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1st Anniversary dinner- North Pond or Cafe des Architectes?

c
cstiv Apr 6, 2010 09:19 PM

I'm spending the weekend in Chicago with my wife of soon to be 1 year and I'd like to pick a special place for dinner. We are staying at the Westin on Michigan Ave, and based on that location and some enthusiastic reviews, I am leaning towards Cafe des Architectes. My wife and I both like fine dining but usually when we go to the most high-end places we end up ordering a bunch of appetizers and the cheapest bottle of wine on the wine list all the while stressing out over what the total is going to end up as. So in addition to the location, I was attracted to the $42 prix-fixe menu at Cafe des Architectes. All that being said, after doing a little more chowhound research I read a little about North Pond and it sounds like it has a one of a kind setting that might be more appropriate for the occasion. It looks like North Pond is a little pricier though. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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North Pond
2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

Cafe des Architectes
20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611

  1. nsxtasy Apr 6, 2010 09:24 PM

    I think you've hit the nail on the head. North Pond does indeed have a unique and exquisite location, but it will indeed be more expensive than CdA. I've had excellent food and service at both restaurants. But if I had to pick one for a first anniversary dinner, I'd go with the romantic setting - North Pond. (Congratulations!)

    11 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy
      c
      cstiv Apr 7, 2010 04:44 AM

      Thanks for the reply. It was your enthusiastic reviews of Cafe des Architectes that I was referring to in my post. If you had to guess, how much will dinner run me at North Pond, assuming a round of cocktails and $50 bottle of wine? I'm guessing around $200-250 after tip.

      -----
      North Pond
      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

      Cafe des Architectes
      20 East Chestnut Street, Chicago, IL 60611

      1. re: cstiv
        chicgail Apr 7, 2010 05:30 AM

        North Pond is a great choice. .

        A la carte prices are in the teens for appetizers; entrees in the $30s and desserts <$10 so you're looking at maybe $60 to $70 per person for three courses.

        Their seasonal tasting is $85/person and includes 5 courses. Here's the current offering:
        http://www.northpondrestaurant.com/te...
        For two plus that wine you're right in the ballpark even with that choice.

        -----
        North Pond
        2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

        1. re: cstiv
          nsxtasy Apr 7, 2010 07:49 AM

          Both Cafe des Architectes and North Pond have complete menus with prices, as well as their wine list with prices, on their websites, so you can use it to estimate how much you'd spend. For example, if you go to North Pond and the two of you get the $85 tasting menu ($170) plus a round of drinks ($20) plus a bottle ($50) plus coffee ($10), that's $250, plus tax (around 10 percent) and tip puts you around $325; you can spend significantly less than that by ordering a la carte.

          We're fairly moderate in our alcohol consumption; our recent visits to CdA have been running around $90-120 for two, inclusive, and North Pond about twice that much. However, those visits to CdA have been when they have had their $29 3-course available, on Sundays through Tuesdays and for Restaurant Week. The $42 prix fixe would increase that figure accordingly.

          Any chance you might want to consider going to both - perhaps dinner at CdA and Sunday brunch at North Pond?

          1. re: nsxtasy
            c
            cstiv Apr 7, 2010 08:40 AM

            That is a pretty good idea. Do you think that CdA fits the bill for a romantic, special occasion dinner?

            1. re: cstiv
              c
              cstiv Apr 7, 2010 08:51 AM

              That being said, I think I only have one fancy meal in the budget, and it sounds like North Pond might be a little more memorable experience, so I think I am going to go with that.

              As I said in my original post, I'm staying at the Westin on Michigan Ave. We are getting in late Friday afternoon and going home Sunday, so I was thinking maybe we could find a more casual place to go to that was within walking distance on Friday night. Any good rec's?

              -----
              North Pond
              2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: cstiv
                chicgail Apr 7, 2010 09:41 AM

                North Pond is perfect for a special dinner. I have significantly less enthusiasm for the food and service at CdA than does nsxtasy, but I do know that s/he has a very discerning palate.

                For your more casual Friday night dinner, you might consider Spiaggia Cafe or Coco Pazzo Cafe for Italian. Both have more expensive sister restaurants that don't include Cafe in their names. I enjoy Bandera's. It's pleasant, casual and at 535 N. Michigan on the second floor. There's also a Grand Lux Cafe at Michigan and Ontario. It's a chain, slightly upscale from Cheesecake Factory, also walking distance. On Ohio St., just west of Michigan Ave is a Big Bowl (Asian Fusion), ESPN Cafe and California Pizza Kitchen.

                For original Chicago-style deep dish pizza, Unos and Dues, which started it all in the 1940s is walking distance (for my money, they're still the best), as is Gino's East. Much more casual, Portillos does up decent Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches at its place on Ontario near LaSalle St.

