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Great restaurant on Rush St?

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We're headed to Chicago this weekend for a wedding and only have one night for dinner out. We're staying in River North, but it's been suggested to us that we want to hang out on Rush St. I've been told that Carmines, Tavern on Rush and Hugo's Frog Bar are the restaurants we should look closely at. Any other recommendations? Ideally we'd like something fun, with really good food that isn't super pricey (which I know the above choices are). We live in Denver and definitely love good food, but it's also a rare night out without our child so we'd like to have some fun.
Any ideas? (We don't have to be on Rush St, but we'd like to stay in the area, we have to meet people in the west loop after dinner and are staying in river north)

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  1. Are you over 60? If male, are you partial to hairpieces? If so, Carmines and Tavern on Rush are ideal.

    1. Your choices don't excite me either, although Hugo's is pretty good . . . let's start with the type of food you like and the price range you're looking for. And what do you mean by fun? The place you list would all be loud . . . are you basically looking for a vibrant atmosphere. I'm also curious who has sent you to Rush St. for a night out. Rush St. is great for out-of-town twenty-somethings . . . lots of bars. But if you're in River North, that's where you'll find better dining and more interesting, hip bars.

      If you want Italian, Cafe Spiaggia and Merlo on Maple are so much better than Carmine's, but probably more subdued.

      For seafood, Joe's Prime Steak, Seafood and Stone Crab is much better than Hugo's.

      David Burke's is the best around for steak, but also has some great seafood options.

      For something a bit more exotic and vibrant, Vermilion for Indian-Latin fusion. Graham Elliot is very creative, American comfort food.

      The newly opened Sunda might fit your desire for style - not sure about how good the food is (Asian by the way). Hub 51 - American, fun atmosphere, ok food.

      1. Oh my. I think your friends have steered you horribly wrong. No one with respectable hygine or self esteem hangs out at any of the Rush Street bars.

        I have to echo others in that the whole Gibson's, Hugo's, Carmines, Tavern on Rush scene is really aimed at middle aged divorcees and business travelers trolling for "company". There is faaaaarrrrr better food, w/out the above scene, a short cab ride away.

        Lots of great places in West Loop: Blackbird, Avec, Sepia, just off the top of my head.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chicagowinediva

          A few more to look at around the West Loop: Follia, Publican, La Sardine, Moto. Here's the equation. Rush Street = Viagra/conventioneer crowd; West Loop = casual-$$/$$$-foodies.

        2. For "great food" near Rush St. that is not "super pricey" you might consider Cafe des Architectes in the Sofitel Hotel. http://www.cafedesarchitectes.com/hap...

          If this is not the type of food that you had in mind, or if the prices are still too steep, then you should provide a little more guidance on the type of food and price points that you are thinking of.

          1. You guys are cracking me up!! Thank you for being honest, I was kind of picturing what you're saying and I'm glad I asked!
            I talked to my husband about his thoughts last night and he'd like to eat "ethnic" but wouldn't get more specific (basically doesn't want steak, american or bistro food). My brother sent me to Rush St and he is in his 20s and not married, though spends most of his time schmoozing clients for his job. Maybe that explains it?
            It's our first weekend out of town without our daughter so we really want something that has a fun, laid back atmosphere and really good food. We don't want to spend a ton, but dinner for around $100 is good(is that possible? keep in mind I'm from Denver). Vermilion sounds like it could be a good option, I'll check their menu. I like "exotic and vibrant" :)
            If we're choosing neighborhoods would we rather be in River North or the West Loop?

            1 Reply
            1. re: ijack

              Generally speaking, River North . . . the West Loop has a large stretch of restaurants, mostly along Randolph St., but River North has greater entertainment options - hotels, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, Michigan Avenue, etc. Now if you're talking restaurants, there are more restaurants I prefer in the River West and Randolph St. area, but there's plenty good to eat in both locations.

              For ethnic, I highly recommend Vermilion. Sunda is nearby but I can't really comment since I haven't tried it. Two places I would avoid are VTK (Thai generally) and Red Light. VTK is really watered down Thai food at high prices. I find Red Light to offer overly sweetened dishes, despite a very talented chef in the kitchen.

            2. There is a little park across from Carmine's that is known locally as Viagra Triangle because it's always full of older guys with expense accounts and aspirations, looking for new friends. That might sort of give you a feel for Rush, which tends to be touristy and rip-off-ish. Our old reliable (delicious Pan-Asian food, cheery atmosphere, very reasonable) is Big Bowl (Cedar just east of Rush). Not fancy, but this is where we take out-of-town friends and relations when they come and everybody likes it. You can see their menu (and everybody else's) by going to "chicago restaurant menus". Look under neighborhood "Gold Coast".

              3 Replies
              1. re: Querencia

                We ended up eating at Vermilion and the food was outstanding! The ambiance however was pretty dull and our waiter was an ass, but at least we had great food :)

                1. re: ijack

                  Glad you liked the food. Too bad about the service. Interestingly, it's funny you say the ambiance was dull. They used to have a dj booth and pumped loud music throughout the restaurant, and later in the evening it was almost a club atmosphere. Now they have gotten rid of the dj booth, and maybe toned it down too much. Perhaps something in between would be good?

                  But I've always been impressed with the food, and actually, I've always singled them out for great service but we all know that all it takes is one bad waiter/waitress/host to ruin an experience. Thanks for reporting back.

                  1. re: BRB

                    The other place we ate for breakfast was Bongo Room and it was phenomenal! We didn't research breakfast at all because we had a friend taking us and it was one of the best meals I've had in a long time. The tenderloin benedict was to.die.for!