narrowing down choices for two dinners in chicago
i'm visiting chicago next week and have 2 nights in town and want to make the most of it. i'm staying at the palmer house hilton, but willing to go anywhere easily accessible via the el and/or walking and/or short cab ride (10-15min).
i'm from toronto, and know that mexican and thai food in chicago is probably a lot better than back home, and on other visits to chicago have tried a couple of small mexican and thai restaurants (friends took me so i don't remember the names).
this time around, i had hoped to try Topolobampo but couldn't get a reservation. is the wait at Frontera grill very long? dinner #1 will be next friday night with friends, one of which is vegetarian (no meat or fish/seafood). the budget is around $50 per person, or maybe a better gauge is mains around $20. would Salpicon be a good choice instead of Topo? other places i had considered were Green Zebra, Avec (but they don't have reservations and i wasn't sure about the veggie options) and North Pond (is it too expensive?). i don't mind having to wait for a good restaurant (and grab drinks first there or elsewhere) but want to be sure it's worth it.
for dinner #2, i may be dining solo, or with a couple ppl (no vegetarians). is there any sort of molecular gastronomy dinner that wouldn't break the bank for a sat. night? would it be better to try frontera grill on sat. night and eat at the bar if i am alone? i also came across some sites for foodie tours such as http://www.chicagodinearound.com, does anyone have experience with this, and would it be suitable for a solo diner? budget if dining alone is higher, i'd even do a tasting menu.
i did some searching on the board, there's so much info it got sort of overwhelming, any help would be greatly appreciated!
Green Zebra is a great choice, especially with all the summer vegetables available. Just keep in mind it is a vegetable-focused restaurant, not a vegetarian restaurant. Meaning, the main ingerdients are vegetables, but the preparation might not be (meat stock, butter, etc). Depending on what kind of vegetarian your friend is, it may or may not be an issue.