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Alinea, and Trotter set. Where else should I go?

I will be in Chicago in October, and have already lined up Alinea, and Trotter. I have one more night, any suggestions. I recently ate at Momofuku Ko in NYC, and would love a similar vibe: a bit eclectic and casual where the food takes center stage. Also, thoughts on doing both Alinea and Trotter in the same 4 days? Overkill? Thanks!

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  1. Doing Alinea and Trotter would be akin to doing Ko and Per Se - completely different experiences, but definitely amongst the best experiences in America.

    3 Replies
    1. re: uhockey

      For eclectic and casual between Alinea and Trotter (wow, what a trip!) here are some options to consider:

      Frontera Grill (no reservations and with Bayless just winning TCM, likely to be hard to get into)
      Perennial (farm fresh ingredients very well handled)
      Mado (mom & pop farm to table)
      Naha (a little more upscale)
      Avec (small plates; shared seating)
      Publican (gastropub)
      The Bristol (gastropub)
      Mexique (Mexican ingredients/French technique)

      1. re: chicgail

        As chicgail said, Frontera is hard to get into now that Bayless has won (and I'm sure before as well!). On a Thursday night last week the wait was a little over 2 hours.

        In addition to Frontera Grill, I'd also suggest Rick's other restaurant, Topolobampo. If you're a fan of Top Chef Masters, Rick Bayless will be featuring his "Bravo's Top Chef Master Finale Tasting" menu through October - http://www.rickbayless.com/menu/layou...

        I'd make a reservation soon though!

      2. re: uhockey

        Let's not forget L2O in the Belden Stratford Hotel

      3. Piccolo Sogno is a favorite of ours. Don't know if the outdoor area will be open, but the food is delicious inside or out.

        1. I like Boka as well. But, it's situated two doors down from Alinea and around the corner from CT's, so you may wish to branch out geographically a little bit more.

          I woulld consider at least one of the Publican/Avec/Blackbird for sure.
          Also, Perennial is a good call - had a great meal there and is owned by the same folks as Boka, if I recall correctly.
          How about Schwa? Tough to get a reservation (but possible on the weekday, or weekend if you're lucky).

          I also think you're fine on CT and Alinea in the same trip. Give them a day in between, so that you have time to reflect a bit on what you liked, insofar as the other will be quite different. You're a lucky one.

          1. What about L2O Took over the space of Ambria.

            1. Alinea is a great choice. Are you doing the 12 course tasting? I've always wanted to go back and experience the 24 course tour. At some point in my life I will!

              I'd also recommend checking out Bonsoirée in Logan Square - http://www.bon-soiree.com/

              I recently (last Friday) went there and had the 7 course tasting menu. The food was amazing! Part of what I really liked about the place in contrast to Alinea was that it was a lot more unassuming and casual, the experience was friendlier and more intimate -- the space is pretty small (apparently it only seats 26).

              The service was great and the waiters were very talkative and engaging when explaining the dishes, they were fun. It's BYOB (the Muscadet we ended up bringing was perfect for the tasting, so that worked out well) which was actually neat because a lot of tables were sharing wine with the waiters. Sadly, we had only brought 1 bottle so we didn't end up sharing, next time!

              I would say it fits your desire for a bit eclectic and casual. The chef spent a lot of time in Japan but went to culinary school in the States so he combines various Japanese flavors and textures along with inspiration from the French. The Scallop Motoyaki was AMAZING. It's inspired by a Coquille St. Jacques but instead of bechamel theirs has ponzu aioli which they torch directly to the scallop shell with Japanese chillies. I practically licked the shell clean, yum!

              I could go on and on about the entire tasting menu but I'm making myself hungry, so I'd just suggest you go there to try it all! =)

              2 Replies
              1. re: aylin

                Thanks for all the recs. I am thinking of possibly Avec, or Publican, as they seem like a good contrast with the other two. BTW, if ever in NYC, Momofuku Ko is worth the hassle to get reservation. Easily one of the best meals of my foodie life.

                1. re: tboner6

                  avec and the publican are both good - casual vibes with great food. but i don't think it's quite on the same level as momofuku ko (publican is probably a bit closer in terms of refinement of execution and presentation). i've never been to schwa, but i'd imagine schwa might be more like something you are looking for.

                1. re: elsf335

                  You mentioned overkill, and a good contrast. Well, personally i think Schwa's food is a happy

                  1. re: ms. chow

                    Was re-reading this thread and noticed my post from last night was severely cut off. Did someone complain to the Chow cops? Or was it our bad DSL?

                    Anyway, OP mentioned about overkill, and good contrast. Schwa, food wise, is the mad love child of Trotter and Alinea. Mr Carlson is a mad genius. In spirit, it is very similar to Momofuku Ko. Trotter, during his 20th anniversary celebration, brought Ferran Adria, Wylie Dufresne, Heston Blumenthal and other worlwide luminaries to Schwa. That speaks for itself more than anything else. That said, dining comforts at Schwa are at a minimum. It is BYOB, and if you are lucky to get a hold of them the day of, they will recommend what to bring. There is no front of house staff whatsoever. The chefs are also your waiters, so service is so so at best. No clever, rehearsed anecdotes like they dole out at Spiaggia. The reservation process tests your patience. Not that it has silly rules like that of Babbo or Ko. They don't answer the phone. If their answering machine is full, you're out of luck. I've been to Schwa 4 times. Thrice before the much publicized post-Trotter-meltdown/breakdown. Once after they re-opened. Everytime it was like having all 4 wisdom teeth pulled, and having octuplets at the same time. The emotional tug of war makes it not worth it for me.

                    As far as contrast, Avec and Publican are both great choices. Publican is similar to Ssam in the love of pork.

                  2. re: elsf335

                    Schwa is the right answer. I had dinner there last night and it was unbelievable. It isn't fair to compare, but my meal there was significantly better than a recent one at Ko and every bit the peer of Alinea and Per Se.

                    And, given its atmosphere, would be a wonderful compliment to your dinner at Alinea.

                    1. re: nmprisons

                      Schwa would be first choice followed by L20, Avenues, and Boka.

                      1. re: sthom1976

                        That's what I love about Chicago. So many incredible options. How this city has changed. What a privileged it is to live in a food mecca. It's hard to go too far wrong.

                  3. Schwa, Schwa, Schwa!!! work the phones and be patient - it is SO worth it.
                    I am from NY and have done Ko and WD-50 - its right up there and more fun, a hell of a good time. Good Luck and enjoy!!