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Yes, I have read the posts, I still can't decide! Please help!

My husband Iand will be heading to Chicago next week. We have dinner reservations at Trattoria No. 10 prior to going to Jersey Boys. One evening, due to my husband being at a business meeting, I will be by myself. I would like a recommendation for a restaurant near E Lake and Michigan where we will be staying. I would prefer to walk, and I would prefer if it were close by, and of course, a place in which I would feel comfortable being alone. Good food, good wine.

My indecision is for our last evening. We are celebrating my birthday, and I just can't decide. Although, I think we will head to the Lounge at the Peninsula for the chocolate bar for dessert. I do have my priorities! I am a rather picky eater. Local chef, fresh ingredients....typical chowhound expectations. I lived in Chicago in my early 20's, and even on my student/young working woman budget, I ate well! I moved to Minneapolis, and until recently "starved" for good food. While Minneapolis has come a long way, we still only have a few restaurants that consistently serve good food. Anyway, I really want to go to Frontera, but since they don't take reservations, and we will be going on a Saturday evening, I don't know if that's worth it. We do not have Mexican food here! (Okay, we do, but......) I have cooked from Rick's cookbooks (for hours and hours), and I would love to eat there!

I like French food, but the simpler French food. Frankly, I think in Minneapolis, at least, so many chefs are trying too hard. Fresh, excellent ingredients, prepared simply is the answer.

I think my indecisiveness is due to the fact that I am making a big deal out of this being my birthday, and that we will be without our children (married 20 years next year, and I think we have been jointly away from them maybe 3 long weekends in all that time!!!) I really kind of want to do the chocolate bar thing since it just sounds fun so then Rick's place may not work with feeling too full! Finally, I have read many, many posts for hours...Blackbird, North Pond, one sixtyblue just don't do it for me when I looked at their menus. What about Custom House.....special enough?

Thank you!

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  1. What about Topolobampo? It sounds like you really enjoy Rick Bayless' cuisine and you could make at least make a reservation for Topo. I've never been, but it sounds right up your alley.

    I'm a big fan of Spring, Shawn McClain's fish/asian influenced restaurant. I think they do an excellent job of providing fresh, delicious food in a classy, but comfortable atmosphere.

    All of your other suggestions sound great. My only concern is that you said you are going to be hear next week, and you're trying to get a Saturday reservation. Where you can get a reservation may be the deciding factor!

    Best of luck and I'm sure whatever you decide it will be fabulous.

    1. "a place in which I would feel comfortable being alone. Good food, good wine."

      Bin 36, right across the river--with a wide selection of wines and cheeses and starters on the first floor--along with a wine and cheese bar--is very solo friendly.

      Also, right down the block from you is The Gage. Also solo friendly, with good UK food (some find it pricey, tho--location, location, location) and a pleasant bar ambience. I can't speak for their wine list, altho I'm sure they have some good selections.

      As far as Custom House is concerned, it has been special enough for birthdays, anniversaries, etc. for us. Not as cutting-edge as some of the others you've mentioned but quite comfortable.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jbw

        I think you're right about Bin 36 for wine and cheese and good bartenders and solo-friendly. I've never had dinner there, but if the OP searches the board, I think she'll find some negative reviews for things beyond wine and cheese. Not every negative is right, but......

      2. For a simple French restaurant that might be appropriate for a birthday, you might consider Brasserie Jo.

        Better than Frontera in my mind is Salpicon - smaller, excellent Mexican food, and they take reservations.

        http://www.brasseriejo.com/
        http://www.salpicon.com/

        1. I went to Bice last night. It's farther North than maybe you'd want.(1/2 mile?), & it's Italian, not French. There were many single diners, in both the DR & in the bar area. Service, I thought was exceptional, food was very good. I didn't have anything stellar, although it was my 1st & only time dining there. I found it a bit pricy, but service great, space nice, good wine list, well executed dishes*.(online menus inaccurate-but give general idea)
          Bice
          158 E Ontario St, Chicago 60611
          Btwn N St Clair St & N Michigan Ave
          312-664-1474

          http://www.bice.ws/BICE.html
          http://chicago.menupages.com/restaura...

          *crab cakes, spinach ravioli, spaghetti bolognese, panna cotta.

          p.s. been to Salpicon several times. Enjoyed it very much.

          1 Reply
          1. re: louweezy

            If you want to do Frontera...call at 8:30 when the phones are turned on in the morning. They do some same day reservations.

          2. Table 52...be there right there at 5 and they will probably take you...Oprah's former personal chef...biscuits are to die for...my waiter was so friendly....definitely a neat place to go and talk about....

            1. My husband and I dined at Custom House this weekend when we were in town. It was fantastic, and I think it's special enough for a celebration. It's not ultra fancy, but it's definitely upscale and sophistocated. The drink menu was really unique too.

              1. Happy birthday, missmo! I was in Chicago this last weekend, and I went to Mercat a la Planxa for my birthday splurge. I loved Loved LOVED it (and will report soon on this thread - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/505331 ). The nice thing about tapas is that you can eat as much or as little as you want, so you'd still have room for chocolate.

                Mercat is about a mile south, at Balbo & Michigan. (Is that far? Close? It's a quick ride on the #6 bus, anyway...) See the Mercat a la Planxa - Wow! thread (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/497843 ) and check out the menu on their web site to see if it appeals:
                http://www.mercatchicago.com/

                But it's your birthday, so you should go where you want and eat as much (or as little) as you want. If you've been dreaming of Frontera, go there (or Topo or Salpicon), then do the chocolate bar with a doggie bag. And have a great trip!

                Anne

                P.S. I would love to hear from you, over on the Midwest/Midwest board, on which restaurants you do like in our town - I agree with you about upscale Mexican and most French places (tho I do like Vincent). It's tough following Chicago with Minneapolis, but Mpls is getting better - and the good places need our encouragement...

                1. Thank you all so much! All of your suggestions will be helpful going forward on our future trips. I decided to play it safe, and go with Atwood Cafe for pre-theatre, and Custom House for the birthday dinner. I will decide on my "single" dinner when I get there. I will report back!

                  AnneInMpls, I am new to this board so I will go over to the Midwest and give my 2 cents. We just went to Cafe Levain last weekend....good service, the food was so so. I really wanted to go to Mercat in Chicago, but my husband is not as big of a fan of the tapas deal, yes, I know it's MY birthdday! I will definitely put it on my list of places still to go in Chicago.