Need Your Help For A Mixed Crowd
Chicagoan foodies, I need your help. I lived in Chicago for a period of one year in 2004-2005. While I was there, I ate at many places but forget most of them and my tastes have advanced a lot since then. I will be returning next week for one night only have only one shot at getting a nice, memorable dinner.
My issue is that I am also meeting up with a group of old and new friends, some of whom won't be eating dinner but just meeting up with the group later. The folks who will be eating dinner with me are not so much foodies as they are eaters. I hope that makes sense. They're fantastic people--after all, they are friends--but they don't appreciate gastronomy enough to spend a lot of money nor do they understand getting 5 tiny portions instead of one massive one. I, however, would consider it a total letdown to go to Chicago for one night and end up having a burger or pizza.
That in mind, I'm hoping some of you can help me out with a couple of recommendations. Location is not that important so long as it's in Chicago proper and accessible by CTA (no Metra). It should also be a place where people can saddle up to the table either while we are eating or after we are done with no pressure to order food but the option to order drinks. I'm thinking something along the lines of a fun gastropub would please everyone.
Thank you Kaelin and Char. :) FWIW, this will be on a Monday so that might make your feedback different, Char? I hope so. I know here in Philly most places are suffering so they're happy to get people coming in the door whether they're ordering $5 drinks every 2 hours or racking up a $1000+ bill.
Kaelin, I think The Gage might fit the bill for everyone. :) Thank you!
Wow, that is a bit of a tall order! If you are talking a weekend there aren't a ton of places that would want a group that only had half the people eating that come to mind.
Sticking with Andersonville, I always really like Jin Ju, right by Hopleaf. They have a back room they can always open up for bigger groups. The prices are right and the drinks are good, but still a bit of a unique experience.
The Hopleaf might fit the bill. The food is solid and delicious. Mussels, the duck appetizer, and the CB&J are my on my current crave list. But it isn't super "arty" for those who would scoff. Plus they have a selection of excellent beers on tap and in bottles. I recommend reservations for a group since seating can be difficult. Also the area lends itself to fun bars for afterwards.
Take the Red Line to Berywn, walk 4ish blocks west to Clark and it is on the corner of Clark and Foster. Or take the #22 bus all the way down.
The Gage (http://www.thegagechicago.com/) on Michigan Avenue across from Millenium Park might fit the bill, if you don't mind being downtown. It's a gastropub with a great vibe (surprising, given its Loop location), top beer and wine selections, and really good food that runs the price and gourmet gamuts. Ate there after a show last week and had a really flavorful braised rabbit salad with horseradish vinaigrette washed down with a Chimay -- awesome.
The same menu that has fancy-schmancy dishes like Gunthorp Farms pork chop with coco beans, sweet potato, and browned butter for >$30 also makes mean and affordable mussels and frites, fish and chips, burgers, and poutine, all for $10-15.
Good luck -- enjoy!