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May 25, 2010 05:55 PM

Post-graduation dinner, Chicago recommendations

Hey everyone,
Looking to celebrate my college graduation with my family on June 17th and a nice restaurant that will match the occasion. My parents are flying in from Ft. Lauderdale and I would like to show off Chicago, but they aren't too adventurous when it comes to food so I am thinking steak or contemporary American cuisine. I really want to try Naha or Le Colonial but am trying to please everyone--especially the parents. Price isn't really an issue, so suggest away! I would just really like a place that makes a mean cocktail. Any recommendations will be much appreciated. Thanks guys :-)

- Amber

500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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  1. Hmmm.....want to show off Chicago, and I'll assume you don't want to go the Morton's/Ruth's Chris/ubitquitous a la carte steakhouse route...
    Well, call me crazy (and I'm sure some holier-than-thou 'how dare you' foodie will), but I've never had a bad meal at Ditka's. Can't get much more Chi than that. Pork chops. 'Nuff said.

    1. Where are they staying - in a hotel (if so, which one), or with you (if so, what neighborhood)? If they are at a hotel downtown, it would make it very easy on everyone if you choose a place within a few blocks of where they are staying.

      We have lots of great steakhouses - David Burke's Primehouse is great, Gibson's is also very good although the scene is a bit of a zoo - and lots of great contemporary American restaurants whose cuisine isn't "out there". I would not recommend Le Colonial for non-adventurous eaters unless you know that they enjoy Vietnamese cuisine.

      6 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks nsxtasy. We will actually be staying up in Evanston, since I am graduating from Northwestern and our Undergrad campus is up here. But I don't want to be limited to suburbia for my dinner plans. I've been looking into both Burke's and Gibson's but not sure what you mean by "zoo" like atmosphere. Also, fish seems to please everyone so that could be another option if anyone has a suggestion.

        1. re: ambie2306

          Since everyone is staying in Evanston, there are so many great restaurants there, you may as well eat there. No need to go all the way into the city!

          If you want a steakhouse, Pete Miller's is in Evanston, and it is very good indeed. Evanston has two seafood restaurants. Davis Street Fishmarket is good, and is a sister restaurant to Pete Miller's. Oceanique is an expensive but casual upscale restaurant which specializes in seafood. The best seafood restaurant in the Chicago area - conventional seafood restaurant, i.e. aside from the expensive Oceanique and L2O - is Mitchell's Fish Market in Glenview, about 15 minutes from Evanston; not only is the seafood fresh, but I love their preparations as well.

          If you want to go for contemporary American cuisine, Evanston has several excellent ones, including the previously-mentioned Oceanique, which is the best in town. Equally outstanding is Chef's Station. I also recommend the Stained Glass. If you want to go in a bistro direction, Bistro Bordeaux is an excellent French bistro, and Campagnola is an excellent Italian-ish bistro. For somewhat contemporary but still somewhat conventional American food, Prairie Moon is excellent too.

          All of these places take reservations - most on too - and I'm sure they'll be needed around graduation time. And even the least adventurous diner will find plenty to eat at any of them.

          Website links:

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I would actually do precisely the opposite. Since there will be so many people in Evanston for graduation, you have a better chance of a calm dinner at one of the numerous restaurants in Chicago.

            I say, if YOU want to do Naha - go for it! There are plenty of things on the menu that would appeal to "plainer" eaters, and they mix a good cocktail. Everyone should be pleased. There are plenty of other places with excellent food in the city, but I was racking my brain a bit for the right combination of excellent food and excellent drinks (the absolute best drinks right now are coming from places not really known for top-notch food: Violet Hour, Drawing Room, etc.)

            The other two places I came up with were Graham Elliot and Perennial, both of which have some safe choices, some more unique choices, and great drinks.


            The Drawing Room
            937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

            Perennial Virant
            1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

            500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

            Violet Hour
            1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

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

            1. re: pamiam

              >> Since there will be so many people in Evanston for graduation, you have a better chance of a calm dinner at one of the numerous restaurants in Chicago.

              Not true. Not true at all. Northwestern actually has a relatively small impact on Evanston's dining scene. And all of the restaurants mentioned above for your post-graduation dinner accept reservations. So while they might fill up with visitors in town for the graduation, that won't in any way diminish your meal experience; they won't be any less calm than the restaurants in downtown Chicago. There is absolutely no need to travel into the city for fine food; while the places in the city are very good, the ones in Evanston are equally good. I've had some of the best "casual fine dining" dinners ever at Oceanique and Chef's Station; I highly recommend them - all the more so for locals in Chicago who have never been to either one!

              505 Main St, Evanston, IL 60202

              Chef's Station
              915 Davis Street, Evanston, IL 60201

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I absolutely do not doubt Evanston restaurants' ability to schedule and handle reservations in a professional manner on graduation weekend. However, the nicer restaurants near campus WILL be full of students and their parents. This means you're more than likely going to end up running into several people you know during the course of dinner. It might be one of your close friends and her family, but it might also be the guy you had an ugly breakup with sophomore year. Regardless of who it is, you'll feel pressured to do the standard introductions, and interrupt your family's privacy to acknowledge your acquaintances and their families on such a celebratory occasion.

                This might be something that appeals to you, but if you want to spend time engaging with just your family, with a smaller chance of being caught up in the graduation hubbub, I stand by my recommendation of going into the city (plus, none of the Evanston restaurants listed are known for superb cocktails, and you wouldn't get to "show off Chicago").

                1. re: pamiam

                  Most people would be happy to run into friends celebrating the same occasion with their families (and can keep any greetings brief). And anyone who is THAT upset by the possibility of running into someone they broke up with sophomore year, probably transferred colleges at that point. :)

                  >> none of the Evanston restaurants listed are known for superb cocktails, and you wouldn't get to "show off Chicago"

                  Not true and not true. All of them make an excellent cocktail (Oceanique is the best in that regard, although Pete Miller's is pretty darn good too). Furthermore, Oceanique is a multiple winner of the Wine Spectator's "Best of Award of Excellence" and The Stained Glass is another Wine Spectator winner well known for its wine selection (it's known as a wine bar as well as a restaurant with excellent food). Furthermore, nothing "shows off Chicago" better than a restaurant with fantastic food, like Oceanique and Chef's Station.

                  If you want to show off Chicago, you can go into the city one day and tour the museums and parks (and/or take a drive up Sheridan Road and show off the Bahai Temple). Afterwards, everyone can freshen up at the hotel back in Evanston before proceeding to one of these great restaurants nearby. Everyone in the group will appreciate the convenience as well as the terrific food.

      2. Why would you pick a restaurant based on the quality of its cocktails? Just go to the Violet Hour.

        Violet Hour
        1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

        1 Reply
        1. re: jr1972

          If your group would enjoy unusual cocktails in a unique atmosphere (of an upscale speakeasy), then by all means go to the Violet Hour. However, if they are simply looking for cocktails served with their dinner, then it would be better to choose a restaurant with quality food and drinks (because they will otherwise wonder why you made them travel 45 minutes just to go to a place for drinks).

          Frankly, it sounds like YOU would enjoy going to the Violet Hour, but your family might not appreciate it. In which case, the solution is obvious - go there on your own some time.