Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Feb 21, 2008 01:35 AM

Spring, Green Zebra, or Custom House

I realize these are all owned by the same Chef and distinctively different. But, I'm afraid I will only have time to visit one while in Chicago. Please help me decide.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well, it depends what you're looking for.

    Spring is more seafood focused, Green Zebra is almost all vegetarian, and Custom House is more meat focuses. Of the three, Custom House is my favorite and Green Zebra is my least favorite, but I think it really comes down to personal preferences.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jesteinf

      Very well stated by jesteinf. I agree on both points.

      You might want to take a look at the sample menus on their websites to get a better sense of what they're serving and the differences in emphasis:

    2. I expected to really like Custom House, but was extremely unimpressed by the food, although the service was good. On the other hand, I was extremely impressed by the food at Spring. I have not been to Green Zebra, although a friend of mine who is a vegetarian really loves it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mjust

        I have only eaten at Spring and at Green Zebra, but I was underwhelmed at both. Nothing was "wrong" with anything we ate. It was creative, perfectly prepared and beautifully presented, but both Mr. CG and I were left with the experience of "so what?"

        I don't know what we are missing, because I know that many people love Shawn McClain's food. He's a highly recognized chef ... and yet I don't get it.

        Does anyone else share my experience? Or can anyone point to what I am not seeing so that I can appreciate what McClain does.

      2. I actually just returned from Green Zebra tonight, and it completes my tri-fecta of Shawn McClain restaurants.

        Of the three, I honestly think Green Zebra is my favorite. I used to be a carnivore, but now I'm mostly vegetarian (I make exceptions for fine meals).

        So here is my take on the three. If going with a group, Spring is the most likely to please. The menu is diverse and has some great items. That being said, I was underwhelmed the time I went, but my wife loves it and has been several times.

        I went to the Custom House soon after opening and I was extremely disappointed. It is the "meat" restuarant of the three, and you can get a much better steak at a lot of places in Chicago. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't go. Service was still excellent and I love the atmosphere.

        But as I said, Green Zebra was the most exciting of the three. Small plates, very creative dishes, and it is a fun to experience a great meal without meat. Our service was good, the space was small but nice, and we had no complaints.

        Also, for fine dining in Chicago, you can't beat the price. My wife and I each had 3 courses, wine, and desserts for $130.

        1 Reply
        1. re: LFrasco

          I've never been to Custom House, but between Spring and Green Zebra, I would go for Spring. In general, I think it's easier to be a crowd pleaser, but I also thought that most of the dishes were hits. At Green Zebra, though very good, I've had dishes that while were not misses, didn't wow me. I've heard good things about Custom House, though, but it really boils down to: would you rather eat meat?

          Let us know what you decide!

        2. Revisiting this post, because I was wondering the same thing, but only between Spring and Green Zebra. The diners involved can find plenty to enjoy at both spots, so that isn't an issue. Which do you all think is better?

          2 Replies
          1. re: jaschultze

            I don't think either one is "better"; both are very good at what they offer. Spring is a better choice if most of your group would prefer a place with a variety of seafood offerings and a few meat and vegetarian items. Green Zebra is a better choice if most of your group would prefer a place with a variety of vegetarian offerings and few (usually only one) item(s) of fish/fowl. If you can't decide on that basis, I'd call it a toss-up.

            1. re: jaschultze

              I used to think both were outstanding. But my more recent experiences at both restaurants suggest that Spring is the way to go. I think Spring is still very good, whereas a couple of recent meals at Green Zebra have been merely good, with a number of dishes being just ok. I still love the concept and the creativity, but it seems like they might need to refocus their energy on the flavors of the dishes.

            2. Have eaten at all three, and you really can't go wrong whichever you pick. But Custom House is my absolute favorite. The wagyu steak was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and could be cut with a butter knife. I think Green Zebra is the most unique of the three - you are not going to find the kind of stuff they do there in a lot of other places you visit.

              1 Reply
              1. re: jaydoug

                We went to Green Zebra and had a fabulous evening. I thought the food was very good and I agree with one of the posters above that it is especially fun to experience a great meal without meat. Thanks for all the advice.