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help a ny chowhound going to chi town for the first time

my first foray onto the non NYC chowhound boards

So i'm being sent to Chicago for business, I've never been in this city but want to taste the best of the areas I'll be in.

I'll be working close to Sears Tower and my hotel is the Westin on N Michigan (gold coast area?). I don't know the city well at all so recommendations on anything within walking distance to any of those areas would be great. Or a short bus/train ride..nothing too far . Dinner specifically....

I get a daily allowance of like ~$50/60 per night for dinner but hell since I'm not paying for hotel I would not mind adding a bit of my own cash to eat the great things. I'm open to anything and unfortunately may be eating dinner alone some of these nights.

Thank you all in advance

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  1. I'd recommend Avec. Depending on your work schedule, you can even just pop over from Sears ( Willis ;-( ) Tower. It's a few blocks west and north. Avec serves creative, Mediterranean focused food in a small plates, communal table format. I think that lends itself very well to solo diners. Other excellent places in that area are Sepia and Province.

    Close to your hotel, perhaps Table 52. Art Smith's Southern inspired comfort food restaurant, where the Obamas spent Valentine's Day this year. They are available for reservations on OpenTable now. So that might make the process easier.

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    Avec Restaurant
    615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

    Sepia
    123 North Jefferson St, Chicago, IL 60661

    Province
    161 N Jefferson, Chicago, IL 60661

    Table fifty-two Restaurant
    52 West Elm Street, Chicago, IL 60610

    1 Reply
    1. re: ms. chow

      i second avec, as it is a setting where dining alone won't be weird (if you sit at the food bar) and the price is within the $50-60 range. avec's menu is good across the board if you like mediterranean food. a big plate and couple small plates are usually more than plenty for me.

      do you have any specific thing in mind, like fine dining? ethnic food? wine? what are some restaurants in nyc you like? maybe we can try to recommend something more tailored to your taste.

    2. Hey Jon, if you can give us a little more info about likes/dislikes, i bet the group can put together many great recs. Are you a SoHo/Village storefront kinda guy or is Le Bernadine more your speed. Do you think a steamed hotdog on the corner outside your midtown office is acceptable 4 days a week or do you seek out something a bit more adventuresome.

      Finally, I suggest searching posts by NSXTASY for great and hugely detailed posts. You could then ask some more detailed questions.

      The four recs by ms. chow are for sure solid.

      1. Something you won't find in NY, and easily within your budget, is Greektowm, about a 1/4-12-mile west of Sears Tower. Search greektown for recs.

        12 Replies
        1. re: jbw

          Great suggestions guys thanks for all the help. I realize I should have been more detailed as to what I was looking for. I'm a pretty adventurous eater and really do everything from east village type divey- er one hit wonder places to the 11 madison park/le bernadines. I figured the latter might be more odd for a solo dinner, if any places aren't let me know. So maybe other than the ultra fancy, I would be up for anything.

          I do really want to just get a taste of Chicago and see the best they have to offer. I'm sure I'll have to at least get a great deep dish pizza. I wanted to avoid anything TOO touristy but if things are that good I'll brave the crowds.

          1. re: jon462

            for deep dish pizza, i would recommend lou malnati's. it's very good and not as touristy as gino or uno.

            rosebud prime or rosebud steakhouse has great burgers and steaks.

            osteria via stato is a very good italian joint. check to see if the bar area serves full meal.

            go to a portillo's for a quick and dirty hot dog. it's a chain, i know, but it's very chicago. hot doug is another hot dog joint worth going - it's smaller but more unique.

            vtk is a thai joint owned by jean georges. very good. not that pricey for a jg restaurant.

            1. re: mountsac

              These are a lot of great suggestions especially close to where I will be working out of near Sears Tower. Wondering if any of you already generous chitown chowhounds can recommend me some more places by my hotel in gold coast/n michigan ave? Table 52 seems great

              I've heard great things about Tru, which seems in the area, any thoughts on dining alone there?

              1. re: jon462

                for gold coast, you can try cafe spiaggia and volare, both are good italian joints. the former is the more casual version of spiaggia. fox and obel cafe could be a light and enjoyable meal. it's right next to the gourmet supermarket with the same name.

                for tru, i think if you go a bit late on a weekday, you'll get a seat more easily (but do try to reserve if you can). tru is pricey though, and there's a jacket requirement. it has smaller tables there, so dining alone is fine.

                1. re: jon462

                  One time when i was at TRU, there was a single diner next to us. TRU has a very serene, quiet atmosphere and the staff are very attentive yet unobstrusive. I think it is perfect for single diners. Note though that it will be pricey, and might raise eyebrows when you turn in your expense report. ;-)

                  1. re: ms. chow

                    Ha if I go over luckily I will charge 1 portion on the corporate card and the rest on my own....I'll try not to get in trouble.

                    Also I heard about Moto and Blackbird, would those areas be too far from my hotel/work area? It will also be my first test of Chicago public transportation, which I heard is very good.

                    1. re: jon462

                      Both Moto and Blackbird are excellent. Moto's chef Homaru Cantu is at the forefront of molecular gastronomy in the country. Personally, i'm not sure about dining solo there. For me part of the experience at Moto is the collective 'wow' when a dish is presented and one marvels at the genius behind the cuisine. Somehow, that doesn't work if you're by yourself.

                      Blackbird on the other hand offers very creative contemporary American cuisine using local ingredients. It is the first in Paul Kahan's restaurant empire, and in fact is next door to Avec, another of Mr Kahan's spots. Chef de cuisine Mike Sheerin used to be at WD-50, so you can get a sense of the type of food. They have been opened 12 years now and it's still packing people in every night.

                      As for distance, both are short (10-12 minutes) cab ride from your hotel. There's no bus or El that will drop you off at the door on either places. Blackbird, again if you are coming from work, is walking distance. Moto is located at Chicago's version of the 'meatpacking district', but they will galdly hail a cab for you.

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                      Blackbird Restaurant
                      619 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60606

                      Moto Restaurant
                      945 W Fulton, Chicago, IL 60607

                      1. re: ms. chow

                        Do any of these have like a bar I can eat at?

                        1. re: jon462

                          They do, but in my opinion the bars are not condusive for eating. I'm sure they can put you at a 2-top.

                        2. re: ms. chow

                          And thank you so much for answering the restaurant specific questions!

                    2. re: jon462

                      Some excellent choices close to your hotel.

                      Cafe des Architectes. It's the restaurant at the Sofitel, although i have not been there where i noticed single diners. Excellent modern French inspired cuisine by local chef Martial Noguier. The restaurant just got 3 stars (out of 4) from Chicago Tribune.

                      Eve. Excellent, sophisticated food. Great atmosphere.

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                      Cafe des Architectes
                      20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611

                      Eve
                      840 N Wabash, Chicago, IL 60610

                      1. re: ms. chow

                        i also really like the sofitel restaurant. and i did see a solo diner (hotel guest i assume) last time i went. it's not the type of food that chicago does better than nyc, but the service is pleasant and food is consistently good.