What was the best Chicago Meal you had in 2007?
Personally, it's North Pond, for me. But, I'm asking because I always see the same North Pond, Blackbird, Tru, Trotters, Everest, Custom House, Spring reccomendations everytime someone is looking for a special occasion dinner. I have one of those coming up, and really want to go somewhere new.
So - what place served up YOUR best meal of '07?
Two dinners at Alinea, in spring and fall, were far and away the best Chicago meals of 2007. In fact, the most recent one was perhaps my best dining dining experience ever. Is any meal actually worth hundreds of dollars? I don't know, but I've never had any regrets dropping the dough for chef Achatz's food. For dinners that don't cost as much as round-trip airfare to California, I had several really terrific meals at Boka.
The very best meal I had in 2007 was at Tallgrass, in Lockport. Simply spectacular. You can read my detailed report at www.chowhound.com/topics/403032 This is high praise indeed, topping such noteworthy places as Avenues, Le Bernardin, one sixtyblue, and the aforementioned North Pond.
Here are the dozen best meals I had in 2007:
1. Tallgrass (Lockport IL)
2. Avenues (Chicago IL)
3. one sixtyblue (Chicago IL)
4. Lola (Cleveland OH)
5. Everyday People Café (Douglas MI)
6. Le Bernardin (New York NY)
7. Oakley's Bistro (Indianapolis IN)
8. Aigre Doux (Chicago IL)
9. Margaux (Sheboygan WI)
10. Vie (Western Springs IL)
11. Oceanique (Evanston IL)
12. North Pond (Chicago IL)
A few weeks before the end of 2006, I ate at Michael, in Winnetka. If it had been in 2007, it would be somewhere in the top five.
As for recommendations for your special occasion dinner... It really depends on whether you want to go to one of the very best and most expensive places (and probably get dressed up to do so), and probably spend $200-300 per person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, or one of our "casual fine dining" places and spend around $100 apiece. In the former category, the very best places are, in approximate order:
1. Alinea - Grant Achatz - www.alinearestaurant.com
2. Avenues - Graham Elliot Bowles - http://chicago.peninsula.com/pch/dining_01.html (closed this month)
3. Everest - Jean Joho - www.everestrestaurant.com
4. Charlie Trotter's - Charlie Trotter - www.charlietrotter.com/restaurant
5. Tru - Rick Tramonto - www.trurestaurant.com
6. NoMi - Christophe David - www.nomirestaurant.com
7. moto - Homaro Cantu - www.motorestaurant.com
8. Spiaggia - Tony Mantuano - www.levyrestaurants.com
As for the very best casual fine dining places, I would start with the local places on my top twelve list. The two places I'd add, which I didn't hit in 2007, are Michael (as previously noted) and Blackbird.