4 star food in shorts and a tee shirt?
3 foodie couples coming in from NYC next week looking for great lunch/dinner recos in loop and inner suburbs - that feature great ingredients and culinary technique in a come-as-you-are atmosphere - don't feel like getting dressed up in August!
All recos welcome -
Here are some places I might feel comfortable in t-shirt and shorts:
Hot Doug's - hot dogs and game sausages including foie gras; be prepared to wait . . . and wait
Spoon Thai - authentic Thai food featured on their specials menu and translated Thai language menu (and byo w/ liquor stores nearby)
TAC Quick - Like Spoon Thai, but you'll need to request translated menu
Sunshine Cafe - Japanese comfort food; no sushi (wonderful mackerel, teriyaki, soba noodles and more)
Maxwell St. Market - Sundays - great flea market with some amazing and inexpensive Mexican food
La Casa de Samuel - small Little Village Mexican restaurant; the greatness only begins with the house-made corn tortillas
brunch spots: M Henry, Bongo Room, Uncommon Ground, Orange, Over Easy, Hearty Boys - all serve creative breakfast and lunch dishes.
Deep dish pizza - Burt's in Morton Grove; quirky and original
If you threw in nice jeans, I'd tell you to head to Schwa for molecular gastronomy . . . good luck getting a return call and a reservation though
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I think hoppy2468 was being facetious about our top end restaurants being delighted to have them drop in all casual. That's why he added the option of bringing their little dog.
Maybe the OP could explain a bit more so that we could help.
The Loop, as someone pointed to, is a very small part of the central part of the city and is/was the traditional business sector. It is a loop bounded by an elevated train. It may, or may not, be where you would expect to be eating.
Where are you staying?
Will you have a car or are you using public transportation.
What do you mean by "come-as-you-are?" If you really mean you will be wearing shorts and t-shirts, you will have pretty limited options in the world of 4-star food with "great ingredients and culinary technique," unless you are including good local pizza and hot dog joints. BRB mentioned some of those. Business casual would open up more possibilities.
the only true 4-star-level restaurant in which you can get away with wearing casual attire is L2O. i'd never go casual there myself, but last time i was there, i saw a table of four with two guys wearing khaki shorts and long-sleeved t-shirts. (but i've also seen people wearing that kind of attire at jean georges in ny during lunch; so take it for what it's worth...)
but if you're looking for a place with truly more casual ambiance and price, i'd say: 1) the gage (gastropub) ; 2) spring (seafood-centric); 3) province (market-driven); 4) yoshi's cafe (french-japanese fusion). all these places afford an opportunity to be casual and enjoy a high-level of cooking (but i wouldn't say 4-star)
What do you really mean by come as you are? Most of our terrific casual fine dining restaurants are totally accessible with fancy jeans/chinos/short skirts and an unripped T shirt. For example I have eaten many times at Naha, Province, Mexique, Sepia, all the Randolph St restaurants (Avec, Red light, Verasway (go here it's great) De Cero, etc.) in jeans and my standard black t-shirt. If you're really talking tourist shorts, old tshirts, and white sneakers, well I suggest portillos. It's just not right to be a total shlub in a nice place.
So here's my top 3 that a Manhattanite (I was one for a time while in law school) would enjoy:
Frontera Grill / Topolabambo -- you don't have anything like this gourmet regional mexican food (not your mamma's quesadilla)
Verasway - reinvented Indian
Mexique - french techniques with Mexican flavors
skip our italian, yours is better
try our pizza, just think not slice but pie (Lou Malnati's my favorite)
chicago hot dogs with all the dressings (Portillos is my favorite in the general downtown area)