Visiting from Boston....
My girlfriend and I are visiting from Boston and both work in the restaurant industry (representing Barbara Lynch and Michael Schlow, respectively). Normally to find good spots while visiting a new city we would go to a quality restaurant and see where the staff goes, however, I though I would see what the folks from Chicago would have to say. We have reservations at Alinea, but would like to see the little know places Chicago has to offer....maybe a top ten list? Thanks for your help.
The LTH list is a great place to find ethnic, off-beat, and local neighborhood favorites, with a few nicer places thrown in (Schwa, Sweet and Savories, etc). In fact you'd do well to search through that site for a while.
I'd recommend you try one of the Thai places (Spoon, TAC Quick) since that's something I've never found in Boston. If you do go, make sure to order off of the Thai language menus (translations are provided).
As far as higher end restaurants, Alinea would be at the top of anyones' list. It represents what many of the new experimental chefs in Chicago aspire to.
Some other options that might not show up on the LTH GNR list:
Mercat a la Planxa
May Street Market
Coco Pazzo (although, there's good Italian in Boston too).
That list is all over the board, and includes one that I have not been to yet (L2O) but with a little research you could probably find something that suits your tastes. The two that really stick out for me recently are Blackbird and Mercat.
Does anybody else feel weird to send a Chowhounder to another website? The fact is, all or most of the restaurants listed on that page have been listed here and it's a bit of a disservice to Chowhound to send people off this board.
We seriously need to have more sticky subjects for the Chicago board: little known places, top 10 all around, best hot dogs, best pizza, etc. The same questions get asked over and over again and it doesn't make sense to not have a repository of answers easily accessible to the new user.
Here is a top list of great restaurants in the city. Also, I will include a few neighborhood/ethnic places that are worth the trip:
Brasserie Ruhlmann (Strictly for the beef tartar)
Phoenix or Moon Palace
Pho xe Tang (Tank Noodle)
San Soo Gab San
Have fun at Alinea.