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Apr 6, 2009 03:42 PM

Best tasting menus under 80 dollars?

Hello all,

My beau and I have 200 dollars to spend and we would like a fun tasting menu (contemporary american, french) priced under the common 85 dollar mark (this price with wine and tip put the meal over budget). We just went to Avec for a birthday which was fun, although the no-reservation policy is decidedly not. I would love to hear about your favorite places - cool ambiance a plus. My potential list includes Spring, Sweets and Savories, and Bonsoirée...any confirmations or alternatives would be great.


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  1. The fact is, there really aren't a lot of tasting menus under 80 dollars. On the other hand, for $200 you can have a great dinner at any restaurant in town, except for the top dozen or so temples of haute cuisine. If you would consider restaurants that don't have tasting menus, I think the very best places in town right now in that price range are Cafe des Architectes, Aigre Doux, and North Pond.

    1. FYI: Schwa has a smaller, three-course tasting menu for $55. It's BYOB. The chef would probably throw in another course or two, though, for fun.

      1. If location and day is not an issue, try the Monday night Farm Dinner at Lula, 2357 N Kedzie. $28 per person for an app, entree, and dessert from one of the most creative neighborhood restaurants in the city, how cool is that? Lula also has a no-reservation policy, so be forewarned. Monday night though, the vibe there is decidely less frantic than the weekend.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ms. chow

          I was pretty excited about the Lula farm dinner on Monday. The menu was: "klug farm asparagus soup with jonah crab and hazelnut, wood grilled spring chicken with mushroom, sardine, and rapini "panzanella," and smoked garlic puree, chocalate roulade with preserved sweet cherry ice cream and black pepper." The wine that the waiter recommended was fantastic, a cote du rhone blanc that smelled like bananas (an odd flavor for me to like in a wine.) While the service was great, but the food was really off the entire time. The asparagus soup tasted thin and watery, the hazlenuts were a nice burst of flavor. I don't normally order chicken at restaurants for the precise reason that this dinner disappointed me, it was dry, a little tough, and only slightly flavored. I also did not spot a scrap of sardines on my plate, and at least the vegetables were well cooked. The best part of the whole mediocre experience was the dessert: the chocolate roulade looked like a swiss miss roll and tasted better than the Little Debbie variety. The cherry ice cream was decent but wins no prizes over Cherry Garcia. Over all, I was disappointed, maybe I'd return to Lula for a non-prix-fixe menu.

          1. re: Eaterlover

            Wow, that's surprising. The chicken is usually the only thing I order there. It's usually pretty amazing.

            1. re: rubinow

              I've had decent experiences at Lula before, so this was a complete surprise. Maybe they just had an off night.

        2. I'm not sure I would describe a three-course meal as a tasting menu; I generally consider tasting menus to be ones which have lots more courses (6-10 or more) and correspondingly small portion sizes.

          However, I don't mean to quibble over semantics. If three-course meals are eligible, there are many many such menus, including some of the better dining bargains in town. Some of the best include the three-course pre-theater early bird menu at Everest ($50), the "Neighborhood Friends' dinner from locally farmed ingredients" which Cafe des Architectes recently extended to Sunday, Monday, and now Tuesday nights ($29), the three-course special at La Sardine and Le Bouchon on Tuesdays ($25), etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: nsxtasy

            Schwa describes it as a tasting menu. And it's different than an early bird menu or some other prix fix menu in that it *is* smaller portion sizes and there is no choice in the matter: either you get the 3-course or the 9-course set menu (the 3-course being a brief version of the 9-course set menu). It's designed for people who want to try the food for less money. I can't imagine it would be considered more than a "taste," though.

          2. I definitely recommend Bonsoiree. We were there recently and did one five course ($55) and one seven course ($85). With corkage on four bottles, tax and tip we were hovering at the $200 mark. It was really a delightful evening. The food was great, the service was fabulous and the atmosphere was elegant, but not stuffy at all. There's only one server who serves as maitre'd, host and servers; I'd say for 75% of our plates the Chef actually delivered them and explained them.

            2 Replies
            1. re: geg5150

              I love Bonsoiree. Food is great and I always feel taken care of there. No fuss.

              1. re: chicgail

                Not sure what the current price is, but Mercat a la Planxa in the Blackstone Hotel had a "chef's table" menu for $55.00 a while back and one could pair it with wines for a set price as well. It was great, very varied, full of delights, and all very tasty. If you have never been there, check it out.