Girls weekend-need help planning
A friend of mine is getting married and we are planning a girls weekend in May in Chicago's Lincoln Park area. Any suggestions on where to go for a good brunch and we will need dinner two nights in a row. My friend that is getting married is living in Chicago so we would like to stay away from tourist places. Also, any other suggestions on what would offer a fun time would be great! Thanks.
For brunch, you'll find numerous suggestions and reports in the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403 In general, brunch places break down into two categories: (a) places that are known for their breakfast and brunch, which tend to be less expensive but also tend to have long waits on Sundays (not necessarily on Saturdays, though), and (b) places that do an a la carte brunch on Sundays (sometimes Saturdays) and accept reservations.
a) For breakfast/brunch places, I recommend Toast on Webster in Lincoln Park, Orange on Clark in Lincoln Park, and Wishbone on Lincoln in Lakeview (just north of Lincoln Park). My absolute favorite breakfast places are a bit further, though: Bongo Room, with locations in Wicker Park and the South Loop, and M. Henry in Andersonville; the previous recommendations are closer to Lincoln Park.
b) For an a la carte Sunday brunch, I recommend two contemporary American places in Lincoln Park that are also excellent choices for dinner. North Pond is unique, not only for its excellent cuisine from James Beard Award nominated Chef Bruce Sherman, but also for its location in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself, not just the surrounding neighborhood of the same name). It faces its namesake pond with the city skyline towering over the opposite shore. Sweets and Savories is my other recommendation, in the west end of Lincoln Park. A third place I also recommend is David Burke's Primehouse, in River North, a couple miles south of Lincoln Park and just north of the Loop. They feature an "American dim sum" Sunday brunch in which they bring you 20+ dishes served in eight courses, with unlimited seconds; see my detailed report in the link noted above. I have also loved my brunches at Between, in Wicker Park; they have temporarily suspended serving brunch over the winter, but plan to resume in April. Again, see the link for my detailed report.
For dinner, see the recommendations above for North Pond and Sweets and Savories. However, you probably don't want to do two places that both serve contemporary American food, so the question then becomes, what to combine one with. Some of the best places in Lincoln Park include Alinea, Charlie Trotter's, and L2O, all of which are high-end fine-dining restaurants, very dressy and very expensive (figure $200-300+/person); Mon Ami Gabi, a casual French bistro; and Riccardo Trattoria, Merlo (on Lincoln), and Terragusto (on Armitage), three Italian restaurants.
If you would consider restaurants that are not in Lincoln Park - keep in mind that there are many, many wonderful restaurants in the neighborhoods surrounding Lincoln Park, including Lakeview and North Center to the north, Wicker Park and Bucktown to the west, and Old Town, River North, and the Mag Mile/Streeterville and the Loop to the south - give us some idea of what kind of food or type of restaurant you might be interested in. For example, Latin fusion restaurants are often a lot of fun, and Carnivale in the West Loop and Nacional 27 in River North might be suitable choices. Or, for other types of ethnic food, there are great Mexican restaurants (e.g. Salpicon in Old Town, Fonda del Mar in Logan Square) and great Thai restaurants (e.g. TAC Quick in Lakeview) and, well, just about anything you can name, we've got them - just let us know what you're most interested in!
Toast - no website, see http://chicago.menupages.com
Orange - no website, see http://chicago.menupages.com
Wishbone - www.wishbonechicago.com
Bongo Room - no website, see http://chicago.menupages.com
M. Henry - www.mhenry.net
North Pond - www.northpondrestaurant.com
Sweets and Savories - www.sweetsandsavoriesrestaurant.com
David Burke's Primehouse - www.brguestrestaurants.com
Between - www.betweenchicago.com
Alinea - www.alinearestaurant.com
Charlie Trotter's - www.charlietrotters.com/restaurant
L2O - www.l2orestaurant.com
Mon Ami Gabi - www.monamigabi.com
Riccardo Trattoria - www.riccardotrattoria.com
Merlo - www.merlochicago.com
Terragusto - www.terragustochicago.com
Carnivale - www.carnivalechicago.com
Nacional 27 - www.nacional27.net
Salpicon - www.salpicon.com
Fonda del Mar - www.fondaonfullerton.com
TAC Quick - no website, see http://chicago.menupages.com
Well, since it sounds like it's a bit of a bachelorette party-type weekend, it might be fun to go to Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club at 3700 N Halsted St Chicago, IL . I would say it is definitely off the beaten path. It's north of Lincoln Park, but it's not too crazy of a cab ride away--maybe 7-10 dollars?
The food is actually pretty good (I had a pumpkin seed crusted grouper in some kind of cream sauce which was pretty tasty--it's obviously not of the quality of the places mentioned above, but it was very surprising to me that a place like this had decent non-bar food) and there are pages and pages of fun martinis. Plus, there is a drag performer who walks up and down the aisles, performing while you eat.
It's definitely a unique experience and might be a good way to start a girl's night out.
I also saw Between listed above. I haven't been there yet, but I think it's kind of loungy, so that might be fun, too.
Perennial or BOKA are two other excellent Lincoln Park choices. Perennial is located right on the park with beautiful food (http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurantdetails?restaurantid=53809) and a cool lounge / bar area where a group of girls could get cozy. Since it's relatively new (opened in the Fall of 2008, and garnered 3 stars from Phil Vettel soon thereafter) your friend may not have been there yet. If you go, the bar makes a great cocktail and the mac 'n cheese with edamame side is not to be missed. The same folks who own Perennial are also behind BOKA -- one of my favorite Chicago fine dining spots (http://www.bokachicago.com/). The menu at BOKA is a little pricier and its chef was just named one of Food and Wine's Best New Chefs, but it really is superb without being stuffy. Plus, Landmark is just a few doors down for after-dinner drinks and dancing on a fun strip of Halsted. I also second recs for Riccardo Trattoria and brunch at North Pond but would advise against Toast -- the few times I've been there the line has been too long to justify the underwhelming food.