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Jan 7, 2010 10:56 AM

Driving myself nuts planning this weekend visit...HELP!

I have a good friend coming in town from New York to celebrate his birthday here in Chicago for the second year in a row, and he will be staying at Hotel Monaco (Wacker and Wabash). He had an amazing time last year. I took him for drinks at The Signature Room for the view, missed our reservation at Aigre Doux because we were enjoying the view so much, then we went to a comedy show and The Drawing Room for late night drinks/food. Saturday we did Cafe Spiaggia for lunch and Mercat a la Planxa for dinner (kind of underwhelming, although still a good time). I'd like this year to be just as good, but I'm kind of driving myself nuts figuring this out.

He wants something low-key, so I was just planning on having an indoor picnic of gourmet sandwiches and mac n' cheese and wine because it is so terrible out and I thought it would make for a cozy night in. Although any cozy bar suggestions are welcome.

He works during the day, so blackbird or Naha's lunch is out. I was thinking The Publican or Kith and Kin for dinner. Something fun and comforting but still delicious.

My biggest problem is with Saturday lunch. LOVED last year's lunch at Cafe Spaggia because we spent hours over a couple bottles of wine and wonderful food. Would like to recreate that upscale intimate lunch (not brunch) elsewhere, but cannot find anything.

Dinner I was thinking North Pond for the view, but I've heard really mixed reviews about service, portion sizing, and a lot of other such issues. Perennial is a potential. Any other ideas?

If I don't do dinner at the Publican, brunch here is an option. Still trying to figure this one out, but there are a ton of great choices, so this one is up in the air too.

I know this is a ton of information I threw out there, but feeling a bit lost. Thanks for any and all help!

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  1. Perennial last summer was very, very good. That said I've been to North Pond and would recommend it and I haven't heard many negative reviews.

    1. First of all, DON'T DRIVE YOURSELF CRAZY. Here in Chicago, there are many - TOO many - good choices, no matter what you're looking for. So do your research and make your choice, but don't agonize over it. It will probably all turn out fine!

      For Thursday night, if you want to do a cozy picnic inside, by all means do so! You can pack quite a picnic at Fox & Obel, and you'll probably find things there you weren't even looking for.

      For Friday dinner, you might consider Latin fusion such as Carnivale or Nacional 27, or pan-Asian such as Red Light. I haven't been to Publican; I've heard good reports on the food, and I'm sure you're aware that it's communal seating, which may or may not work for you. Also haven't been to Kith & Kin yet.

      For an upscale intimate lunch on Saturday, what about Aria? It's upscale but intimate, and you can walk there from the Hotel Monaco, even in this weather. Atwood Cafe is another choice, also easily walkable. Both have excellent food. Sixteen is another possibility, also walkable; I've found the food a bit less impressive, but the room and the space is gorgeous. If you'd consider a place that's not necessarily overly upscale or intimate, but lively with good food, don't forget that Frontera Grill serves brunch on Saturdays.

      For Saturday dinner, I think North Pond is superb. I don't understand any issues with portion size or service, as I've never experienced ANY problems on either count. The setting is lovely and the food is excellent as well as interesting. Another possiblity is Cafe des Architectes, in the Sofitel off Michigan Avenue. The food is absolutely wonderful, and this is another place where the space is very interesting as well.

      For Sunday brunch, there are many possibilities. I really love the "American dim sum" brunch at David Burke's Primehouse, where you get served 20-25 different food items served as 7-10 courses, in somewhat smallish portion sizes but with unlimited seconds (which you really don't need, with that many items). Also walkable from the Monaco. I posted a detailed description of one of my brunches there in the brunch topic at

      If you do Sunday dinner, any of the above suggestions would work. Also, Cafe des Architectes offers their "neighborhood friends" menu Sundays through Tuesdays, three courses for $29, in addition to their normal prix fixe and a la carte menus.

      All of these places take reservations on

      Website links:
      Fox & Obel -
      Carnivale -
      Nacional 27 -
      Red Light -
      Publican -
      Aria -
      Atwood Cafe -
      Sixteen -
      Frontera Grill -
      North Pond -
      Cafe des Architectes -
      David Burke's Primehouse -

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks so much to both of you! nxstasy, I've noted your thoughtful replies to other people's posts and I was hoping I'd be hearing from you.

        If you're into sweetbreads, I'd say The Publican has the best in town so far, not to mention a wonderful beer list, among other great surprises. Kith and Kin is a new favorite. They have only recently opened, so still working out some kinks, but fantastic comfort food done in gourmet style. They take everything we want to eat to feel warm and cozy, but kick it up several notches. The chef used to work at French Laundry and Trio if that gives you a clue to the caliber. Thanks again!

        1. re: gumibear

          Thanks! Sweetbreads, my favorite, yummmm.... ;)