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May 5, 2009 05:34 PM

(Teen) Girls Night Out?

We have some friend coming in from Indiana for Mother's Day weekend. She's bringing her 2 teenage daughters and--as per usual--they'll want to spend Saturday downtown.

We're (5 gals) trying to figure out a dinner place that fits the following specs:

1. Smart casual
2. Would "wow" the girls with a "downtown atmosphere"
3. Is mid-end in price ($25/entree)
4. Any kind of good cuisine. No big chains.
5. Comfortable/fun

Any ideas??

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  1. Carnivale and Nacional 27 immediately come to mind (maybe I have Cinco de Mayo on the brain). But the late-teen girl set should like either.

    1. Where will you be in the downtown area? (a) The "Mag Mile" shopping and hotel district of North Michigan Avenue? (b) River North, just west of there and generally a bit further south? (c) The Loop, Chicago's commercial and historical center? (d) The South Loop, a gentrifying area just south of the Loop? (e) The West Loop, west of the Loop?

      In the "Mag Mile", I recommend:

      1. Cafe des Architectes ( ) for contemporary American cuisine in a gorgeous space in the Sofitel.

      2. Cafe Spiaggia ( ) for mid-priced Italian cuisine.

      In River North, I recommend:

      3. Aigre Doux ( ) for contemporary American cuisine.

      4. Coco Pazzo ( ) for Italian.

      5. Brasserie Jo ( ), a French bistro.

      6. Nacional 27 ( ), also mentioned by ferret, for Latin fusion cuisine.

      In the Loop, I recommend:

      7. Atwood Cafe ( ) for contemporary American cuisine.

      8. Vivere ( ) for Italian.

      In the South Loop, I recommend:

      9. Mercat a la Planxa ( ) for tapas.

      In the West Loop, I recommend:

      10. Red Light ( ) for pan-Asian cuisine.

      11. La Sardine ( ), a French bistro.

      12. Carnivale ( ), also recommended by ferret, for Latin fusion cuisine.

      All of these places offer everything you're looking for. Also, since it's Saturday night, you ought to make reservations. All of the above accept reservations for free on the website, except La Sardine, which accepts reservations on its own website. (You can also phone any of them for reservations, of course!)

      1. I'd throw Frontera Grill in the mix. Meets all of the criteria.

        4 Replies
        1. re: gordeaux

          Just be aware of the reservations situation with Frontera Grill. They only accept a few reservations in advance, and hold most of the dining room for walk-in traffic. Without reservations, waits to be seated can be lengthy, especially on Saturday nights.

          1. re: gordeaux

            "Wow"-ing teenage girls from my experience requires a little more than a clean, well-appointed restaurant. Frontera is certainly excellent but may be a bit more subdued than most teens would like from their Chicago experience.

            1. re: ferret

              From my experience, "wowing teenage girls" may require more than ANY restaurant can do! At least, any restaurant short of a place like Alinea that would greatly exceed the stated budget. Yup, Alinea would certainly wow 'em, despite being "subdued" - LOL!

              However, I have another recommendation, although it's not in the immediate downtown area, and it would somewhat exceed the stated budget, with entrees in the low to mid thirties. North Pond is a very special place, and it might very well "wow" them. North Pond is about three miles north of the Loop. It features creative contemporary American cuisine that will expand their culinary horizons. What makes it really special is its setting in the middle of Lincoln Park - the park itself, not just the adjacent neighborhood of the same name. It faces its namesake pond, with the city skyline appearing over the opposite shore. The renovated building formerly served as the warming shelter for ice skaters on the pond in winter. It's a trendy, hip place to dine, regardless of whether you're in the front room with the full-length windows looking out on the pond, or the rear room with the open kitchen along one side of the dining room. Given the budget, you might want to take a look at the sample menu, which is posted with prices on the restaurant website at

              Again, since it's Saturday night, I strongly recommend making a reservation as soon as you can, regardless of where you go!

              1. re: ferret

                I usually find Frontera loud and kinda rowdy. Topolobompo is more subdued, but different nights, different scenes, I guess.

            2. I was a teenage girl once, and even though I was a budding chowhound back then, nothing would have wowed me more than Chicago style pizza. The other restaurants that were recommended ARE great, but in my opinion most teenage girls would probably think of some of those other places as stuffy and/or snooty. (I have a pre-teen daughter, too, so I know what I'm talking about!) That said, I recommend Pizzeria Uno or Due or Lou Malnati's for one of your lunches, if not necessarily a dinner. :-)

              1 Reply
              1. re: Scylla

                Which brings up a good point. If they're coming for the weekend, then Saturday dinner is not the only opportunity for dining out. Sunday brunch is an obvious one - but places book up for Mother's Day, so reservations are a must!

              2. It's not clear from your post whether these teeanagers are 13-14 years old, or more in the 18-19 range. No matter, a fun restaurant, that went over big with our 21 year old niece and that has a certain amount of wow factor, in your price range is Opera: