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$100 gift certificate

My sister has just relocated to Chicago, and for her upcoming birthday I was thinking of getting her a gift certificate to a local eatery that she should try (by chowhound standards). She lives downtown and although she and her significant other enjoy good food, they aren't food snobs by any means.

Any recommendations on a Chicago eatery where they could have a nice dinner for 2 for around $100? Can be something newer/edgy or an old standby.

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  1. What type of food does she like? Any favorite cuisine? What area of downtown, if you know, and how close to her does it need to be? And what type of restaurant -- modern/old/quiet/loud?

    In any event, one place on Randolph that certainly comes within that price range and which offers fantastic food (Spanish influenced; mostly small plates) is Avec. I believe it's one of Chicago's true gems and pretty reasonably priced. avecrestaurant.com

    Depending upon her likes, I can recommend some other places.

    1. What about getting a gift certificate for the Levy Restaurant Group- then they can choose- cafe spiaggia, bistro 110, part of a meal at the full spiaggia, fulton's, etc.

      5 Replies
      1. re: jpschust

        A Lettuce gift card would give them more options.

        1. re: wak

          True, but then you'd have such "wonderful" options as shaw's (I mean where else can you have overpriced mediocre seafood), big bowl (immitation pan-asian? yes please), Everest (I'd like an overpriced wine list and untrained fast casual service), Maggiano's (nothing says Italian like a plate for 4 of spaghetti).

          1. re: jpschust

            Personally, I prefer Brasserie Jo to Bistro 110 and Wildfire to Fulton's and altho comparing Spiaggia to Tru would be an orange/apple comparison both are pretty classy pieces of fruit.

            In any case, a gift certificate to a "Group" does provide more options and less opportunity for embarrassment/blame/recrimination than a certificate to a single restaurant.

            1. re: jpschust

              Well, I think you've hit the nail on the head with Big Bowl and Maggiano's -- especially Maggiano's -- but I'd have to disagree about Everest and Shaw's. I was at Everest a few months ago and the service (and food) was outstanding (can't recall the wine pricing). Perhaps you had a bad meal there.

              I also disagree on Shaw's -- the quality of the seafood is typically excellent, although I would agree that the presentations tend to be ho-hum . . . but that's what they're trying to be. It's LEY and they're not trying to be Spring.

              In any event, I think LEY restaurants offer a pretty decent array of options, some of which are plain bad (Vong for example), and some which are pretty underrated in my opinion (I'd put BaBaReeba in this category).

          2. re: jpschust

            I agree that this would be a wonderful idea! But who could choose between Spiaggia's lobster ravioli and Bistro 110's cassoulet, roasted garlic, quiche lorraine and creme brulee!!!

          3. She eats everything. Sushi is a favorite (coming from the Pacific Northwest), but as a family, we've been known to relish in dives and fine dining as the mood/meal calls for it.

            Oh, and they live at the 500 block of W. Madison Street....but I wouldn't think they'd need to stay in the area.

            However, probably don't want to get them a GC for a place that they'll need to make reservations for weeks in advance...some place they could get a table a few nights before would be preferred. They just don't think ahead (about their meals at least) like that.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ethereal

              May I suggest you think outside the box, since clearly there are many options. I personally like all the LEYE restaurants and have never had a great meal at Levy, who has become a sports arena and race-track food purveyor. Check the last statement partially--Spiaggia is phenomenal.

              Enough of my grousing, I suggest that you go buy a $100 Amex gift card and a copy of Zagat. Then spend a few minutes with your sister and help her pick a restaurant to her taste. There are so many good, casual fine dining places.

              1. re: jbontario

                Instead of Zagat, which is a pretty much useless guide, how about the Chicago BYOB book?

                1. re: jbontario

                  Bear in mind, many restaurants are unable to run those gift cards through their credit card systems.

              2. Strong recommendation for Lettuce Entertain You because they own a variety of pleasant restaurants ranging from reasonable ($10 stir-fry at Big Bowl) to expensive ($100 lunch at Tru). Also, I don't know what your time-frame is but during the holiday season LEYE has sometimes offered a deal, buy a $100 GC and get another $25 free.
                A different option would be to earmark the $100 for a fancy Sunday brunch (much bang for the buck, also much food): Ritz-Carlton, Signature Room, Four Seasons.