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Apr 22, 2008 02:30 PM

Need yea or nay on my choices

Will be in town with my wife for 2 nights (Sunday & Monday). We are staying near McCormick Place however we have a car.
I have perused the chow board and made the following choices for dinner.
(1) Spiaggia on Sunday night.
(2) Charlie Trotter's on Monday night.
I am also thinking about stopping by NoMi before dinner to experience their lounge and/or wine bar, perhaps on Sunday.
How does this all sound?
Also, I would like a place to have a light lunch either day or both days.
Thanks in advance for your help.

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  1. Your choices sound fine.

    Spiaggia and Trotter's are wonderful restaurants, two of our finest.

    NoMI for a before-dinner drink is nice. So is the Signature Room, at the top of the John Hancock Building.

    For the light lunch, it's not clear what you're looking for, or where you'll be located at the time. There are plenty of places for a light lunch just about anywhere, and if you know a specific area where you'll be located at that time of day, we can recommend something close by. If you will be in your hotel near McCormick Place, my recommendations would be Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown for Chinese food, and Bongo Room at Roosevelt and Wabash for breakfast and light lunch items.

    6 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Will we have any trouble "just showing up" at either NoMI or the Signature Room or will there be a wait?

      Any recs on what to have at either CT's or Spiaggia's?

      Also, for lunch, we will be near McCormick Place at lunch time. Just looking for something with some atmosphere and/or a view and some eclectic food and perhaps a nice wine list.

      1. re: curedman

        To have a drink at the bar/lounge at either NoMI or the Signature Room, just show up. They probably won't have a wait, just to have a drink.

        There isn't much around McCormick Place for lunch. (Cuatro, one nice/good/interesting restaurant in the immediate vicinity, is only open for dinner, not lunch.) Lao Sze Chuan is about 3/4 mile away, in Chinatown, and that (or similar restaurants in Chinatown) is all I would recommend within walking distance. Zero atmosphere, zero view, but great Chinese food. Bongo Room is a breakfast type of place, no wine list. If you're looking for a place like you describe for lunch, you will need to take a cab (or public transporation, ). Based on your description, I think you would enjoy Custom House for lunch. It's at the south end of the Loop, same side as McCormick Place but a couple miles north of the convention center. Atmosphere is very nice - a "casual fine dining" restaurant, on the ground floor on a busy corner with floor to ceiling windows on two sides and a raised seating area in the center, all of which gives it a nice airy view. The cuisine from acclaimed Chef Shawn McClain specializes in meats (but his other two restaurants specialize in seafood and vegetarian cuisine, so if you order those items at Custom House, those are pretty good too).

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Any other lunch recs similar to Custom House?

          1. re: curedman

            Yes, but not at the south end of the Loop, so all are slightly further from McCormick Place than Custom House (but only by another mile or so).

            Assuming you're looking for contemporary American cuisine in a casual fine dining setting, my top lunch picks are Blackbird, in the West Loop just west of the Loop ( ); Aigre Doux, in River North just northwest of the Loop and across the street from the Merchandise Mart ( ); and Naha, also in River North but slightly further north ( ).

            If you are interested in Italian cuisine in a casual fine dining setting, my top picks for lunch are Cafe Spiaggia, at the north end of Michigan Avenue about a mile north of the Loop ( ); Coco Pazzo, in River North just north of the Loop ( ); and Vivere, in the Italian Village complex in the middle of the Loop ( ).

            For another option for lunch in River North, I also recommend Frontera Grill (doesn't accept reservations) and Topolobampo (accepts reservations), the side-by-side Mexican restaurants from Chef Rick Bayless.

            All of these except Frontera Grill and Blackbird accept reservations on Blackbird accepts reservations but you must call the restaurant to make them.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Thanks for your rec's.

              What would be your suggestions for lunch if we want to skip the fine dining one day and just experience one of Chicago's unique restaurants? We are looking for a lot to eat, since we are going out in the evening. Just some place where we could have an appetizer or share and entree and have a beer or a glass of wine.

              1. re: curedman

                In the previously mentioned group of casual fine dining restaurants, I think Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are unique to Chicago and worth a lunch, regardless of whether you have a full meal or just a few smaller or shared items.

                Of course, Chicago has some great and unique cheap eats and quintessential eats that you could try for lunch. However, they don't always come in terms of appetizers or entrees, as that generally applies to finer dining restaurants.

                I think the one "can't miss" specialty in Chicago is our Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. There are a lot of places serving great pizza here, and the chains (with the exception of non-downtown locations of Uno's) do quite a good job of maintaining consistent quality across many locations. Take your pick - double-crust "stuffed" pizza from Giordano's, Edwardo's, or Bacino's, or single-crust "pan" pizza from Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, Gino's East, or the original location of Uno's - you can't go wrong with any of these. And beware, the portion recommendations on the menu are accurate, and two slices will indeed fill you up; if you don't want to stuff yourself (or have pizza left over), order modestly. You can phone your order ahead of time if you want to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake; you can find their menus and locations on their websites.

                Beyond deep-dish pizza, there are many other local specialties, such as Chicago hot dogs (topped with everything but the kitchen sink), Italian beef sandwiches (eat carefully, they drip profusely), etc. You can find a discussion of our quintessential foods at

                BTW, I'm sure that was a typo, and you mean that you are NOT looking for a lot to eat at lunchtime.

    2. I just checked Trotter's website and it says that CT is closed on Sundays and only open "occasionally" on Mondays. Not sure what that means, but if you don't already have a reservation, I would check early.

      If you need other options, I'm sure we could make suggestions, but a lot of the top tier restaurants are closed on Mondays and many on Sundays as well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        We do have reservations at both places.

        Any recommendations on what to have at either CT's or Spiaggia's?

        1. re: curedman

          Trotters offers tasting menus, so you'll choose between a "grand menu" and a vegetarian menu. They will adapt the menus to whatever special dietary restrictions or requests you have (vegan, no red meat, no wheat, etc.) You can also choose wine tastings or select your own bottles.

          I haven't been to Spiaggia in years so I can't speak to their menu.

      2. I also suggest stowing the car. You'll pay for a valet, or have to hunt for street parking, and probably have to pay in-and-out charges at the hotel. Easier to walk or take a cab (or take our easy public transit). Then you don't have to worry about drinking, driving around an unfamiliar city late at night, etc. In fact, you can take the L in from O'Hare, or a taxi (taxi both ways will be cheaper than parking at the hotel).

        1. The Gage is VERY good-especially for lunch when the prices are more moderate.
          It is in a unique Chicago location, accross from the Art Institute and near Millenium Park which might be stops for you anyway.
          I recommend the Tuna Tartare which comes with frozed shaved horseradish-delish, and the salads and sandwiches are good, too. They have a great bar and oudoor dining if you'd be interested. I'd make a reservation.