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Aug 4, 2008 10:23 AM

NY CH-er coming to Chicago

I am coming to Chicago next week (Saturday-Tuesday) with a friend of mine and am looking for some food suggestions. My friend takes more to the pizza, italian beef, ribs, hot dogs, etc. type of food (but only the best), while I love that and also look for the upscale expriences.

I am thinking Al's for Italian beef, Carson's for ribs and not sure about pizza and hot dogs (i feel like everyone has such conflicting advice, much like NY pizza).

For upscale dining, I was thinking Blackbird and avec if I can get a reservation.

I have only been to Chicag once (on business, so no time to really experience things) and my friend has never been. We are looking for the quientessential Chicago exprience (without the tourism).

Any can't miss places would be great. I don't know where we are staying yet, but location is not a big issue.

Thanks a lot.

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  1. Also thinking of Charlie Trotter's or Avec.

    1 Reply
    1. re: offthebeatenpath1

      Keep in mind that Avec doesn't take reservations (but Blackbird does). Both of them (Blackbird and Avec) are very good (but different experiences).

    2. As an ex-new yorker I will sing the praises of Avec but realize that it is more like a Blue Ribbon type place. It's a casual foodie focused place that draws a young energetic crowd but it is no means a refined white table cloth dining experience. Blackbird is also great but it some similar to something that Danney Meyers would come up with.

      As for the quintessential chicago experience, that is a hard experience to capture. On one hand you have your classic steak house and italian places, while on the other hand you have what is arguably some of the best cutting edge food being producing in the country. I'm not a fan of the former but the latter is comprised of Alinea, Schwa, Tru, and Motto just to name a few.

      The following are good (although they aren't my favorite) but would be a fine compromise between you and your friend. The food is ambitious enough while still being familiar enough for your friend.

      Custom House
      Crofton on Wells
      One Sixty Blue

      1. Blackbird actually reminds me of the Momofuku's without the Asian influence. Food-wise, there are lots of interesting ingredient pairings, flavors, colors, and textures going on. Atmosphere-wise, they're cool, hip, different types of people, and busy yet somehow laidback at the same time. Blackbird is a very foodie place without the pretentiousness (though I think there are some people who disagree on that), so I'd highly recommend it.

        1. Gotta try the beef, it would be like going to the Village and not stopping at Bens. You gotta skip Carsons, it's just not very good--actually ribs in generally just not so great in Chicago. We have some better than average BBQ, but we're not KC or Memphis. Good ones are honey 1 and Smoque daddy.

          Pizza brings SO many opinions. I too have Brooklyn blood so the deep dish was an acquired taste for me too. That being said for stuffed pizza, Giordanos is great. For regular deep dish, I am partial to Lou Malnati's.

          For casual fine dinning, I totally agree with Naha, one of my favorites in the city. Also may want to try AigreDoux. These arel white table cloth, but not jacket.

          For a totally Chicago experience (I know this is going to sound crazy) go to Frontera Grill or Topolobambo -- this is gourmet Mexican which really got it's start here in Chicago 20 years ago at these two restaurants. No quesadillas here. Frontera has limited resos the morning of, Topo is actually white table cloth fine dining. Other gourmet mexican in a more casual atmosphere and a huge fine tequila selection at Zocalo. All of these mentioned above are in River North.

          1. Thanks for all the suggestions. I would actually love to try Alinea or Motto and may do one of those with a friend of mine that lives in Chicago. Someone else suggested Frontera Grill, which I was surprised to hear, but will probably give it a shot. I am not the hugest fan of the Stuffed/ Deep Dish pie, but being it's Chicago, I will of course try it. I am leaning towards Lou Malnati's.