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Jun 5, 2008 12:30 PM

Semi-upscale dinner places in Chicago?

My husband and I will be in Chicago for a short time and are looking to splurge on a dinner (but not too expensive -- keeping it to $150 total, excluding alcohol). Can anyone suggest a good restaurant for us?

Things we love:
Korean barbecue
Japanese izakayas
A really good steak
Indian food
Taco trucks
Salt. And lots of it.
Soon doo boo
Sticky rice

Things we're not too crazy about:
Fish of any kind
French food

We're staying at the Ambassador East hotel without a car, so something accessible by public transport would be great.

We can only have this dinner on a Wednesday or Thursday night, if that matters.

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  1. May I suggest perusing the board with some of your key terms and then the Chicago Hounds can help you narrow down.

    There's lot's of good Korean, but it's a little far on the Red Line. Search Argyle Street.

    Since you like Taco Trucks, may I suggest dinner at Frontera Grill--gourmet. This will turn your view on Mexican upside down and can be your splurge. Another option for Mexican is Zocalo--also upscale with a fine tequila selection.

    For salt, I suggest heading to Arlington where you can bet on the ponies and find a salt lick.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jbontario

      Thanks -- I did browse through here before, and I got a couple of leads, but trying to see if we actually *could* get to the place from our hotel was a pain in the @#%, so I was hoping to use this as a springboard.

      Frontera Grill looks great -- I'll definitely put it on the list. Tobolobampo (I just know I'm going to remember this name as Oompaloompa instead) also looks promising.

      (My husband has already previously suggested salt licks to me. I think one day I'm just going to put a big salt cube on his plate for dinner)

    2. I think in your price range you could do The Saloon for steak,Coco Pazo for Italian or Copperblu for Yuppie chow. The kinds of things you mention don't lend themselves to fine dining.

      2 Replies
      1. re: BarbaraM48

        For Tapas, Mercat a la Planxa is a real treat. It's on the high side of your range, but one of the best meals I have had recently. On Michigan Avenue near the Art Institute.

        Chicago is known for some wonderful and very authentic regional Mexican cuisine, but most of the real finds are not convenient to your Gold Coast location. Frontera really started it all, but it gets mixed reactions. I have always enjoyed my experiences, but I prefer Salpicon on Wells St. Much closer to your hotel as well. Its high priced semi-upscale Mexican. They do have a great fried cheese appetizer, so that covers your cheese request. And you can always order your Margarita's with Salt... Speaking of which, if you walk further up Wells St. there is a great spice store (The Spice House) that carries a nice selection of sea salts, kosher salt, volcanic salts, and salty spice mixes. Might be a good place to pick up some salty souveniers.

        The best semi-upscale Asian in the area IMO is Le Colonial - Vietnamese in a lovely French Colonial period setting. There is some wonderful Thai in Chicago as well, but nothing to recommend that is convenient to the Ambassador.

        And of course great steak houses - Saloon, Dave Burke, Keefers, etc.

        1. re: wak

          I forgot about Le Colonial. It's great and the ambience is perfect for a nice dinner. Have a cocktail upstairs in the lounge before dinner and you mighy actually feel like Rush street moved to the South Pacific.

      2. San Soo Gap San for Korean bbq( they use charcoal, not gas)

        Saloon, Joes Stone Crab, Keefers, David Burkes for the best steaks in town

        1 Reply
        1. re: swsidejim

          SSGS (the Korean BBQ) is easily accessible by El. Take the Brown Line (Kimbal) to Western. Get off and walk north on Western for a couple of blocks. It is in a little strip mall area. I think it is on the corner of Foster and Western.