Spiaggia, A Trivoli, North Pond or ?? some help please
Some help please….my husband and I are visiting Chicago for a few nights in early September. We have reservations at Alinea, but are looking for another special dinner on Saturday night. We are self-proclaimed foodies and indulge on vacation. The quality of the meal is first (I would love to be blown away), though I would prefer a more romantic ambiance. Perhaps something contrasting Aliena. Price is no object, though transportation is. We are staying at the Sofitel Watertower. Any advice is much appreciated.
I have not eaten at "regular" Spiaggia, but my daughter and I had a wonderful dinner on Friday at Cafe Spiaggia. If you have the opportunity, definitely book a reservation at Spiaggia. If Cafe Spiaggia's food is any indicator of the quality of regular Spiaggia (and it is!) then you have to try it. Also, despite the odd location in the office building at the end of Michigan Avenue, the atmosphere was nice and the crowd was vibrant and mixed.
Also, you might want to consider buying a bottle of Spiaggia's olive oil. It was definitely the best I've ever had and I'm kicking myself for not walking out of there with a bottle. I think it's about $40.
Do yourself a big favor...skip North Pond...in fact, don't ever bother going there. It was the most disappointing meal of my life. I was at a tasting dinner there in November and I happen to be a slow eater. When the other three people at my table finished their first plate in the tasting course, the servers simultaneously lifted all four first course plates off of the table that included mine while I was mid-bite. I was horrified and protested loudly. Common sense on the part of the service staff doesn't exist and the food isn't worth the price, the trip or the bother.
Well, hang on a second. I wouldn't eliminate a restaurant based on one bad report. I've been to North Pond three times in the last couple of years and have had very good experiences. Since you're doing Alinea one night, it might be nice to do something a bit less formal on another night. Do a bit more research on North Pond and I think you get a more balanced view of the restaurant.
That kind of service -- bus staff removing plates when everyone hasn't finished a course (or worse, taking your plate while you're still eating!) -- seems to be endemic to many restaurants in Chicago.
It's frankly bad manners to clear a table while ANYONE is still eating and it doesn't happen with any kind of regularity in other parts of the country. I don't know why it is so common here, but I'm sure that they're trained to do that. It doesn't surprise me when it happens in run-of the-mill joints, but that it happens in fine restaurants like North Pond is appalling.
It happens in every restaurant here! I am the slowest eater at every table, and I always end up eating half my food so that I'm not the only person at the table with a plate. Annoying and so rude.
Anyway, I second the thought that North Pond shouldn't be dismissed - I've had a couple of great experiences there (granted, one was a brunch - which may be a good option for your trip) and it's in a very romantic location. Ask to be seated at the windows by the pond if you try it out.
As for dinner, I would pick Les Nomades over the other options, though Spiaggia is great. I just think that Les Nomades is more romantic (it's in a nice old house); and, I adore their food and wine list. The service is fantastic.
Also, while you're in town, try out the NoMi patio (in the Park Hyatt) - it's great for an after-dinner drink or lunch/afternoon snack.
Spiaggia wins hands down--although North Pond, A Trivoli are great, too.
Spiaggia's dining room is so elegant, the food outstanding and it has been very consistent over the years. You are just a hop, skip and a jump--literally--from the restaurant.
Spiaggia has a wonderful cafe, too. I try to eat there frequently. Also nearby is RL, in the Ralph Lauren shop. It is great for Chicago people watching.
Be sure to stop at Garrett's for popcorn!
Have a wonderful trip.
From the Sofitel, you are walking distance to Spiaggia. One of the best and most romantic spots in the city.
Other great spots close by are Tru, Les Nomades and Avenues. Also, Marcus Samuelson just opened "C-House" which is close to the Sofitel.
North Pond is fantastic, but you would have to take a cab.