25th Anniversary - Romance and Memories
My 25th anniversary is coming up May 29. I'm surprising my wife by taking her back to Chicago - even staying at a small hotel near the area where we lived back from 1980-85 (New Town, as it was then called - just west of Sheridan between Belmont and Diversey). Now, going to Chicago is not a long trip to a place we rarely see or eat (we live in Highland Park), but I'd like to find a restaurant that is special. I've thought of Tru or Charlie Trotter's (the latter of which we've eaten at a few times, but not in the last 10 years), but for this dinner, I don't really want a meal that involves studying and observing the food, if you know what I mean. We both like virtually every cuisine. It certainly doesn't need to be anything that was around way back then (is anything?), and anywhere in the city is fine. Warm service, a place where we can have a good conversation, a beautiful view wouldn't hurt -- and, of course, great food. Thanks for any ideas.
For the most romantic restaurant, price no object, I really like Everest, one of the very best restaurants in Chicago. Like all of the very finest restaurants, the food (French-Alsatian cuisine from Chef Jean Joho) is fabulous. The service is impeccable; in fact, it's the finest service I've ever observed in any restaurant. What makes it even more romantic is the setting, at the top (40th Floor) of the Midwest Stock Exchange building, with the entire city spread out below. It's dressy (jackets required for gentlemen) and expensive (figure $150-225 per person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, unless you go for the pre-theater special, 3 courses for $50 at 5:00/5:30 every day they're open except Fridays). www.everestrestaurant.com
For a somewhat more casual experience (e.g. business casual attire), North Pond is spectacular. The food (contemporary American cuisine from James Beard award nominee Chef Bruce Sherman) is again excellent, and the service fine. What distinguishes North Pond is its setting and history. It's located in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not just the neighborhood of the same name), facing its namesake pond with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. The renovated building at one time was the warming shelter for ice skaters on the pond. The small front room has floor-to-ceiling windows with that gorgeous view. Even the rear room is romantic, with an open kitchen along the rear side of the room. Figure $90-120/person inclusive. www.northpondrestaurant.com
Geja's is a fondue place in Lincoln Park that has good food (I wouldn't call it spectacular; it's fondue - it's certainly no Charlie Trotter's or Everest) and a fabulously romantic atmosphere. It's a basement-like Spanish cavern, all dark with flickering light, there's a Spanish guitar player who roams around - a great place for a really fun, romantic meal. I think it'd be great for a special anniversary meal.
I also love Lula Cafe in Logan Square - great food made from lots of organic, sustainable, local ingredients, but it is somewhat loud for conversation.
I also LOVE Moto - it may be a little more in line with Charlie Trotter's on the "studying and observing food" scale, but it's like dinner and theater all in one. It will blow your mind - they do some crazy, but amazingly sophisticated, stuff. It's expensive - too expensive for me, alas - but unbelievable. You will never forget it. And if you let them know ahead of time that it's an anniversary, I bet they'll do something like print your names and your wedding date on your edible menu...
Aaaaaah! I lived in New Town around that time, too.
these days my favorite place to dine in Chicago is Red Light. Jackie Shen (who used to own the eponymous French Restaurant on Halsted) is the Exec Chef, and she's cooking fabulous Pan Asian... besides, you can get one of her famous Chocolate Bags for dessert!