Sunday Night Birthday Dinner
I am planning a dinner for my wife's 40th birthday in March. It will be just the 2 of us - and her b-day is on a Sunday, which I know eliminates a good number of choices from consideration.
We have been to many nice restaurants in Chicago, and are very familiar with the city (we live in the NW suburbs, but lived in Lake View for 5 years). Our favorites over the years include Mirai, Charlie Trotters, erwin, the long-departed Blackhawk Lodge, and Yoshi's Cafe. For this dinner, I have in mind something quiet & romantic, ideally with a scenic location. Type of cuisine is open - but something lighter (seafood / asian / sushi). We particularly enjoy tasting menus paired with wines by the glass, basically putting things in the hands of the chef.
I am thinking of either Spring or North Pond, neither of which we have dined at before. Can anyone comment on the differences, keeping in mind it will be on a Sunday night? I suppose Spring does not offer much of a view, but from what I can tell the dining room seems very zen-like & relaxed. Any other similar restaurants that come to mind?
I've been to both, and, personally, would much prefer North Pond. Spring's menu tends more to the vegetarian side of things, which isn't quite my style, though.
It's not nearly in the price-range you mention (ie, it is much cheaper), but The Red Rooster Cafe on Webster is a phenomenally good, absurdly quiet, charming little place. It's standard french bistro fare. There's no view there, but it's very enjoyable.
The Custom House is another Shawn McClain place (like Spring) and is quiet and romantic - it's menu tends more towards that of a progressive steakhouse.
Finally, there's the obvious Tru. No great view, but probably the coolest interior of any place in Chicago. IMO, the vibe of the place is so stiff you can hardly breathe, but the food is an experience.
Spring and North Pond are both very, very good. What North Pond has, and Spring does not, is the scenic, romantic location you're looking for. It is in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park, not just the neighborhood), facing its namesake pond, with the city skyline towering over the opposite shore. Before its renovation, the building was the warming shelter for ice skaters on the pond. There are two dining rooms, one with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the pond, the interior room with an open kitchen along one side. Even if you're in the interior room, it's a romantic and intimate space, just lovely. And the food from James Beard-nominated Chef Bruce Sherman is wonderful. For a romantic space with outstanding food, open on Sundays, North Pond would be my first choice. www.northpondrestaurant.com
Spring specializes in seafood, not vegetarian food; I suspect the poster who claimed it was primarily vegetarian has it confused with Green Zebra, the third of Chef Shawn McClain's restaurants. North Pond has its share of seafood on the menu, while not emphasizing it to the same extent as Spring. If you are specifically looking for a restaurant emphasizing seafood, Spring is a great choice. www.springrestaurant.net
If you would like to go to a more upscale restaurant - something comparable to Charlie Trotter's, for example, with maximum creativity, elaborate tasting menus available, etc, the perfect place to put yourself in the hands of the chef - three of Chicago's very top restaurants are open on Sundays: Alinea (one of the very best restaurants in the country, and THE best according to Gourmet magazine - www.alinearestaurant.com ), NoMI ( www.nomirestaurant.com ), and Spiaggia ( www.levyrestaurants.com ). Tru, mentioned by the other poster above, is comparable, but it is closed on Sundays.
As for other places (which won't have the exquisite setting of North Pond of course), you can find a longer list of top restaurants open on Sundays in the topic at www.chowhound.com/topics/378848
Thanks for the replies. I believe the decision between Spring and North Pond comes down to which I value more - the type of cuisine (Spring) vs. setting (North Pond). We have been to Trotter's before, and the others mentioned (Alinea, Tru, Spiaggia) are either closed on Sundays or beyond my budget for this meal.
Has anyone been to either Spring or North Pond on a Sunday night that could speak to the level of service, ambition/creativity in the tasting menus, and availability of fresh seafood for that particular night? I remember dining at the Ritz Carlton Dining Room a few years ago on a Sunday night, and being disappointed in the condition of the room (leftover crumbs from Sunday brunch) and relative lack of freshness & creativity in the tasting menu (seemed to use leftovers from brunch).
Thanks in advance for any replies!