A chef's first time in CHi-Town....where to go?
I am a chef in NYC. It is my wifes 30th birthday and we are headed to chicago. The only dinner I have planned is Charlie Trotters and the dessert tasting at TRU. I would love foodie suggestions...the only other restaurant I have heard as a must try so far is NAHA.
I to am a Chef ...and albeit I do not get out as much as I used to, but my first recommendation would be Blackbird! I think Avenues @ the Peninsula Hotel is steller as well. Look into NOMI on North Michigan ave. too. Spiaggia is always solid for pricey Italian. Alinea is a little over the top but well worth it if you are into the chemistry of cooking. In fact, Chef Grant of Alinea won this years James Beard award. There ya have it...just my opinion...
Good choices all.
Naha is favorite of ours. Excellent food, relaxed casually elegant atmosphere.
Blackbird as mentioned is also absolutely first rate.
Spiggia Cafe is the same great food as Spiaggia, but a bit more casual; a bit less less expensive.
I was hesitant about the molecular gastronomy of Alinea ("I want to eat my food, not play with it"), but the meal there was one of the most extraordinary I've ever had.
NoMi disappointed me. Great views, high prices, food not so memorable.
Japonais is a bit of a scene, but it's fun and the food is good.
Trotters is a little outside the center of the city so you might also want to consider Takashi, or Sweet and Savories. If you can get a reservation there (if you can get someone to even answer the phone) Schwa is interesting, although not on my top favs list.
New and notable, although I can't vouch for them personally are L20 and Zed 451.
Enjoy. And let us know what you tried and how it went.
I sort of agree on the comment on NoMi for dinner, but I still find it to be one of my favorite places in the city. I am there weekly, albeit usually for a nosh and cocktails on the terrace. As such, I highly recommend the NoMi terrace as a pre- or post-dinner stop. It's also good for lunch outside--ceviche and sushi is always nice, but the chicken ceaser salad is $21--jeez!
Totally agree with Naha and, since Beard blessed Chef Carrie, you may want to try lunch if reso is hard to get. We eat lunch there often and always truly enjoy. One of colleagues swears by her cheeseburger, but I am partial to a meze platter and/or lamb--she is quite refreshing with the mediteranean flavors.
Another of my favorites that was left off previous posts was Aigre Doux. I have been craving the braised rabbit appetizer pizza and the bread pudding for weeks now.
Chef Bowles, formerly of Avenues (recommended upthread), has recently opened his new restaurant Graham Elliot. I had the pleasure of taking a group of colleagues there earlier this week, and we all had a terrific dining experience.
I strongly second the recs of Blackbird and Sweets and Savories.
i'd say that if you already have reservations for trotters /tru then to add some flavor to your trip i'd go for avec for a late lunch/very early supper, to hopleaf for a late night drink to meet up with other chicago chefs (highly regarded hangout for excellent food/beer selections on non-service nights), to graham elliot for some high quality bar snacks and a look at a brand new chicago-raised chef's concept (plus graham elliot is on the floor often and SUPER nice so he'd likely offer you a kitchen tour)...
avec/blackbird have the same owner though so blackbird is a more upscale concept but also amazing food. we of course have a variety of amazing ethnic food if you wanted to do something that chefs love to eat.
i'd also recommend you check out another chicago food board: lthforum.com. there are pics from most of the restaurants mentioned and especially a very thorough strand on graham elliot i referred another asker on chow to just a few minutes ago.
i'm sure you will love it here...my boyfriend's twin just moved to ny after 10 years in chicago and commented that 'unlike chicago, there is no consensus on restaurants, which is confusing..." here, we find that many things that are well-received truly live up to the reviews; i hope you find the same!