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Apr 24, 2008 07:44 AM

Visiting for 4th of July from DC

We're staying at the Hyatt Regency on 151 East Wacker. Need suggestions for meals (lunch 7/4 to lunch 7/6 and all meals in between) within walking distance or short cab ride. The budget is $150 per person for food per meal for dinner.

Is Alinea a given for a hound? Is it like the French Laundry of Chicago? How far in advance can I make reservation?

Is Topolobampo worthy of a dinner or should we just stop in for lunch and go elsewhere for dinner?

Best deep dish and hot dog within walking distance or short cab ride?


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  1. First, to give you an idea of pricing here, our casual fine dining restaurants (e.g. one sixtyblue, North Pond, Aigre Doux, Blackbird) typically run around $100 per person for dinner, including three courses, beverage, moderate alcohol, and tax/tip. Higher than that, you're talking about an elite group of restaurants from our finest chefs (Alinea, Everest, tru, Charlie Trotter's, NoMI, moto, Spiaggia) which typically run $200-300 per person, and can be even more than that depending on quality/quantity of alcohol.

    I assume you're asking whether Alinea is the very best place in town, the place to go for the ultimate high-end food experience. The answer is yes. Alinea isn't the French Laundry of Chicago; the French Laundry is the Alinea of California. ;) Budget $250-350/pp for your dinner at Alinea. I'm not sure how far in advance you can call, but I suggest calling now since you already know your dates; if they don't take reservations this far in advance, they'll tell you when they do.

    I would suggest going to Topolobampo for lunch, and spending your other, non-Alinea dinner at one of our best casual fine dining restaurants - either one sixtyblue for spectacular food in a delightful setting, or North Pond for delightful food in a spectacular setting.

    For the best deep dish near the Hyatt Regency, Giordano's has a location a couple blocks away in Prudential Plaza on East Lake Street, where you can get their delicious double-crust "stuffed" pizza. Call ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

    9 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      If you were to do two tasting menus back to back, which would you choose from your list of restaurants? Something that would contrast with Alinea.

      1. re: Ericandblueboy

        By "do two tasting menus", I assume you mean you would like to enjoy two of our top restaurants (the group I listed - it omits Avenues, which recently changed chefs but which I expect Chef Curtis Duffy to keep it in that top tier) and you're asking for a place from that group that is different in cuisine from Alinea. The biggest contrast in cuisine from Alinea would probably be Everest or Spiaggia. I would describe the cuisine at Alinea as contemporary American with a large dose of molecular gastronomy. Everest is more French (or French-Alsatian, to be precise) - not traditional French by any means, as its menu has evolved over the years, but with a strong French influence in a contemporary style. And Spiaggia is high-end Italian.

        You might want to review the sample menus on their websites:

        Alinea - Grant Achatz -
        Everest - Jean Joho -
        Charlie Trotter's - Charlie Trotter -
        Tru - Rick Tramonto -
        NoMi - Christophe David -
        moto - Homaro Cantu -
        Spiaggia - Tony Mantuano -
        Avenues - Curtis Duffy -

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Just one more question. I assume there are fireworks for the 4th of July. Would any of the restaurants have a view of the fireworks?

          You've been of great help and I've already read several threads with your informative responses.

          1. re: Ericandblueboy

            Fireworks are July 3rd in Chicago downtown. There are fireworks at Navy Pier that day so you may want to check out some restaurants on the river with outside sitting to see them. Evanston has fireworks on the 4th but from experience of driving from Chicago to Evanston to see them, it is a mess of vechicles. You may want to take public transporation. There are many fine restaurants in Evanston (I like Chefs Station). You should check to see if they are opened on the 4th.

            1. re: lbs

              Yes, you will definitely need to check on which restaurants will be open on July 4, as many will be closed for the holiday. You may want to check some time in late May or early June; it's a bit early at this point.

        2. re: Ericandblueboy

          If you're doing Alinea -- and it's not to be missed -- for contrast I would choose either Tru or Trotters or possibly Everest. Moto is also molecular gastronomy and more similar to Alinea. I'm not a huge fan of NoMi.

          For a more casual, albeit excellent meal, I would add Naha to the restaurants already suggested. Naha has been delightful everytime I've eaten there.

          1. re: chicgail

            I'm gonna have to see if any of them are open on July 4th. I fear that I won't have much of a choice. CT, Tru, Everest, Moto, and NoMi all show up on Open Table as unavailable right now.

        3. re: nsxtasy

          P.S. July 6 is a Sunday, so for lunch that day you can take advantage of one of the Sunday brunch offerings around town. You'll find some suggestions in the discussion at

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I called Alinea. They will start accepting July reservations next week. They're also generally closed on the 4th of July. That means we'll be going there on Saturday night.

