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Oct 27, 2008 03:35 PM

Magnificent Mile and River North - French food

Hi there,

I am coming to Chicago in a couple of weeks and staying at the Raffaello Hotel. I was hoping someone could suggest a great french restaurant. I thinking of trying Kiki's or Bistro 110 or looking for other opinions. I am on business, but really like trying to get away from the restaurants that the "other business people on expense accounts" are at, and that the concierge always send you to. Just looking for a great dining experience. I would appreciate any help.

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  1. Kiki's and Bistro 110 are good choices. So is Brasserie Jo. Yes, a good portion of the clientele consists of visitors from out of town, but locals go to all of them too. Kiki's may have a higher percentage of locals because it's a bit further from Michigan Avenue than the other two.

    If you're looking for a place with an even higher percentage of locals, get away from the downtown area; Bistro Campagne in Lincoln Square and Cafe Matou in Wicker Park come to mind. But they're not really any better or more authentic than the French bistros close to downtown (not IMHO, anyway).

    All of these are French bistros, mid-priced and casual, as distinguished from high-end French restaurants. If you're looking for a "great dining experience", you may want to consider Everest, in the Loop. Jean Joho (who also owns Brasserie Jo) continues to be among the very best in town. The food has a French-Alsatian emphasis, but is not really classical French and is not all that different from the other high-end restaurants in town; aside from the French translations on the menu, many of his dishes would be equally at home at our other "top tables" as well as the more creative casual fine dining restaurants here. In addition to the menu, several other things distinguish Everest from the bistro-ish French places: it's dressy (jackets required for gentlemen), it has that wonderful view looking out over the city from the 40th Floor, and it's more expensive (although they still offer their pre-theater special, 3 courses for $50, 5:00/5:30 every evening they're open except Fridays).

    There are also several higher-end French restaurants in the suburbs, where virtually all the clientele is local. The very best meals I've had anywhere in Chicagoland in the past few years have been at Michael, in north suburban Winnetka, and Tallgrass, in southwest suburban Lockport. Both are higher-end, particularly in cuisine, but still somewhat casual (jackets NOT required). Michael is half a block from the Indian Hill stop on the Metra commuter rail line (see link below) which has evening service, so it's quite practical to take the train there from downtown Chicago and back. A couple of other notable French places in the suburbs are Le Titi de Paris, higher-end but casual in northwest suburban Arlington Heights; Carlos, high-end and jackets required in north suburban Highland Park (near the Highwood station on Metra); and Jacky's Bistro, a casual bistro in north suburban Evanston (near the Central Street station on Metra).

    Website links:
    Kiki's -
    Bistro 110 -
    Brasserie Jo -
    Bistro Campagne -
    Cafe Matou -
    Everest -
    Michael - (my report - )
    Metra information -
    Tallgrass - (my report - )
    Le Titi de Paris -
    Carlos -
    Jacky's Bistro -

    P.S. I've also heard good things about La Sardine and Le Bouchon, recommended by chicgail below; the only reason I didn't mention them is that I haven't been to either one yet.

    La Sardine -
    Le Bouchon -

    1. Let me add Le Sardine which is located just west of the Loop (maybe a $7 cab ride) that I think is a wonderfully authentic French Bistro. It's sister restaurant, the tiny Le Bouchon, is also in a neighborhood (Bucktown), a bit further west and north. Very evocative of many fine little bistros in Paris.

      Bistro 110 is likely to be drawing plenty of "other business people on expense accounts." Kiki's a bit less so.

      I would also second nsxtasy's recommendation of Bistro Campagne and, to a lesser degree, Cafe Matou, which, BTW, is just a few blocks from Le Bouchon., as well as his suggestion of Everest for high-end French in the city.

      1. Thank you so much - I am searching through the websites right now!! My only wish is that I was in town for more than a couple of days! I would love to try Everest, but my business acquaintances are a bit more casual. Maybe next time.

        1. I like Mon Ami Gabi and Old Town Brasserie.

          1. Bistrot Zinc - State & Elm - just north of all the Rush St. craziness. Fantastic food, great authentic french atmosphere, impressive winelist, incredible service, etc., etc.