coming in to Chicago on valentines/presidents day weekend and want to take our hosts out to dinner. This place struck us because it says it is seasonal and local and that is important to us (yes, we are the patrons who ask where the meat is from before we order). Any comments? All I see on this board is that the chef left in Nov after a short tenure. If not here then where? This Phila Hound thanks you in advance!
For restaurants specializing in seasonal and local ingredients, I can highly recommend two other places.
North Pond is one of our best contemporary American restaurants, owned/run by James Beard nominated Chef Bruce Sherman. What makes it unique is its location in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not just the surrounding neighborhood of the same name). It is located in the renovated former warming house for skaters on its namesake pond (skating no longer allowed). The city skyline looms over the opposite shore of the pond. The full-length windows give the outer dining room a great view, but even the inner dining room with the open kitchen along one wall is fun and romantic. They specialize in seasonal and local ingredients; in fact, the last time I ate there, one of the staff was picking herbs from their garden for use in the kitchen. And yes, the food is yummy! It's three miles north of the Loop, and just over two miles (5-10 minutes) by cab (or you can take the CTA #151 bus) from the hotels on North Michigan Avenue. www.northpondrestaurant.com
The other place I recommend for seasonal and local ingredients is Lula. Lula is in the Logan Square neighborhood, about five miles northwest of the Loop. It's easy to get to by CTA from the Loop - it's located right at the Logan Square stop on the Blue Line - but it's a bit further and not as direct by cab from the hotels (allow 15 minutes). It's a bit more casual, has an offbeat vibe to it, sometimes even rebellious. Good food. www.lulacafe.com
North Pond and Lula are both fantastic. I haven't tried/heard anything about Farmerie 58.
Another option is Mado, a low-key place with a nice, rustic vibe that opened this past summer in Bucktown (a little north of the Damen blue line). I've had a couple of really good meals there. They serve only local and seasonal ingredients - their menu is written out on a chalkboard each day based on what's available. It was BYOB the last time I was there (mid-November, I think), but may have gotten their liquor license since then.
I have been to Farmerie 58, as well as the other restaurants suggested in the other responses and I can say do NOT waste your time at Farmerie 58. Based on the service alone, I never got the impression that the servers knew, much less cared where anything on the menu came from. The menu is interesting, in the fact that there are "bistro" type items (for lack of better terminology) and sushi. I found this to be an odd assortment, and the end result was that nothing we ate was very noteworthy.
Do yourselves a favor and go to Mado, Lula, or North Pond. I have had great meals at all of these restaurants. I think it depends a lot on the type of place you're looking for. North Pond is definitely great food, but again, a more romantic and less casual environment. Mado and Lula both have a more casual and "neighborhoody" vibe, which is why I love them.