birthday dinner on a budget
some friends asked me to pick a place to celebrate my birthday. in thinking of my pick, i am conscious of the current financial constraints many of us are under and don't want to be insensitive to those on a budget. i want to go out, feel like we had a great meal, great service for a great price...suggestions? hint: i love fish.
You don't say whether there is any particular night of the week that you have in mind. If it is a Sunday or Tuesday, you should consider Opera at 1301 S. Wabash. On Tues & Sun evenings they do a 3-course prix fixe for $29, and you have your run of the entire menu. There are quite a few fish & seafood items. We had a family birthday celebration there recently on a Sunday evening and it was excellent.
Haven't been in a couple years (so maybe someone can comment), but El Barco on Ashland (just north of Chicago) can be fun if you're looking for totally casual seafood. They do a great whole fried snapper and it's Mexican so it can be quite fun! It is not stylish at all and kinda looks like a restaurant that had a run-in with a parade float, but the food was always good and the price is right.
We were in a similar situtation, celebrating my birthday last month. I chose Sun Wah in Uptown to dine with friends and family, a total of 7 people. We had a great meal of peking duck (2 ducks), oysters in black bean sauce, BBQ combo (pork and chicken), a house special shrimp dish, and stir fried veggie. The peking duck is actually a 4 dish course. So you get the duck , duck fried rice, winter melon and duck soup, and a mango sorbet. I didn't order the fish, but I have heard wonderful things about their fish dishes. Add to that beers and tea for the table and the grand total was $150. Seriously.
Now, this place is family run, busy, not at all posh, but the food is solid and the prices are beyond reasonable. The 4-course duck dish can feed 4 people and is $28. Period. Not $28 a person. $28.
Right now many restaurants are offering special deals due to the economy. One of the most common is 3 courses for a special price, typically $25-32. Some of them are only on weekdays or certain days of the week; others include the weekend. Often they are shown on the restaurant's website. Many of them are also shown on the Metromix website at http://chicago.metromix.com/restaurants - on the right side of the page, under Calendar, click on Deals and then click on the date you're interested in.
Depends on what area you're looking for and how you like your fish prepared... I'd recommend Butterfly Sushi & Thai on Grand. It's a great place for a group, the sushi is fresh & very good, there's Thai for those who don't like sushi and BYOB to keep the prices down. I'd definitely recommend reservations though. And if you want conversation friendly, I'd make them earlier in the night than later.
Enjoy your bday!
Please be VERY aware, however, that it can be full of youngsters trying to be noticed, and can get pretty loud and crowded. Just be aware. I had fun when I went, and I would go back, BUT, at the end of the night, it turned into a club that happened to have a sushi bar, and a kitchen that served Thai food. If ppl watching is up your alley, or if you are looking to be seen, and you like decent sushi, and perhaps average Thai food, this place is a slam dunk.
Might I suggest, bringing a cooler full of Asahi, or Kirin, or whatever beer, and also a cooler with Assorted filtered and unfiltered sake, and champagne or a brut for a final b-day toast after your meal. If you're gonna do byob, do it right. The $ you save will let you guys go all out on the booze.