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Naha,Blackbird,Perennial or Aigre Doux

Am in serious need of help in deciding which among these to choose for dinner with my husband. We have never eaten dinner at either one of these. It would be for this Wednesday, May 13 so I need to make a reservation fast. It's not a special occasion just want to try something new and have heard so many great things about all of them, especially Aigre Doux and Blackbird. I consider myself a foodie while my husband is slightly more conservative when it comes to eating. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. All four accept reservations on Opentable.com so it's easy to check availability for all at the same time.

    I love Aigre Doux; at one point I posted a very detailed report on a dinner there, at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/365436 Another good thing about Aigre Doux is that a less adventurous diner will be comfortable with a lot of things on the menu. Blackbird is one of those "good news, bad news" places; the food is great, but the room is noisy, the tables are thisclose together (I hate being in a row of tables where you feel like you're sharing conversations with tables on either side of you), and the portion sizes are small. Naha is very good, but I like Aigre Doux even better. I haven't eaten at Perennial.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks, how recently were you at Aigre Doux? Anything on the menu you especially recommend?

      1. re: yummymama

        I was there again maybe a year after the dinner in early 2007 which I detailed in the topic linked above. I know I had the sticky toffee pudding dessert again, which is a "must try". I forget what else I had that second time. My dining companion from the first dinner still talks about the lamb as the "best ever".

    2. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. All would be ideal for either a foodie or someone with more conventional expectations.

      Naha is a perennial favorite of mine.

      I'm at the opposite end of the opinion continuum from nsxtasy on this one re Aigre Doux, but I haven't eaten there lately. It was good when I was there, but not memorable and service was a bit spotty. Maybe his experience is more recent.

      I do, however, totally agree with him on his assessment of Blackbird in terms of wonderful food, but tables very close.

      We just tried Perennial a few weeks ago and loved it. It may be the most casual of the lot -- you'd be comfortable in nice jeans -- but the food was exceptional. All very fresh and farm- to-table (it's across the street from the Green City Market). Service knowledgeable, comfortable and not hovering. Can't wait to go back.

      2 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        All four are excellent (though I think less of Naha than the rest) but based on a few recent experiences, Perennial would edge Aigre Doux for my vote.

        I was at Blackbird for dinner last week and was sorely disappointed by the main dishes (granted, we were a private party in the upstairs space), though I love its lunch menu and its cocktails while waiting at the bar to get into Avec. Aigre Doux was home to my most delicious bite of food in 2007, but is definitely the most formal of the bunch (depends on what you're looking for). Naha did not impress me the one time I ate there (a second caveat, it was during Restaurant Week). I posted a review of my meal at Perennial back in January; the service and ambience were excellent and the winter menu was, for the most part, balanced, creative, and delicious.

        Side note: am I the only one who thinks these special occasions (i.e. Restaurant Week, private party, etc.) are no excuse for dumbing down food preparation or quality? If anything, those are the times to make sure your dishes and service sing so that your low- or no-paying customers might become regulars!

        In any event, Perennial's setting cannot be beat, especially as the weather gets nicer. If you go this week you'll still have views of the flowering trees in Lincoln Park in full bloom.

        1. re: chicgail

          Thank you for your feedback. Perennial has been getting some good reviews.

        2. One of the "facts of life" in Chicago-area dining is that there is usually an abundance of excellent choices. This makes it difficult to make distinctions among them. However, the good news is, it probably doesn't matter; you're likely to have a great experience at any of them.

          1. The original comment has been removed
            1. Oh my, I don't even want to give you the link to my post on Yelp regarding Aigre Doux. I had a horrible experience there on my birthday. It was more about the service and attitude than the food. Some dishes fantastic, others not so much. They reserve the booths; you're better going early, too, or the noise level is deafening. I've since gone back twice--once with older children, and the owner took them back into the kitchen and made pizza with them. Hard to know which experience you'll get.

              I agree that Perennial is the most casual, though if you'd like to try something new, what about Boka? It's the same restaurant group. Yes, it's a bit more adventurous, but there's always something for the more conservative palate. And if you're lucky enough to be there when Giuseppe Tentori is there, you always end up feeling quite special.

              Best of luck!

              1. re: popfab

                >> if you'd like to try something new

                If you're open to considering other restaurants, I recommend two other places. One is Cafe des Architectes, which is absolutely wonderful since Martial Noguier took over as Executive Chef last fall, and quite a bargain compared with this group (most of the menu is a $42 fixed-price 3-course deal, and on Sundays through Tuesdays they have a special $29 3-course menu as well). www.cafedesarchitectes.com The other is North Pond, which combines the contemporary American cuisine of Chef Bruce Sherman with its exquisite setting in the middle of Lincoln Park, facing its namesake pond with the city skyline over the opposite shore. www.northpondrestaurant.com

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Even though i have heard great things about those places I think we are going to stick with Aigre Doux. I have been wanting to try it for too long a time. But thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions. One last thing, I know they have a nice bar at the restaurant but is there a bar nearby you recommend for a pre-dinner drink or should we just stick with the bar at the restaurant?

                  1. re: yummymama

                    Sepia the restaurant is close by (around the corner on Jefferson) and they have a bartender that won some type of award last year. The bar is rather small at Sepia, but the lounge area is definitely spacious and comfortable. You can also nosh on some rilletes (or other bar menu items) while you cocktail (yes I'm using it as a verb :)

                    1. re: Eaterlover

                      Sepia is hardly around the corner from Aigre Doux. Aigre Doux is right behind the Merchandise Mart on Kinzie. Sepia is down in the West Loop, about a mile away.

                      Maybe you're thinking of Avec?

                      1. re: jesteinf

                        Ooops sorry! I was thinking exactly of Avec

                        1. re: Eaterlover

                          You're saying that Avec is around the corner from Sepia, right? That's true. But neither is all that close to Aigre Doux.

            2. Naha and Blackbird are both super, Blackbird perhaps a bit more "serious" for lack of better term, for foodies. I love both. Maybe you should choose based on the atmosphere - Blackbird is louder, more crowded, Naha more relaxing, subdued. Cannot go wrong with either.