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Feb 10, 2009 10:27 AM

Spring, Graham Elliot, or Aigre Doux

Help me decide folks. I'm having a belated Valentine's Day dinner and I can not decide where to go.

I love Spring and have been there many times. I find that it is consistently delicious and I love the subtle flavors, so I wouldn't be unhappy returning.

However, it might be fun to try something new.

How do Graham Elliot and Aigre Doux compare in terms of deliciousness, loudness and price?

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  1. I haven't been to Graham Elliot yet, although I had his food when he was running Avenues and it was excellent. I *loved* Aigre Doux the last time I was there, so I would give it top marks for deliciousness; they don't overly specialize in seafood the way Spring does, but what they offer, they do well (especially if you love lamb). The decor is lively with one main dining room, not exceptionally noisy or quiet. Prices are about the same as Spring, with starters in the $12-15 range and mains $28-34; figure $80-100 per person for three courses including moderate wine, tax, and tip. I've heard that Graham Elliot has been tweaking his menu and was trying to have a place that was affordable enough for fairly frequent dining, which sounds like it may be less expensive than Spring or Aigre Doux.

    As another option, since you love Spring, you might consider either of Chef McClain's other restaurants: Custom House (which emphasizes meats - I recommend the sweetbreads starter and the short ribs main) or Green Zebra (almost entirely vegetarian).

    4 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks for the heads up on Custom House and Green Zebra. But I've actually been to both, so if I'm not headed to Spring (my favorite of those three), then I'll probably try something new.

      So Aigre Doux has tasty lamb. I do love lamb! But if Graham Elliot is really in the same price range (or lower) than the other two, then that would be great, too--I never had a chance to go to Avenues while he was there. Decisions, decisions.

      Thanks again!

      1. re: tripc

        I am a big fan of Graham Elliot. His new restaurant is very different from Avenues though and is also quite different from Spring or Aigre Doux. The atmosphere is aggressivley hip, a little louder and more casual. The food is excellent but overly playful and post modern. Foie Gras Lollipops, dishes utilizing Cheez-itz, things like that. If you like the atmosphere of Spring, Aigre Doux may be your best choice. One other that I think may excite you would be L20. L20 is the new Chicago restaurant from Chef Laurent Gras. I think Spring and L20 are the two best restaurants in Chicago that focus on Seafood. L20 is a bit more formal, focusing on tasting menus like Trotters, etc. But L20 is still hip and accessible, and they also do an ala carte menu.

        1. re: jdmath0

          For one thing, L2O will typically cost at least double what you will pay at Spring or Aigre Doux, maybe more. At Spring and Aigre Doux, for the typical three courses plus reasonable alcohol/wine and tax/tip, you'll pay somewhere around $100 per person, bottom line. At L2O, that's where the food *starts* (with the standard four-course menu running $110 and the twelve-course $165) and you're likely to end up somewhere in the $200-300/pp range, all in. L2O is also a dressy place, jackets appropriate for gentlemen, etc., whereas these others are all business casual or even a tad on the casual side of that. I'm not dissing L2O - it's a great restaurant - but it's in the same category as other highest-end places like Avenues, the former home of Chef Bowles, and not the other restaurants being discussed here, which are all far more casual and far less expensive.

          If you're looking for another seafood-focused restaurant that IS in the same category as Spring, in terms of price, casualness, etc, try Oceanique in Evanston, which, like Spring, is one of our very best such restaurants. Oceanique offers the freshest seafood, the best sauces and even other great courses like their wonderful soups and fabulous desserts. See their website at to check out their menu and to find out about some of their special deals (e.g. $20 lobster on Wednesdays, $45 3-course menu on weekdays, $25 coupon valid at other times). It's a local, independent, chef-owned restaurant, using the freshest local ingredients where possible. I just ate there again a couple of weeks ago as part of the Restaurant Week promotion by the Chicago Originals restaurant group, and it was as good as ever, easily one of the very best meals I've had in a long, long time. Feel free to read the detailed report I posted about that dinner in the Restaurant Week topic at

      2. re: nsxtasy

        We stopped by Spring 2 weeks ago for dessert, and noticed the price of the main courses has dropped about $5. The starters are the same price, but the mains were definitely cheaper than the previous times we went over the past year. The dishes still looked appetizing, so we were trying to deduce what may have gotten simplified to allow the lower price points.

      3. I, for one, was so excited to vsiit Graham Elliot and love the concept and the feel of the place, but was super let down by the food.Can't comment on the other two, but if it were my choice, I would try out either of those...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Chargenda


          Totally agree... Atmosphere was good and the cocktails were inventive and fun. The food on the other hand was so so. The best thing we had was the deconstructed Caesar - which conceptually is cliche, but is done very well. The buffalo chix app was very disappointing - i always expect that to elevate a bar food concept and this dish was just a mess. Our two entrees - the chorizo-stuffed scallops and the monkfish wellington sounded really fun. The scallops were actually pretty good, but too salty while the monkfish was just plain bland though visually interesting. The desert we had - the banana french toast was good - not great... Overall, I was just not that thrilled with the meal - and wouldn't look forward to going back - especially getting out of there for $185 for two.

        2. I second Nsxtasy on Aigre Doux. I was there during restaurant week last year and both the food and atmosphere excelled.