need to find some new places when the Mexican/Tex-mex cravings hit!

        Thanks for the suggestions... (and I'll be eagerly awaiting an excuse to return to Aigre Doux and Cafe Spiaggia (and Sepia for that matter) in the near future).

        1. re: DKS1

          Good plan,

          Stick with Frontera, Topolobampo, or Salpicon. I really dont care for Adobo, thay are not in the same class as the previous three.

          As for the possible wait time @ Frontera, get a couple of tequila flights , and enjoy the bar scene.

      2. Go to Salpicon. They have an extensive Tequilla list, and the margaritas are amazing. It's also fun/lively, yet quiet enough that you'll be able to have a good conversation

        I also like Adobo Grill, but the atmosphere isn't as upscale

        Frontera is good food, but the wait is a pain- and it is very loud

        Do not go to Topolobampo. In my opinion, it is totally over-rated. Very expensive and the atmosphere is kinda depressed (dark) and stuffy