        4. The City of Chicago fireworks are on July 3, so it sounds like you will miss them. If you are going to be in town by then, there may be some restarants with a limited view of the fireworks, but I can't think of any that would give a great view. However, the prime place to view the fireworks is Grant Park, the site of Taste of Chicago, a gigantic food festival held every year the week of July 4.

          I'm shocked that no one has mentioned the Taste so far as a good option for trying some quintessential Chicago food. It is definitely over-crowded and has all the downsides of outdoor food festivals, but if you are looking to try a Chicago hot dog or deep dish pizza, many of the best places to get them have booths at the Taste (although personally, I can't stomach eating deep dish in the heat, it's too heavy). And it is walking distance from your hotel.

          11 Replies
          1. re: SuzMiCo

            Scratch off fireworks. Add Taste of Chicago! Looks like we hit the jackpot (from a food perspective).

            1. re: Ericandblueboy

              Before you cancel all of your bookings elsewhere, do a search of Taste of Chicago here and elsewhere (lthforum in particular) for opinions. It's a street fair to the nth degree with all the pluses and minuses implied, and altho it can be interesting and a lot of fun, it's not to everyone's taste, and IMO not a good showplace for the quality and diversity of Chicago's culinary offerings.

              1. re: jbw

                The Taste of Chicago is a mass of sweaty bodies (usually hot and humid that time of year) shoving uninspired food into their mouths.
                Granted I usually walk thru, but do not make a special time to do this, just tack on one hour after you visit the beautiful Millenium Park.

            2. re: SuzMiCo

              The official Taste of Chicago website is

              I've found that it's generally a disappointment, not just due to the hot weather and crowds but also because a lot of the food is not particularly appealing. But heck, you'll be right there anyway, so you may as well go check it out.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I personally love the Taste BUT BUT BUT you have to go in with the right perspective and do some research beforehand. It is not the best of Chicago's food offering. It does have interesting food options however. Look at the line-up once it gets posted. Circle somethings that you want to try and go early. It is less crowded and hot.

                1. re: lbs

                  I too will be visiting for 4th of July. Do you have a couple of specific booths I should check out at Taste if I've never been to Chicago before? I'm planning a quick jaunt through but have no idea what to aim for.

                  1. re: CookieEater

                    Taste of Chicago is likely to be hot, crowded with little place to sit and eat except maybe a curb here and there. The basic fare is ribs, pizza and some Asian noodle things (not to be confused with, any authentic street food found in Bangkok}.

                    I usually recommend that people stay away from it (I know I do!), but it has its fans. Maybe someone else can steer you in a direction I just don't get. I love to hear why people to to Taste, when they recommend going (weekday lunchtime?) and what they eat that's worth eating.

                    1. re: CookieEater

                      I love the grilled corn, and if you are into it, the grilled/BBQ turkey legs. Not for the faint of stomach!

                      1. re: CookieEater

                        going right when the Taste opens at 11:00 is the best way to get in and out.

                        Unfortunatley this year we have guests from Iowa coming in who have never been to Chicago, or the Taste, and want to go there on the 4th of July. So we will be there on the most crowded of days.

                        The places I have gone, and liked in the past:

                        Vee-Vees African cusine - goat & plantaines, jerk chicken & red beans

                        Grazie - steamed snow crab legs -

                        Ricobenes - breaded steak sandwich

                        The Taste... it is what it is, something to experience maybe once, and then go out for a good dinner somewhere else afterward.

                        1. re: swsidejim

                          As an unabashed lover of the Taste, I concur with getting there early. Also, take a gander at the map or website which will have all the food booths listed and see what strikes your fancy and focus on those.

                          Also, I have found that the 4th is crowded but not as bad at the 3rd in which you would have to drag my dead body to go to.

                  2. re: SuzMiCo

                    There are fireworks on Navy Pier July 4, I believe.

                    Lunch at the Taste on July 4 might be an idea. There is a rotating gourmet section away from the madness (near the fountain) and it has more upscale chow. I had an excellent filet of beef sandwich with a small serving of gazpacho for about five bucks one year. I think it might end on the 3rd, however, if memory serves.

                  3. The Taste can be fun if you go off hours - during the week, earlier than lunch or in the mid-afternoon. But it's not a gourmet paradise. It's a lot of fried or grilled, though I do LOVE grilled corn :)

                    And on the 4th if you can get a reservation at Everest (it's not that it is or isn't open, it's that they don't reserve this far in advance) you could get a very nifty view of the south and western skyline, and see all the suburban fireworks off in the distance. Quite cool!

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: leek

                      I suspected that is the case so I'll have to check later. I can of course pick up the phone and call them to see if they're open but I'm kinda lazy.

                      1. re: Ericandblueboy

                        Made reservation for Alinea on July 5th. Looks like none of the other high end restaurants are going to be open on July 4th so I made reservation at Salpicon. Worst thing that could happen is we get the tasting menu there.

                        1. re: Ericandblueboy

                          Excellent strategy, excellent choices!