A Few Qualifications
My 30th birthday is coming up in a few weeks, and I am looking for suggestions for dinner. It should be somewhere that would work for a small group (6-8 people), not be too loud, and serve excellent dessert (I'm always dieting so on my 30th it's no holding back!). I've been to MK, Schwa and Alinea so those are out, but I'm up for pretty much anything else. Thanks in advance for any ideas!
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614
Desserts at TRU are excellent. They also offer a dessert tasting of five desserts ($25 last time I checked).
Another possibility for great desserts is at the Peninsula Hotel, which offers the "Chocolate Bar" in the Lobby (that's the name of the restaurant) on Friday and Saturday nights between 8:00 pm and midnight. It's currently $38 per adult and $20 per child under 12. You can find more details on the Peninsula website at http://chicago.peninsula.com where it's one of the special features in the rotating display at the bottom of the page.
I'm a dessert lover and I've really enjoy this buffet when I've done it. The desserts aren't as elaborate and complex as at many restaurants; some of them are as simple as chocolate dipped strawberries or chocolate chip cookies. But what I've found is that the small portion sizes lets you try a lot of them - they typically have 40 or more different items - and I always find at least a few things that are just heavenly.
If you like, you can eat dinner elsewhere and just go to the Lobby for the Chocolate Bar, or you can have dinner there as well. I've enjoyed dinner at the Lobby. The cuisine is contemporary American - not amazingly creative (while you're at the Peninsula, go to Avenues for that) but quite decent, and it's a very comfortable room, with spacious seating, high ceilings, and a full-length window on one side of the room. It's also in the "casual fine dining" category.
The first question to ask yourself is whether you would like to go to (a) a more formal and expensive restaurant, where jackets are required for gentlemen, where you receive the utmost of service and elaborate tasting menus are offered, and where you will probably pay $150-250 or more per person including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, or (b) a somewhat more casual restaurant, where jackets are not required and few diners wear them, where the menu is generally a la carte, and where you will probably pay no more than $100/pp inclusive. Think of the difference between Alinea and MK.
chicgail's suggestions of Everest, TRU, Charlie Trotter's, and Spiaggia fall into the "formal" first category. Her suggestion of Naha falls into the "casual fine dining" second category. Additional suggestions for the latter category include:
North Pond (contemporary American)
Cafe des Architectes (contemporary American)
Cafe Spiaggia (Italian)
Coco Pazzo (Italian)
Mercat a la Planxa (tapas)
Carnivale (Latin fusion)
Nacional 27 (Latin fusion)
Red Light (pan-Asian)
Thanks for clarifying and expanding on my rather hurried post, nsxtasy. I took my cue from the restaurants that the OP had mentioned s/he had already been to. Most were in the first (formal) category, but MK brought it into the second (casual fine dining),
I second pretty nearly everything else you recommended in that category.
About the same; I consider both to be formal places. Not stuffy - in fact, their servers go out of their way to make the experience friendly, personable, and fun - but formal in the sense that people are dressed up and on their best behavior (i.e. not overly loud, etc). I consider the other such places to be similar as well.