Where to go?
I'll be in Chicago for a night while I'm visiting my girlfriend the weekend. I've done a bit of research and haven't really come across one place thats blown me away. So far North Pond is at the top of the list. In general I'm looking for New American of French options and would preferably like to spend a bit less than North Pond as I am a starving undergrad. We'll be staying at the Hotel Burnham, so I'm looking for a place between the Loop and Lincoln Park. Local spots are much appreciated as I'll be moving to Chicago from Boston following graduation in May so I need to get my restaurant game as tight as I have it here in the Bean. Thanks in advance for the help.
Many of the nicer places (especially those contemporary American ones) have a special menu on Valentine's Day that usually involves higher prices than usual. Many of the special menus are shown on the restaurant websites and/or on opentable.com If you want to go out on Valentine's Day, you may want to consider going to a less expensive and/or ethnic restaurant, which is not as likely to involve a special menu. Otherwise, check the restaurant websites and/or call and ask the restaurants whether they are doing a special menu, or just some specials in addition to the regular menu, etc. Just so that you don't get an unexpected surprise.
One exception appears to be Atwood Cafe, right inside your hotel. It's excellent, serving contemporary American cuisine. On the 14th they are offering a special 4-course dinner for $40, which sounds like a pretty good value (even better than their usual 3-course pre-theater deal for the same price). They also are offering their regular menu, which you can check out on their website at www.atwoodcafe.com
French bistros often provide good value and a nice overall experience. Brasserie Jo ( www.brasseriejo.com ) is easily walkable from the Burnham, and La Sardine ( www.lasardine.com ) is almost as close; both are excellent. I see on opentable that Brasserie Jo is doing a 3-course special menu for $49 on the 14th. Other good choices not far from downtown include Kiki's ( www.kikisbistro.com ) and Bistro 110 ( www.levyrestaurants.com ).
Nothing against North Pond; it's a great place, with excellent food and a unique setting. Maybe go there on Friday night?
In addition to the French bistros and Atwood Cafe mentioned in my post above, here are a few more recommendations that should cost significantly less than North Pond.
For Italian food - Cafe Spiaggia ( www.cafespiaggia.com ) and Coco Pazzo Cafe ( www.cocopazzocafe.com ), both on/near the Mag Mile, and if you're in Lincoln Park, Riccardo Trattoria ( www.riccardotrattoria.com ).
Mexican - Frontera Grill and Topolobampo ( www.rickbayless.com/restaurants ) in River North (although both are closed Sundays), Salpicon ( www.salpicon.com ) in Old Town, or hop on the Pink Line to Mundial Cocina Mestiza ( www.mundialcocinamestiza.com ) in Pilsen.
Contemporary American - Sweets and Savories ( www.sweetsandsavoriesrestaurant.com ) in Lincoln Park has a new menu with lowered prices, with entrees now in the teens.
On Sundays, you can go for Sunday brunch. I LOVE the "American dim sum brunch" at David Burke's Primehouse in River North ( www.brguestrestaurants.com ). $35 for an 8-course brunch served at your table, all you can eat, in one of our top upscale restaurants. View the menu on their website at www.brguestrestaurants.com and/or read my recent post with a detailed report of my brunch there, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403
North Pond is also open for brunch on Sundays. In fact, I think it's even nicer going there in daylight than at night. www.northpondrestaurant.com