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Feb 5, 2008 07:09 AM

Birthday Dinner in Chicago

I was hoping you could give me recommendations for a restaurant to take my dad for his birthday. We are looking for a nice restaurant within walking distance or short cab ride from Michigan Ave (watertower area)...I know it's very cliche, but that's what we will be doing that day. We love all kinds of foods. I would prefer to stay away from places like Spiaggia that only serve tasting menus because we will be dressed casual that day.

Also, vegetarian friendly would be fantastic!!!!!!

Thanks!!!! Can't wait to hear what you come up with!

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  1. I recommend Cafe Spiaggia, the casual and less expensive sister restaurant next door to Spiaggia. Excellent Italian food, including lots of vegetarian options, as you can see on their menu at

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for the reply nsxtasy!! Sounds really good.

    2. I love Joe Stone Crabs , You can be very casual and enjoy the most wonderful food

      1 Reply
      1. re: percyg70

        Ya, I have been to Joe Stone Crabs and thought it was nice, but very few vegetarian options. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

          1. re: jesteinf

            Here are a couple of examples of recent discussions of casual fine dining restaurants in the geographical area you're asking about:
   (near Westin Michigan Avenue)

            However, neither of those specified a place with extensive vegetarian offerings, which is why I didn't mention the other places I mentioned in those topics; their vegetarian offerings are nowhere near as extensive as those at Cafe Spiaggia. But feel free to check out the website menus of the other recommendations in those topics, to see if any might meet your needs.

            If you'd like another recommendation in addition to Cafe Spiaggia, beyond what's within walking distance, consider North Pond. North Pond specializes in excellent contemporary American cuisine, with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients where available, and they always have at least a few vegetarian items on the menu. They also feature a unique setting, in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park, not just the neighborhood). It's about 2.5 miles north of the Water Tower.

            Another good place specializing in local and seasonal, always with some vegetarian items, but further still (about four miles northwest, in Logan Square) is Lula.

            One final recommendation, two miles west of the Water Tower, is Green Zebra. Green Zebra is almost entirely vegetarian, and the only truly upscale restaurant that is. From award-winning chef Shawn McClain. About three miles northwest.

        1. There are about a gazillion restaurants. I know a lot of people on this board don't care for it, but I really love Bistro 110, and have never been disappointed there.

          It is across the street from WaterTower.

          6 Replies
          1. re: tzurriz

            thanks tzurriz. I will check it out!

            1. re: tzurriz

              Yes, that's one of the restaurants I recommended in the other topics (see links above). They serve very good French bistro food. However, they don't have very much in the way of vegetarian options, other than salads. Their website is the same as Cafe Spiaggia's (i.e. ) so feel free to check out their menu there.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Thank you so much nsxtasy. Such great recommendations! Have any of you been to Mia Francesca, Merlo, or Le Colonial?

                1. re: trixie12

                  Mia Francesca is part of a local chain of Italian restaurants, with 12 locations in the suburbs and 4 in the city. They're okay, but nothing great - a good choice if you happen to be in the neighborhood, but not worthy of a birthday or other special occasion. IMHO the best casual Italian fine dining places are elsewhere (e.g. the previously-recommended Cafe Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue, Coco Pazzo in River North, Vivere and Trattoria No. 10 in the Loop, plus Va Pensiero in Evanston). I haven't been to either Merlo but Chowhound BRB has recommended it here. Le Colonial is good if Vietnamese food with French overtones appeals to you; however, I don't think they have all that many vegetarian options.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    good to know about Mia Francesca. Coco Pazzo might be a good bet for us. Thanks for all of the information.

                2. re: nsxtasy

                  Ah, but their salads are excellent. :)

              2. With casual dress, vegetarian, and within a short cabride in mind, I recommend;

                Kan Zamman on wells for Lebanese.

                Santorini at Adams and Halsted in Greektown. Great food & serene Greek Islands atmosphere.

                Venus for Cypriot and Greek cuisine just west of Halsted on Jackson in Greektown. Great food & atmosphere.

                Emilios Tapas on Ohio
                Cafe Iberico on LaSalle for Spanish Tapas