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Has Anyone Done Alinea Solo?

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I'll be visiting Chicago in a few months, and although I'll be with some colleagues, none of them are as fond of fine dining as I am. Money isn't an object and I would like to try this place, but I have never heard of anyone doing it alone. I don't have any hang-ups about dining solo, but can anyone confirm whether Alinea even takes solo reservations? I guess I'm asking because I once tried for Per Se in NY, which had a table for two, but wouldn't take a reservation for one (again, I was traveling) so I wonder if Alinea is the same when trying to make a rez.

Also, I have three additional nights to dine. Can anyone recommend other top dining venues to try? As I said, price is not a concern.

Thank you.

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  1. I haven't, but I know of people who have. It shouldn't be a problem with Alinea (unless they've changed the rules lately).

    1. I haven't been there solo, but I would be surprised - shocked! - if they didn't take a solo reservation. I've eaten at numerous fine dining restaurants solo, and have always been treated exceptionally well. In fact, I'm surprised that Per Se wouldn't. In any case, you'll know when you make the reservation.

      As for recommendations of other top dining venues, it all depends on what you're looking for. Personally, when I have four nights to dine in a town, I like to vary the cuisine, rather than say go to four of their "top chefs / top tables" places in a row. But of course, that's up to you to decide! Here are some additional places to consider - and I am assuming that you will be staying in the greater downtown area. If you are staying in an outlying city neighborhood or the suburbs, please indicate where, as some of our very best and most noteworthy restaurants are located away from downtown.

      Top chefs / top tables - (Alinea,) Everest, Avenues, tru, Charlie Trotter's, Spiaggia (Italian)
      Contemporary American (casual fine dining) - Aigre Doux, North Pond, one sixtyblue, Blackbird, Naha
      Provincial Mexican - Frontera Grill/Topolobampo, Salpicon, Mundial Cocina Mestiza
      Italian (mid-priced) - Cafe Spiaggia, Coco Pazzo
      Deep-dish Pizza - Giordano's, Lou Malnati's
      Steakhouses - Gibson's, Gene and Georgetti's
      Seafood - Shaw's Crab House, Hugo's Frog Bar

      If you have more questions or need more details, please ask!

      Enjoy your visit!

      Website links:
      Alinea - www.alinearestaurant.com
      Everest - www.everestrestaurant.com
      Avenues - http://chicago.peninsula.com
      tru - www.trurestaurant.com
      Charlie Trotter's - www.charlietrotters.com
      Spiaggia (Italian) - www.cafespiaggia.com
      Aigre Doux - www.aigredouxchicago.com
      North Pond - www.northpondrestaurant.com
      one sixtyblue - www.onesixtyblue.com
      Blackbird - www.blackbirdrestaurant.com
      Naha - www.naha-chicago.com
      Frontera Grill/Topolobampo - www.rickbayless.com/restaurants
      Salpicon - www.salpicon.com
      Mundial Cocina Mestiza - www.mundialcocinamestiza.com
      Cafe Spiaggia - www.cafespiaggia.com
      Coco Pazzo - www.cocopazzochicago.com
      Giordano's - www.giordanos.com
      Lou Malnati's - www.loumalnatis.com
      Gibson's - www.gibsons.com
      Gene and Georgetti's - www.geneandgeorgetti.com
      Shaw's Crab House - www.shawscrabhouse.com
      Hugo's Frog Bar - www.hugosfrogbar.com

      You can make reservations for most, but not all, of these restaurants over the internet at opentable.com

      6 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Wow! Thank you for that wealth of information. I knew Chicago board members wouldn't let me down. I, too, like to vary the menus when dining for several nights in a row and will do just that in Chicago. I don't know when I'll get back which is why I'd like to knock out the big ones on this trip, i.e. Alinea, Charlie Trotter's, Tru, etc. I have no magnetic affinity for celeb chefs, but these are considered the better venues so I'm curious.

