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Oct 29, 2008 06:18 AM

this weekend in Chicago...Help?

Hi, We will be in Chicago this weekend. Have a car at our disposal. Like everyone else on this board we are truly obsessed with food, Need another recommendation. I have perused Zagats at lenght and cannot commit. Need something NEW, we have already been to Charlie Trotters, MK, Boka, Blackbird, Spring, Alinea, L20, Tampo...(whatever it's called) Shanghai Terrace. We cannot get res for North Pond, was sort of looking at Vie in the burbs and Green Zebra....HELP please, additionally on a non food note, were would one live in Chicago if moving from Center City Philadelphia (Rittenhouse area). We are coming for a job interview in the Oak Lawn area and prefer cities. Thanks

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  1. First, I suggest Avenues. Yes, Avenues has been around for a while, but Curtis Duffy just took over as Executive Chef a few months ago and has revamped the menu. From everything I've heard, he is keeping Avenues among the very best places in town. So that's what's new at the very top places (along with L2O, which you've already been to). However, I'm not sure you will be able to get reservations at this point - but it doesn't hurt to try! Some of the other places you haven't mentioned aren't new, but tru and Everest and NoMI are all still outstanding.

    If you're considering going to the suburbs, Vie, in west suburban Western Springs, is consistently excellent. Two other places that I absolutely love - where I have had the very best meals in Chicagoland in the past few years - are Michael in north suburban Winnetka, and Tallgrass in southwest suburban Lockport.

    Getting back to the city, a couple of other places you haven't mentioned, and go under the category "new chefs", are one sixtyblue and Cafe Des Architectes. I absolutely loved one sixtyblue under Chef Martial Noguier. A couple of months ago, Chef Noguier left one sixtyblue to go to Cafe Des Architectes, which is starting to receive very favorable reviews. Michael McDonald is the new chef at one sixtyblue and a new menu should be forthcoming shortly.

    I know the Chowhound Team frowns on non-food recommendations. If you're interested in reading about various city neighborhoods and how their food offerings compare, check out the discussion at

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks so much, yep, I should of specifically said where could I live in the Chicago area and happily eat. It seems that I'll be happiest in Licoln Park. I just made a reservation at Cafe des Architectes, since this dinner is going to be reimbursed I thought to stay on the more modest price range (relatively speaking) I'll leave Avenues for another visit.. Thought I'd best explore the suburbs witht he realtor who will surely be assigned to us
      Gotta say I'm especially looking forward to the steamed buns and oatmeal at Wow Bao or Bao Wow or whatever it's called..

      1. re: dxdxmxe

        If you are as discerning as all of the restaurants you have mentioned, you will be sorely disappointed with Wow Bao. It's pretty low-level pseudo-chinese breakfast, very watered down in taste and quality. Spend some money, come to San Francisco, and go get some proper cha siu bao (steamed pork buns) - or maybe there are some good places in Chicago - I've not found any great Chinese so far on my visits...

        1. re: RichInMV

          Chicago does have some great Chinese food. Go to Chinatown (three miles south of the Loop) and go to Lao Sze Chuan ( ). Not open for breakfast though.

          1. re: RichInMV

            Not at all, I LOVE Wow Bao's oatmeal for a quick breakfast! They have also have intelligensa coffe. When you are in the stuck in a Michigan Avenenue hotel putting in conference hours, you do not have time for either a full breakfast or a trek to Chinatown , so your pretty happy to have this option and not have to eat the hotel buffet crap or whatever Starbucks has.I get the whole chain commercial thing. Not to mention, I live in Philadelphia and we have our own sizeable Chinatown so believe me I am familiar with real bao. or proper bao as you call it. And by the way, I have been to San Francisco numerous timeshowever the best Chinese food I had was in Vancouver, although I gotta admit the hand drawn noodles on Race street right here at home are pretty exceptional. Also, I do not know if you meant it, but your post was a bit on the snotty side, don't question other's level of dicernment it;'s just rude.

