What restaurant am I missing?
Looking for a really great restaurant in Chicago... What am I missing to help round out the list (in terms of nice, high end)? This is where we've been...
3. North Pond
6. Aigre Doux
Is Kevin worth going to? Or Naha? Or what about L20? I've heard Everest is pretty stuffy...
Let me know your thoughts.
re: ms. chow
Thanks everyone for your suggestions. I have not been to the Signature Room for a drink YET! I'll have to check it out. I have to admit I had an underlying motive for my original post... I'm looking to find a great place to take my husband for his 31st birthday. He took me to Blackbird two years ago and then to Spring last year. Not sure what else to try without breaking the bank, yet while enjoying a wonderful dinner... I'd consider Custom House or potentially Spiaggia since I know he wanted to go there.
As I mentioned above, Spiaggia is one of our very best restaurants. Any in the group I mentioned are really a class apart from the rest of the restaurants here. But they are indeed more expensive.
The other restaurants you mention - Blackbird, Spring, Custom House - are in the "casual fine dining" group. When considering Custom House, keep in mind that it's another Shawn McClain restaurant, so you can expect some similarities in menus, techniques, etc to Spring. Granted, Custom House focuses more on meats and Spring on seafood, but both have all kinds of food. So you might want to choose some other place if you want something a bit different from last year. OTOH if your husband absolutely loves the kinds of dishes that Custom House excels at (e.g. sweetbreads, short rib), and doesn't care all that much about their desserts (not their strong point), it's a good choice. Again, I think Cafe des Architectes and Aigre Doux do a great job on food; so does North Pond, which combines great food with its unique setting in the middle of the park. If you haven't been to North Pond, that would be my top pick for a birthday where you want a setting that seems particularly special. All of these are in the $80-100 range per person, inclusive.
If you're looking to spend even less than that $80-100 figure while still going to a place suitable for the occasion, there are several ways you can do so. Some places have specials of some sort, often offering three courses for $25-35 - some only for early seatings, some only on certain weekdays, etc. (Check the restaurant websites for details.) There are some kinds of restaurants that are often overlooked, yet provide a comparable experience to those other casual fine dining places but at a lower price. For example, our French bistros are often overlooked, but offer some outstanding food; for recommendations see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602957 Just to name one, La Sardine offers any three courses for $25 on Tuesdays, and if you check the menu on their website, you'll find that the prices the rest of the time aren't all that much more than the Tuesday special. I ate there this past winter and enjoyed it wholeheartedly.
There's a distinct difference between the finest "haute cuisine" restaurants, on one hand, and the "casual fine dining" places, on the other. The finest restaurants cost more - typically $200-300 or more per person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, vs $80-110 for the casual fine dining places. The finest restaurants are dressy (jackets required/recommended for gentlemen), whereas "business casual" predominates at the casual fine dining places. Multi-course tasting menus are common at the finest restaurants, whereas the casual fine dining places are typically a la carte. The level of service is significantly higher at the finest restaurants too. Because of these differences, I don't think it's fair to compare haute cuisine restaurants (such as TRU, L2O, or Everest) with a casual fine dining restaurant (such as the others in the opening post above).
I have outlined my opinions of the best in each category in the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/602985 I have also posted links there to detailed reports. Here are my top picks again, in order starting with the very best and going down the list:
1. Alinea - Grant Achatz - Lincoln Park - www.alinearestaurant.com
2. Everest - Jean Joho - Loop - www.everestrestaurant.com
3. Charlie Trotter's - Charlie Trotter - Lincoln Park - www.charlietrotter.com/restaurant
4. Avenues - Curtis Duffy - Michigan Avenue/Streeterville - http://chicago.peninsula.com
5. TRU - Rick Tramonto - Michigan Avenue/Streeterville - www.trurestaurant.com
6. Spiaggia - Tony Mantuano - Michigan Avenue/Streeterville - www.spiaggiarestaurant.com
Casual fine dining - in the city:
1. Café des Architectes - Martial Noguier - Michigan Avenue/Streeterville - www.cafedesarchitectes.com
2. Aigre Doux - Mohammed Islam and Malika Ameen - River North - www.aigredouxchicago.com
3. North Pond - Bruce Sherman - Lincoln Park - www.northpondrestaurant.com
4. Blackbird - Paul Kahan - West Loop - www.blackbirdrestaurant.com
5. Custom House - Shawn McClain - South Loop - www.customhouse.cc
6. Spring - Shawn McClain - Bucktown/Wicker Park - www.springrestaurant.net
Casual fine dining - in the suburbs:
1. Tallgrass - Robert Burcenski - Lockport (SW) - www.tallgrassrestaurant.com
2. Michael - Michael Lachowicz - Winnetka (N) - www.restaurantmichael.com
3. Oceanique - Mark Grosz - Evanston (N) - www.oceanique.com
4. Vie - Paul Virant - Western Springs (W) - www.vierestaurant.com
5. Chef's Station - Peter Mills - Evanston (N) - www.chefs-station.com
6. Le Titi de Paris - Michael and Susan Maddox - Arlington Heights (NW) - www.letitideparis.com
> Is Kevin worth going to? Or Naha? Or what about L20? I've heard Everest is pretty stuffy...
The basic truth IMHO is that all of our best places are worth going to, and drawing distinctions between such worthy destinations - in particular, claiming that one restaurant is significantly better than another - is not only a matter of opinion, but also a matter of splitting hairs. We're talking about the finest restaurants in one of the world's great restaurant cities, and you can get a great dinner at any of them! That being said, in the casual fine dining category, I think that Naha is worth going to, but I prefer Cafe des Architectes and Aigre Doux for the food, and North Pond for its setting in the park. As for L2O, I was very disappointed in my dinner there last month (you can read my reasons at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/546690 ) - not that it was a bad meal, but it was not up to the high standards set by the very best places in the city. Everest is not at all stuffy IMHO; in fact, I experienced the very best service I have ever had there. I've illustrated this in detail in the topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/477620 where a lot of other folks have also posted on experiences at Everest.
Kevin Shikami and his brother Alan opened Shikago together in 2007, when Kevin's namesake restaurant was still open. Earlier this year, Kevin got married and left town, and Alan then made some changes to the menu and decor. There are reports here on Chowhound as well as in the major media, but the ones I've seen are prior to the restaurant's recent transformation.
I LOVE L2O, although there's been mixed feelings about it in the forum. The food is less hard-core molecular gastronomy than Alinea or Moto. The ingredients really shine, and each dish does not have 10 or 12 things that you won't remember after the meal. Excellent wine program, and you can see that the sommeliers are really earnest and passionate in what they are doing.
I would also add Green Zebra to the list. It is a very unique restaurant, and no one else in the country is doing anything similar.