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Nov 26, 2007 12:57 PM

Can't-miss dinner with $20-25 entrees?

I'm heading out from Manhattan to spend a few days in Chicago (will be on the Gold Coast, but can cab around) around Christmas, and want to try a can't-miss place. Any kind of food works - maybe leaning towards new american or Asian... Nice atmosphere - modern is cool, or cozy - where we can have a great dinner for under $150 - or less! (with wine).


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  1. Good places in that price range and within walking distance of the Gold Coast include:

    Salpicon (creative Mexican) -
    Le Colonial (French-Vietnamese) -
    Hugo's (seafood) -

    There are also some good Italian places (e.g. Cafe Spiaggia, Merlo on Maple, Pane Caldo), but coming from Manhattan, you can get plenty of that at home.

    Here are a couple of places within a short cab ride and in your price range. Red Light has Asian fusion cuisine and is very good. And also Avec for contemporary American; just don't go there on weekends, as they don't take reservations and the wait times on weekends can be excrutiating.

    If I were visiting here for a few days with that budget, and I wanted "can't miss" food, I would go for our delicious deep-dish pizza one night (e.g. Pizano's on State for pan pizza, or Giordano's on Rush for stuffed pizza), which will put you well under your target price range, and then the other night use the savings to go over your target price range at one of our very best contemporary American restaurants like one sixtyblue or Blackbird both of which are a short cab ride away.

    1. Check out Shikago Restaurant - - 190 S LaSalle, New Asion Fusion resonable prices and wonderful wine list.

      1. There are a number of places with entrees a little over $25, but which I believe will come out about $150 or a little less.

        For new American: Blackbird ( You should be able to get out of there for $150 or a little less, unless you spend a lot on wine. I think this would be your best bet -- the food is outstanding.

        One Sixtyblue ( and MK ( would also be solid places, although I much prefer Blackbird.

        For Asian, you might want to consider Le Lan, which offers French-Asian cuisine. Although I have not been there in quite some time, a friend of mine dined there very recently and loved it. ( However, I cannot recommend Red Light. I think it's ok and I like the decor quite a bit, but IMO the food tends to be a little too sweet and inconsistent.

        4 Replies
        1. re: BRB

          I have eaten recently at both Blackbird and one sixtyblue. one sixtyblue has the best food of any casual fine dining restaurant in the entire city. The food at Blackbird is very good, too, but one sixtyblue is even better, and consistently so. However, you are unlikely to have a three-course dinner for two with wine at either place for under $150 including tax/tip/alcohol. At both of these places, most entrees are in the $30-35 range, and I consistently spend $95-105 per person at both, with very moderate quality/quantity wine. I've eaten at MK and don't think it's quite on the same level as Blackbird, let alone one sixtyblue.

          I've consistently enjoyed the food Red Light, although I don't put it in the same class as the contemporary American restaurants like one sixtyblue or Blackbird. It's also significantly less expensive. Entrees are around $20 at Red Light, at the low end of your target budget, whereas Le Lan is priced closer to one sixtyblue and Blackbird, with entrees around $30.

          If you're going to splurge by going over your stated budget, one sixtyblue is the place to do it. You'll be glad you did. ;)

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Excellent - thanks! I've bookmarked a few.

          2. re: BRB

            I'm no big fan of Red Light either, although its almost worth visiting for the decor. Much better in my opinion is Le Colonial. Its in a very nice French Colonial replica building with very good food and would certainly fit within your budget. I was there over the past month and quite enjoyed all of the appetizers and entrees that I tasted. Its also smack in the middle of the Gold Coast, so might be very convenient depending on where you are staying. The menu is much more focused than Red Light that has a more Pan-Asian greatest hits spread. (Peking Duck, Pad Thai, Edamame, Chicken Vindaloo, etc...)

            I had one excellent and one so-so experiene at Le Lan, but that was a while ago. They have since brought in a new chef and moved away from French Vietnamese to more of a Korean/Chinese influenced menu from what I last saw. Not much on the menu appealed to me so I haven't been back.

            As for Blackbird/160 Blue, you really can't go wrong at either of those.

            1. re: wak

              Speaking of combinations of cuisines, another possibility is Vermilion, which is a combination of Indian and Latin cuisines. It may sound odd, but it works; the food is excellent. It's right in your target price range, and it's in River North, so it's walkable from the Gold Coast.

          3. Spring fits your bill pretty well. You may be slightly pressed to keep your budget, but it is modern and the food is superb. I really like the food at Blackbird and One Sixtyblue as well. I preferred Blackbird based on the crowd. One Sixtyblue was full of 60 year old men with 20 year old escorts on both occasions I was there. The food was great, but it just didn't feel comfortable based on the environs. Blackbird is noisy and a bit cramped but the food was so good and I had a great meal there. I would second that one. I haven't been to Aigre Doux, but it's on my short list. Perhaps someone would chime in as I've heard great things.

            5 Replies
            1. re: chucktowneater

              I reported in detail on my dinner at Aigre Doux early this year in the topic at It was absolutely superb in every way. Those three - one sixtyblue, Blackbird, and Aigre Doux - have the very best food I've had at any of our "casual fine dining" restaurants within the city limits. FWIW, in my numerous dinners at one sixtyblue, I've observed mixed demographics, with maybe a bit more emphasis of relatively young diners (many in say their thirties, both sexes) and have never seen the bizarre phenomenon you describe. I generally like one sixtyblue the best because the food is the best of the three, and it doesn't have the noise and crampedness you mention about Blackbird, but all are simply great places, and you really can't go wrong with any of them. However, just as I previously mentioned about one sixtyblue and Blackbird, Aigre Doux too has most entrees in the $30-35 range, with a total including moderate wine, tax, and tip around $100/pp, which the OP will need to consider as it is slightly above his/her desired price level.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I did not have as positive an experience at Aigre Doux, which I wrote about on LTH:

                As noted though, I do think Blackbird and One Sixtyblue are excellent choices.

              2. re: chucktowneater

                What would you say the price ranges are at Spring? They're not on the menu on their website, unfortunately.

                1. re: Jel212

                  I haven't been there lately, but my recollection is that they're at least as high as one sixtyblue, Blackbird, and Aigre Doux ($30-35 entrees).

                  1. re: Jel212

                    I think entrees were in the $25-35 range. A guest and I did the tasting menu, which I think was $75 pp. We had several bottles of wine, and it came out to around $250 after tax and tip, but if you did 2 entrees, an appetizer each, and shared dessert you could make budget even with a bottle of moderately priced wine. Spring is a great restaurant with modern elements and a Japanese influenced, seafood-centered menu. Based on your critera I would go there.