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Mar 18, 2008 07:17 AM

Downtown Birthday Dinner this Fri.

I've been reading the boards trying to find the perfect place to celebrate my mid-40s birthday this Friday night. I used to live in the city and back then I knew all the places to go, but it's been years since I've had a chance to dine in the city. I am looking for something distinctive, casual, and in the $20-30 entree range. Have looked at Sepia, MK, North Pond and all seem great if they were just a little less pricey. What are your current favorites? Does anyone like Le Sardine? I used to love Le Bouchon.

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  1. I've heard good things about La Sardine, but haven't been there. What about Kiki's Bistro ( )? It's in that price range. So is Cafe Matou in Wicker Park ( ).

    Another option for saving money is to go to a more expensive place for one of their specials. Since this is a Friday, Everest's $50 three-course pre-theater special won't work (Friday is the only night it's not offered) but what about Custom House? They have a three-course pre-theater special for $46, 5:00 and 5:30 every night. It's a limited menu (e.g. choice of 3-4 entrees) for the special, but it's a good deal.

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for the suggestion on the prix-fixe, but the objection to price isn't really the price per se, it's more the comfort level of my dining partner, who is more comfortable in less rich environments. I am scanning old posts and see a couple other options that look promising, particularly onesixtyblue and Delacosta, and the new Mercat a la Planxa you've been discussing. I know my dining partner would love heading to Hopleaf for beer and moule frites (as we used to frequent that bar back when we lived there) but I am not sure I want to travel quite that far.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Another thought - have you considered Italian? Places like Cafe Spiaggia ( ) and Coco Pazzo ( ) are in your price range, and its sibling, Coco Pazzo Cafe, is even less expensive -

        1. re: nsxtasy

          We ate at Coco Pazzo last visit. We were going to the opera, did not have reservations, and they very graciously allowed us to have a table for a limited time so we had dessert. No rush, no hurry. Maybe to top your dinner off???

      2. Sepia was bleh to me, decor great, food, so- so. I really enjoyed HB - Home Bistro.

        1. La Sardine is owned by the same people, I believe, as Le Bouchon, and is similar in both price atmosphere and menu. One of the best French bistros in town is Old Town Brasserie, and if you can swing a reservation, take it. Perhaps a bit more expensive than La Sardine, but surprisingly inexpensive for its locale and quality. Note, tho, that both are likely to be tight, loud, and crowded on a Friday nite.

          1. I hope it's not too late to weigh in. I prefer Cyrano's on Wells because it is quieter more simple, for about the same price range.

            1 Reply
            1. re: YAJ

              No, thanks for weighing in. I appreciate it.

              Here is my latest thinking. Since I just found out that we are staying south of the River, I am leaning toward Mercat a la Planxa. The tasting menu sounds like a lot of fun and the fact that it's brand new and well-received makes me feel like I"m on the cutting edge for once since I left the city for Michigan. Runners-up right now are Coco Pazzo, although I believe I have been years ago, and one of the bistros, such as La Sardine or Kiki's. While I know Old Town is certainly not far, it just seems easier to stay a little closer to "home." Anyone else care to weigh in?

            2. NORTH POND!! I know the chef personally, Bruce Sherman, he is so amazing. It doesn't have to be so expensive if you know what to buy. The truth is that you might just not be able to get an amazing amazing dish for under a certain price