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Aug 12, 2008 09:16 AM

a,b,or c?

so im flying in for labor day weekend w my bro from toronto ... we're kinda budding foodies and would like to have one stellar meal (at least) while were in town ... so ... would it be charlie trotters? .... alinea? ... or blackbird? ... or if the chi town hounds have other suggestions we'd love to hear them too ... weve already combed the board for the other must eats but are having a hard time deciding between the three

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  1. Three great choices.

    A -- Alinea is something that you won't find anywhere else. Probably the most amazing, innovative, unique, thoughtful, fabulous meal I've ever had. Anywhere. But you'll pay for it. The "Tour" (27 courses) is $325/person without the wine tasting; the "Tasting menu" (17 courses) is $145 without wine. Now some of those "courses" are just literally a single bite or two; some are bigger. I've had the Tour, but I'm sure the Tasting is more than adequate if you choose it.

    B -- Blackbird is also superb, a little less structured than the other two, but a great meal nonetheless. They have a 7-course tasting or you can order off the menu. Most entrees are $30+.

    C -- Trotters can be counted on to be extraordinary -- service, food, atmosphere. Very high end. There have been some negative comments on this board lately, however, I have not been there for a few years so I can't speak to the right-now of it. They do serve a regular tasting menu and a vegetarian menu. You may have the option to add a course or two, but no a al carte menu. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $150/person without the great wine list or wine tasting. Ask for a tour of the kitchen.

    It all may depend on where you can get reservations.

    1 Reply
    1. re: chicgail


      Good luck getting reservations for Alinea...friends ate there and said it was amazing but reservations are hard to come by unless you make them in advance but with the holiday weekend....maybe...??!!

      Charlie Trotters good food, etc but just didnt do it for me

    2. Alinea! Uncomparable.

      But if you can't get in (and good luck with that)...Blackbird.

      5 Replies
      1. re: sis2catbat

        I would vote the same way. Haven't been to Alinea, but would love to...

        have never cared for Charlie Trotter's.

        1. re: ChefJune

          Alinea... high end, inventive, more of a show than a restaurant you can relax in . Food is excellent but gimicky. Example... they describe a piece of cured bacon that's attached on a wire... sort of a trapeze like setup. It's tasty but a little too contrived for me. VERY expensive. Good to try for real foodie types who are well heeled. Excellent, well chosen wine list with a lot of treasures at high but fair prices. I went once, that was enough for me.

          Blackbird is the most down to earth of the three. Excellent chow, more straightfowardly presented. Less coin too. Cool atmosphere, but very cramped space... long and narrow main floor with a series of tables that are very close together. Most modest wine list, but nice selection. I love this place and go often. Most casual.

          Charlie Trotters's... Going strong after 21 years. This is the most "complete" high end experience of the 3 for me. Great service, chow, and wine list (Spectator Grand Award... everything you might want). Very inventive dishes but not gimicky like at Alinea. A place I enjoy and go a couple of times a year. Very expensive, but seems a tad lower than Alinea. Of course, the wine is what can blow up any bill.

          To the OP... you basically can't go wrong with either of these 3... but they are quite different. So, hopefully you've got enough of a feel for these places from the board and can pick the place that most fits your needs.

          1. re: WineTravel

            thanks for the replys guys .... now i have a chance to dine at alinea (which is really hard to get itno from what i understand) but ........ is it really more dinner theatre than dinner? .... i have no problem dropping the coin but i really am not fond of meal where there is no real substance ... i can appreciate molecualr gastronomy and actually quite like it but i dont wanna sit thru 4 hours of smoke and mirrors

            1. re: slants

              Mr CF and I have done the tasting menu (about 17 courses) and I didn't feel it was more dinner theater than dinner. It is a bit of a show - there probably will be some smoke and maybe mirrors - but it's not precious or pretentious. I thought our dinner was incredible.

              Having said that - Mr CF said that next time he would want to do the Tour, because he wasn't full... which surprised me because I was stuffed.

              We also did the wine tasting and it's a lot of wine - just a heads up there!

              1. re: slants

                I was afraid of the same thing you are. I refused to go for ages ("I want to eat my food, not play with it") and when I finally agreed to go I was both astonished and delighted by extraordinary food and new ways that Chef Achatz has found for us to enjoy it.

        2. Go to Alinea and then go to Avec (right next to Blackbird) another night for a fun, unpretentious spot. Please don't limit your Chicago food experience to one place - there are SO many affordable restaurants in the city.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LaurenSpiceStack

            Great suggestion. Avec's a very hip place with a nice small menu. So it's clear to all, both Avec and Blackbird are owned by the same people.