        Question:

        You also mentioned Opentable.com, which is part of my issue. Some of these restaurants take CC#'s (CT & Tru) and will charge accordingly if you cancel or fail to show up. I would never be guilty of either, but I am wondering if I did make a reservation for my colleagues and I, and two decided not to come at the last moment, would the restaurant charge me $50-$100 per missing person, or, because two people did show up would that nullify any cancelation charges? This was the problem I had with Per Se -- they were going to charge $150 to my CC if I showed up alone. I wouldn't have minded $50 or $75, but I guess there are so few tables there that they truly count every seat, and every seat matters. Their policy may have changed, but it no longer matters to me. Any thoughts about the Chicago restaurants in question?

        1. re: grimaldi

          I have no idea, sorry. You would probably need to call them to ask, especially since such policies can change over time.

          Oh, and if you do call, please post and let us know what you find out!

          1. re: nsxtasy

            nsxtasy,

            I am in town for a night next week, have coworkers travelling with me who can only do safe foods (nothing adventurous or sophisticated).

            Since all the famous places (Alinea, CT) are out of question in this short of a notice, can you recommend me a place where I can do a walk-in, solo dining and get a good meal?

            Or should I go to one of the pizza joints with my coworkers (hope they are ok with deep dish!). I've been reading your other posts to visitors and appreciate all you guidance - but there's so much choice to narrow down from!

            Thank you in advance.

            1. re: cubeoccupant

              If you decide to do pizza with your co-workers, skip the deep dish and go somewhere like Spacca Napoli. Good Neapolitan-style pizza is hard to find (while bad deep dish is all too easy to find, even in Chicago).

              1. re: cubeoccupant

                Well, first of all, I wouldn't rule out ANY place because of the short notice. You can often get reservations just about anywhere on short notice, particularly if it's not a Saturday evening and even more so if you're flexible on the time of day. Just for example, let's look in opentable.com for availability for one person at the prime dining time of 7:30 tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, at the very best restaurants in town (excluding Alinea, which doesn't use opentable.com). You can reserve a table for one between 7:15 and 7:45 at Charlie Trotter's, Everest, moto, NoMI, and Spiaggia; you can't at Avenues or tru (and L2O is closed Tuesdays). So if you want to go to one of our best restaurants, they are certainly not out of the question! (The same thing holds true for all of our types of restaurants, not just those "top tables".) However, I also think it's a good idea to make a reservation, rather than going as a walk-in. You can make a reservation on opentable.com at the very last minute, if you need to. I've found it's a good way to quickly see what's available at a lot of places (which is basically what I just did).

                As to whether to go to a high-end restaurant, versus going with your co-workers for pizza, that's up to you to decide. Regarding pizza, I strongly recommend our delicious deep-dish pizza, which is a local specialty unique to Chicago and which you can't get anywhere else, rather than thin-crust pizza (including Neapolitan-style), which you can find all over the country. The major deep-dish chains, especially their downtown locations, do a great job of maintaining consistent quality in their pizza. Giordano's, Edwardo's, and Bacino's for double-crust "stuffed" pizza, and Lou Malnati's, Gino's East, Pizano's, and the downtown locations of Uno's and Due for single-crust "pan" pizza, are all excellent choices; if you mention where your group is staying or working, I can tell you the closest locations.

                Yes, we have lots of choices of restaurants here. Living in Chicago is a lot like visiting Chicago from out of town; you have to resign yourself to the fact that you're never going to be able to get to eat at all the places you'd like to try!

                Enjoy your visit, and feel free to ask more questions!

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  I believe Alinea may be using Opentable.com in the future. Either that or they once did. If you do a Google or Live search on Alinea and Opentable it will bring up an Opentable.com page for Alinea that is almost ready for primetime, with the heading "Coming Soon." So either it is in the works, or else they tried it out when the resto first opened, the venture failed, and they haven't gotten around to removing the link. Should be interesting.