            1. re: dxdxmxe

              Good points! When checking out convenient options for breakfast, when I usually don't want to travel far, I've often found good breakfasts in unexpected places. Glad you've found one that meets your needs!

              1. re: dxdxmxe

                dxdx - Thanks for the comments above, and sorry if I sounded snotty - I certainly didn't mean to offend. I was just comparing the list of high-end places the OP suggested to Wow Bao.

                I'm going to try Lao Sze Chuan on my trip next week - looking forward to it!

                I also sympathize and agree with the challenge of finding good breakfast/lunch downtown without resorting to the big chains. And yes, compared to them Wow Bao is an interesting alternative.

                I will check out the hand-drawn noodles - where on Race street would you recommend?

                1. re: RichInMV

                  No problem. The noodle place is Nan Zhou Hand-Drawn Noodle House at
                  927 Race St. No atmosphere and surly serice, but I love it. I go for the vegetable and fried egg bowl with shaved noodles gor 3.75. It has this great pickled cabbage and cilantro and scallions on it (It's a soup) My husband likes the brisket with the thin noodles, the meat is fatty but incredibly flavorful with a strong 5 spice flavor. The noodles are all made to order and my kids enjoy watching them,
                  By the way, I love San Francisco, I just don't get there often. Wish my husband was looking at a job there, love Chicago but Philadelphia is cold enough

        2. The most similar area in feel to Rittenhouse (17th and Market-ish?) I think would be probably the intersection of Halsted and Armitage. A high concentration of shops and mid-range restaurants, with Charlie Trotter's (compare to Le Bec Fin) right near there and easy access via public transit to other parts of the City. Going from the City to Oak Lawn might be the last "reverse commutes" still possible in Chicago - heading North, West, NW all can be a nightmare any time of day. I'm not sure you'll eat *best* in that neighborhood (there are a lot of pretty mediocre places) but you will certainly find a lot of restaurants there.

          1 Reply
          1. re: leek

            Thanks so much, that;s a great help.

          2. if you're a fan of jose garces amada in philadelphia, i would strongly recommend mercat a la planxa. now don't get me wrong... i wouldn't consider this is the same vein as alinea, L20, trotters, etc, but it currently resides near the top of our list for great chicago restaurants. haven't had a bad dish there, let alone a bad meal.

            welcome to chicago, we lived in old city for a number of years and made the pilgrimage back to the midwest. there is a ton to consider when i comes to neighborhoods, and all of them have their pros + cons. the closest neighborhood in terms of personality to rittenhouse, is probably the gold coast, but i would beseech you to come to town and take a look around other neighborhoods, be it west loop, ukranian, andersonville, logan square etc. personally, i feel these types of hoods are a better definition of what life in chicago is like, and what chicago people are. 2 cents.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jmeitus

              Actually we just ate at his new restaurant Districto last weekend - Mexican Tapa's. cool interior. but not as good as Amada (which I prefer to Tinto) It's okay we have to tone it down price wise, since we are not paying. Actually we live on the wrong zip, only the realtors call it Rittenhouse, we're on Lombard and what was refered to previously as Graduate Hospital area is not as saleable. The realtor has us looking mostly in Lincoln and Wicker parks, cos' we like hardcore contemp, but I think we are checking out the area's you mentioned as well. Our flight is at 4:00, I'm looking forward to it, it's always great to get away (in addition I need to get away from that big pile of Reeses cups that are left over from last night). This has been a crazy week in Philadelphia, I guess Chicago has pretty rabid sports fans as well but it feels like one continous Mummers parade. Thanks again and Happy Eating! Deb

            2. The only neighborhood in Chicago that IMO resembles that small European plaza feel of Rittenhouse Square is the Newberry Library/Washington (Bughouse) Square neighborhood, although perhaps with a few exceptions (BonBom Bakery) it doesn't have the small independent shops/restaurants/cafes in the immediate area that make RS so pleasurable. Here's a bit more about the area:


              1 Reply