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Jul 21, 2009 10:05 PM

Several questions for ChiChows from SFHound, please

Dear Chowhounds!

On our way to Chicago next week, and have several questions needing your advice, please.

First, a little about us:

Seasonal, ingredient-driven cooking, either contemporary or classic, probably best describes what we look for on a menu.

What a creative chef does with food can be exciting and memorable for us, but novelty for its own sake crinkles our nose and leaves us hungry.

We eat all manner of fish and seafood, but no other meat. We enjoy food from around the world.

We prefer more casual dining to overly formal rooms--though style and "relaxed elegance" can be a treat.

Dinner without wine is like a day without sunshine.

We're accustomed to menus with $8 to $12 first course or small plates, and entrees in the mid $20's. For a truly unique meal we'll splurge well beyond this, but we've learned that often the higher the price, the greater the disappointment.

I've been a Server in San Francisco for more than a decade.

OK! The questions, please:

1) We have one dinner w/local family. What's newer and delicious in the city where four people can hear each other, and have a great meal for about $125, all in, per couple?

2) Dinner rec's for two other nights? We'll be staying at the Fairmont near Millennium Park, and are happy to use public transit or cab to not-too-distant places.

3) Lunch spots in neighborhoods where we might visit? Could be counter, cafe, picnic to-go.

4) Lunch near the Art Institute? ChiChows seem to be mixed to negative about the food at the museum, true?

5) Thoughts about breakfast? Can be quick, and doesn't have to be a big deal, just tasty. We may go to North Pond for brunch on Sunday--enjoyed a lovely brunch there a few years ago.

Thanks to all in advance!

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  1. 1) 2)
    i would first recommend "spring" in wicker park. it's a quiet, asian/zen influenced, causal to business casual, seafood-centric restaurant. very high caliber food for its price.

    "takashi" is a french bistro / restaurant with a japanese twist (but more french than japanese). they have great seafood dishes, and the setting is cozy yet quiet and elegant.

    i personally quite enjoyed my experience at terzo piano. but the menu is not big; so check to see if you like their menu.

    "yoshi's cafe" in belmont does a "japanese style breakfast" for its sunday brunch. they are also good with cooking fish there! (it's also a japanese french fusion place, but more japanese than takashi)

    Takashi Restaurant
    1952 North Damen, Chicago, IL 60647

    2039 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647

    Yoshi's Cafe
    3257 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60657

    2 Replies
    1. re: mountsac

      Two places for lunch near the Art Institute;

      Heaven on Seven (Wabash) on the seventh floor of an office building has cajun and creole food. My favorite, which I almost always order there, is oyste po' boy. It's very crowded at noon, so it's best to go there at 1 or later. There are other locations, but this is the original.

      Oasis Cafe is an unprepossessing place at the back of a jewelry emporium on Wabash serving excellent authentic middle eastern food cafeteria style.

      1. re: lina14

        Heaven also does a nice breakfast, but be aware that the place is cash only!

    2. I really like "Uncommon Ground" by Wrigley (there's another one further north). They cook local, seasonal ingredients, many of which are grown on their roof. Great wine and beer selection, also seasonal and mostly local. I've had their fish and chips, short ribs, and regular burger, and all were top notch. It's a nice restaurant, very warm ambiance and not over the top at all.

      1. You should definitely give Mado ( a try for one of your dinners. It's BYOB, but a stop at a local wine shop (try Sam's Wine if you love to wander) will take care of that!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Susancampbell79

          Definitely Mado. And Lula Cafe. Taxim.

          Mado and Taxim are in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area. There are a lot of good lunch places in that neighborhood and there have been previous board discussions about it.

        2. Lots of good recommendations above.

          Let me add Perennial on Lincoln Avenue at Clark. It's located at the edge of the Green City Market and serves excellent farm to table food. Casual and not crazy expensive.

          And my newest fave, Mexique -- upscale, but not expensive Mexican in West Town, a little north and west of where you will be.

          For a good pick up and go breakfast or lunch -- or eat at the cafe -- try Fox and Obel.

          Other breakfast/brunch/lunch places to consider , both a little west of the Loop are Ina's on Randolph St. and Meli Cafe in Greektown. Both are sit-down places with really good food and worth the cab ride.

          1235 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

          Fox & Obel Food Market
          401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611

          Perennial Virant
          1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

          1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

          Meli Cafe & Juice Bar
          301 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60661

          1. All recs so far are personal favorites or top of my list. Special shout out to Lula Cafe. It is my favorite spot in the city, and has all the things you have described about yourself. They also have an interesting wine program at very reasonable prices. Close to Logan Square stop on the Blue line.

            Lunch near the Art Institute, my top choice would be The Gage. Seasonal, ingredient-driven, creative gastropub. Terzo Piano is ok. View is incomparable, food was ok, service was hit or miss the 2 times i've been there.

            Lula Cafe
            2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

            The Gage
            24 South Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603