                -----
                North Pond
                2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                Big Bowl
                60 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611

                Coco Pazzo Cafe
                636 N St Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

                Spiaggia
                980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                Bandera Restaurant
                535 N Michigan Ave Ste 208, Chicago, IL 60611

                Grand Lux Cafe'
                600 N Michigan Ave Ste 7, Chicago, IL 60611

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

                1. re: chicgail
                  l
                  lbs Apr 7, 2010 10:20 AM

                  I'll second the Bandera's rec. I believe on Fridays they have a jazz trio and you can request a seat by the window (overlooks Michigan Ave). Pleasant and non-assuming for your for first night in.

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                  Bandera Restaurant
                  535 N Michigan Ave Ste 208, Chicago, IL 60611

                  1. re: chicgail
                    nsxtasy Apr 7, 2010 11:09 AM

                    If you're looking for additional recommendations, chicgail always has good advice. I'd go with Cafe Spiaggia over Coco Pazzo Cafe for Italian; Cafe Spiaggia is only a block from your hotel (and I think it's the best moderately-priced Italian in town).

                    If you'd like authentic Chicago-style deep-dish, Uno and Due are indeed excellent, but Pizano's on State is very good too and is closer to your hotel. (Pizano's was started by the son of one of the long-time principals at Uno/Due.) Wherever you go, you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for your pizza to bake.

                    Another place you might consider, also within walking distance, is one of the Rick Bayless restaurants for creative provincial Mexican cuisine, Frontera Grill or Topolobampo. Chicago has a collection of wonderful restaurants specializing in creative provincial Mexican cuisine, which is difficult to find almost anywhere else this side of the border. Rick Bayless is widely recognized for bringing this trend here, and his restaurants are still excellent and providing the most creative Mexican food in town. Topolobampo is the most expensive, although it's surprisingly affordable at lunchtime, and accepts reservations in advance but books up long in advance for dinners, not as much for lunch. Frontera Grill is not as expensive, but accepts only a handful of reservations and keeps most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic. Waits for a table can be lengthy on weekends and at lunchtime. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

                    For French bistros, I like Bistro 110, too; despite being in a high-rise, it has a cozy feel to it with a series of small rooms. They do a nice Sunday brunch.

                  2. re: cstiv
                    j
                    jbw Apr 7, 2010 10:32 AM

                    I haven't been back in a while, and IMO there are better casual French bistros to be found in the Chicago area than Bistro 110, but not in such easy walking distance of the W, so you might want to add that your list of contenders as well:

                    http://www.bistro110restaurant.com/

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                    Bistro 110
                    110 East Pearson Street, Chicago, IL 60611

                  3. re: cstiv
                    nsxtasy Apr 7, 2010 09:07 AM

                    I think so, but it all depends on your definition of that. Both restaurants have a casual bistro atmosphere. I think you're familiar with the description of North Pond's setting in the middle of the park, facing the pond. CdA is located on the ground floor next to the entrance to the Sofitel. The hotel features very contemporary design, with a large curving glass wall as its facade. That facade is one side of the dining room. You can see photos of the room on their website by clicking on "gallery", and there's a 360-degree view if you click on "virtual tour" on that page. It's nice, but I wouldn't describe it as unique or exquisite the way I would North Pond. As I've mentioned, the food is the main attraction at CdA, and has always been superb. I've experienced good service there too, although neither CdA nor North Pond has the "army of servers" like the most expensive, fancy places do.

                    Just to throw out another possibility, but one along those lines - Chicago is always a matter of too many great choices, rather than too few - there's another bargain in town at a romantic restaurant suitable for special occasions. Everest is one of our high-end formal (jackets for gentlemen) expensive restaurants. It's in the Loop, on the 40th floor of the Midwest Stock Exchange building, with a great view looking out at the city. The food is contemporary French, and is delicious, of course. The wine list is huge, and includes the best selection of Alsatian wines in the country. It has the best service I've ever experienced anywhere. It's normally very expensive ($150-200/pp inclusive) but if you go for an early seating (5:00/5:30) they offer a pre-theater special, 3 courses for $50 on a set menu (no choices). So if the early seating works for you and you don't mind the set menu, that's another choice that can fit into your target price range.

                    I've had wonderful dinners at all three of these places, so don't agonize too much over your decision; just enjoy your dinner and the occasion!

                    1. re: nsxtasy
                      c
                      cstiv Apr 7, 2010 10:42 AM

                      Thanks everyone for your help. I will try to remember to give an update on how it went. I think I'm going to go with North Pond. I have a friend who just went there and had a great meal. The Everest option is interesting but I can't fathom eating that early. I'm used to eating between 8:30 - 9. I wouldn't know what to do with myself after dinner.

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                      North Pond
                      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

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