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Best meal in Chicago, money no issue?!?!

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I'll be in Chicago for two days. I need recommendations for the best meal I can have with money not being being relevant. Also looking for some good food that only the locals know about. Thanks!

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  1. If you are going to be here in 2 days it's not the money issue that will prevent you from getting the best meal in Chicago it will be the ability to get a reservation. There will be much debate on the best restaurant (which would also depend on your preferences) but many of the names that come up will be Alinea, Charlie Trotter's, Everest, Tru, L20 among others. What style or type of restaurant are you looking for?

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    Alinea
    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

    Charlie Trotter's
    816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

    1 Reply
    1. re: forzagto

      I'd rate those as:
      Alinea
      Tru
      Everest
      Trotter
      L20

      I'd also add Topolobampo right up at the top of that list, but it's extremely difficult to get reservations since Rick Bayless won TCM.

      If I had to choose just one, I, too would pick Alinea.

      Good food only locals know about might include Schwa (reservations ridiculously difficult, but essential), and Bonsoiree on the upscale. Ethically, there's Sticky Rice, TAC and Spoon Thai for authentic Thai; Mexique, Mixteco Grill, Fonda del Mar or in the Pilsen neighborhood: Nuevo Leon and Mundial Cocina Mestiza. On the far north side of the city are Vietnamese and Indian neighborhoods with inexpensive, well-regarded restaurants.

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      Alinea
      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

      Mundial Cocina Mestiza
      1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

      Bonsoiree
      2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

      Spoon Thai
      4608 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

      Sticky Rice
      4018 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

      Topolobampo
      445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

      Mixteco Grill
      1601 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613

      Mexique
      1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

      Nuevo Leon Restaurant
      3657 W 26th St, Chicago, IL 60623

    2. If forced to choose only one, Alinea would be it.

      -----
      Alinea
      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

      1. Spiaggia. not the cafe.
        Tru
        Everest

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        Spiaggia
        980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

        1. Los Nopales on Western Ave. for a fantastic meal with a married couple of owners/chefs who make great quality food part of a wonderful experience.
          Not fancy or expensive, but for me...the best meal.
          BYOB

          1. L2O, L2O!!

            Read Frank Bruni's review of the place and tell me you're not sold:
            http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/06/din...

            Alinea is extraordinary, but it is as much "theatre" as it is "fine dining". While I look back in awe on my meal there, most of what I remember has less to do with the food and much more with the presentation. In fact, there were too many dishes where I had to ask myself: if this weren't coming from Achatz, and we weren't told that Achatz is -- by definition -- a genius, would I really think that banana, foam, and salmon roe sounds like a good combination?? The service and aesthetics will blow your mind, but If I were free from fiscal constraints and guided by my taste buds and a quest for elegance, L2O would be the top choice.

            As for "locals only" food, how about Xoco??

            Kidding!

            Though not holes-in-the-wall in the purest form, some of our best restaurants are in neighborhoods that are off-the-beaten tourist path. Lula Cafe, in Logan Square, is an amazing, inventive farm-to-table gem; Urban Belly, Bill(?) Kim's noodle-and-dumpling counter-service BYOB tucked into a strip mall next to a laundromat is absurdly delicious; and there are at least a half-dozen spots in Pilsen that lay claim to the best tacos al pastor north of the border, but I'll let other Chowhounders point you in the exact right direction.

            Good luck and enjoy.

            -----
            L2O
            2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

            4 Replies
            1. re: Kaelin

              Anybody know anything about this place called graham elliot, seems like the food could be interesting? also good pizza as well be it deep dish or thin crust? Thanks

              1. re: rikitikitembo

                Graham Elliot is interesting, and worth a visit, but I wouldn't categorize it as one of the best meals in Chicago. It is not in a class with Alinea, Tru, Trotter, Everest.

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                Alinea
                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                Graham Elliot
                217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

                1. re: chicgail

                  Been to Graham Elliot twice. The first time it was great and the second it was just good and the staff was just a touch full of itself. I'd go back.

                  That said, agreed, it is not in the Alinea, L2O, Tru, Trotters, Everest league.

                  -----
                  Alinea
                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                  L2O
                  2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

                  Graham Elliot
                  217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

                2. re: rikitikitembo

                  For thin crust: Piece, Crust, Spacca Napoli (my personal favorite, in Lincoln Square), and Great Lakes all get lots of play on the boards

                  For deep dish: I love Gino's East (the whole sausage patty across the entire pie, that thick, chewy cornmeal crust and sweet/spicy tomato sauce, yum . . . ), but there are plenty of other Chowhound posts that play host to Pizza Wars 2009. Everyone has a favorite spot; they tend to shake-out between Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, the original Uno's and Due's, Pizano's, and Gino's East. Regardless of where you go, call in advance and they can start your pie cooking so that you don't have to wait a full ~45 minutes after you order.

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                  Spacca Napoli
                  1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

                  Great Lake
                  1477 W Balmoral Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

                  Gino's East
                  2801 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657