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Jun 5, 2010 01:15 PM

ISO: Dinner on Friday night 10 people mixed crowd - post Taste

NY Hounder taking family out to dinner in Chicago area. 10 of us, husband is a chef. Price point would be about 20 dollars or under for entrees, hopefully keep it $100.00 a couple including drinks.

Here is my problem, my husband and I consider ourselves very adventurous eaters, we love all cuisines, we don’t have a problem paying a premium for service and experience. However, we are dinning out with people who don’t feel the same way about the price of a good time. With that said I need to please both my husband and his family who could survive on pub food and TGI Fridays. Help please!?!

I don’t think any cuisine is totally off limits, but probably sticking within the realms of new American, or Italian would be best.
We’re planning on spending the day at the Taste, so going out for pizza would not be an option; we will be able to get out fill of stuffed crust and Chicago dogs then.
Plus it is our anniversary…

We will be staying with family in Wrigleyville, but I don’t have a specific location in mind.

p.s. extra credit for a great beer/ wine selection. We really enjoyed HopLeaf last time we were in town.
We have been to Vivere in Italian Village, which was OK. Also Naha, which we really enjoyed.

500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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  1. As you are already aware, your price target rules out a lot of contemporary American restaurants (including Naha, as well as Vivere which is Italian with a lot of cA menu items). However, if you would be willing to consider BYO - which will also help you meet your budget - then I would suggest Sweets and Savories. They are off the beaten path in the west end of Lincoln Park, not far from Lakeview where you're staying. They only have BYO, and the menu lets you choose any three courses for $29, any night.

    If you'd like to go in an Italian direction, we have plenty of those, although again, the price is going to be an impediment. Cafe Spiaggia, at the end of the Mag Mile, is as good as any moderately-priced Italian in town; their entrees are in the mid twenties, and you have the pluses of a great wine list and a famous chef (Tony Mantuano oversees Cafe Spiaggia as well as Spiaggia, its expensive sister restaurant next door). Other good choices, comparably priced, are Coco Pazzo in River North and Vivere in the Loop Coco Pazzo has a less expensive sister restaurant off the Mag Mile called Coco Pazzo Cafe, which is the only one of these with entrees around $20. Those are all places in the downtown Chicago area. I know there are Italian places all over the north side, but I'm not familiar with them. If you'd consider Evanston, which is just north of the city line (about five miles north of Lakeview), Campagnola is an excellent Italian bistro there, with entrees around $20.

    The recent Chicago Magazine article on "30 under $30" may also be helpful.

    1. my initial list any thoughts?

      The Publican
      BLUE 13

      oh an byo is fine!!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Asumnuthin

        I would not recommend the Publican for a group of 10. You'll be sitting at a communal table, and it's VERY NOISY, so those at one end won't hear those at the other. And it's not all that inexpensive; with moderate drinking, I recently paid $130 a couple.

        I think Sweets and Savories is an excellent choice, particularly for its value as well as its convenient location. I've found the food there to be good, although it might not blow anyone away.

        I think Inovasi is also outstanding in every way. It WILL meet your budget target; it's an amazing bargain for a chef-driven restaurant. The only downside is that it's quite a distance, 30 miles north of Lakeview. It will take you about 45 minutes driving, as long as you can avoid prime commuting hours; Friday evening rush hour can be particularly bad. I would suggest eating no earlier than 7:30 (and later is better) so you can avoid the worst of the commuting traffic. I do think it's worth the drive for those who appreciate great, creative food, but it sounds like the people you're dining with may not feel that way. OTOH if they happen to live in the northern suburbs, it will be convenient for them.

        I haven't been to the others you've listed. Glen Prairie is in Glen Ellyn, a western suburb, and will take you just as long to get to as Inovasi.

        Here are a couple more suggestions, both conveniently located in Lakeview and both in your target price range: Deleece and Hearty. I've eaten at both and enjoyed them. Deleece is decidedly contemporary American - they have a sister restaurant, Deleece Grill Pub, that is more towards American comfort food - whereas Hearty offers a creative, whimsical spin on comfort food. Check out the menus on their websites:

        Deleece -
        Hearty -

      2. You might want to consider West Town Tavern, not too far away from Wrigleyville with a very very eclectic menu in your price point. It's not large, but it should be able to accommodate a table of 10 given enough notice. Good wine and (I think) beer selections, too:

        West Town Tavern
        1329 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

        1. Husband is pushing for May Street Market... thoughts?

          May Street Market
          1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

          7 Replies
          1. re: Asumnuthin

            I think May Street Market is another viable choice. I see from their website ( ) that they offer a three-course prix fixe dinner for $25 Mondays-Wednesdays and $32 Thursdays-Saturdays, so they are right in your target price range. The location is in West Town, not far from the previously-mentioned West Town Tavern.

            I've eaten at May Street Market. I thought it was pretty good, but it didn't really wow me. For example, I really enjoy some dishes with bleu cheese in them. I had heard about MSM's signature dish, an appetizer of bleu cheese cheesecake, which really interested me; I thought the idea of a savory dish with a kick of bleu cheese could be great. But when I actually tried it, I thought it was rather bland, that it could have been so much better. And that's sort of how I felt about the entire meal - that it wasn't bad, but it wasn't overly impressive either. Maybe if I went back I'd like it more, but the problem with Chicago dining is that there are so many restaurants to choose from, places that I've never been before as well as places that I've loved, that I almost never get around to eating at places in the "maybe I should give it another shot" category. Hope that makes sense.

            It's often difficult to decide on restaurants in Chicago because there are so many to choose from, even when you try to narrow down your candidates by price, location, type of food, etc. You'd probably have a very enjoyable meal at any of the places we've been discussing here (except for the Publican, which isn't conducive to a group your size IMO).

            If you go to May Street Market, the original/main store for Terry's Toffee is right across the street, and worth visiting if you enjoy that confection and if it's open when you're there.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              "but the problem with Chicago dining is that there are so many restaurants to choose from, places that I've never been before as well as places that I've loved, that I almost never get around to eating at places in the "maybe I should give it another shot" category. "

              That is EXACTELY how I feel about New York restaurants as well. Even at some of the highest rated places, once I have had even a nominal bad experience, we never go back because of the shear amount of choices still left to us.

            2. re: Asumnuthin

              May Street Market is ok. I'm not a fan.

              The menu reads like it's going to be good and the prices are right. The problem is that the menu is ambitious, but it doesn't fulfill on the promise. The menu may not please the pub/TGI Fridays gang. At the same time, the food isn't that good, so your husband may also be disappointed.

              I know this is a tough challenge to please both parties, but I hate to see everyone in your party dissatisfied..

              May Street Market
              1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

              1. re: chicgail

                In case it's not readily apparent, my reaction to May Street Market was exactly the same as chicgail's. She just stated it more succinctly than I did. :)

                I strongly recommend taking a good look at the menus on the websites for all of the restaurants you're considering, to determine how acceptable the food will be to everyone. In most cases the prices are shown on the website menus so that will also be helpful in your decision.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Hmm.. you both leave me with lots to think about…

                  Since the husband picked May Street, I will be less concerned if he is not 100% pleased
                  Don’t tell him I said that though :-)

                  But in all seriousness thank you very much for your suggestions, I will be sure to report back with the decisions once made.

                  May Street Cafe
                  1146 W. Cermak Road, Chicago, IL 60608

                  1. re: Asumnuthin

                    I'm not sure if it's too late. But I just dined at May Street Market Café yesterday evening, and I really found the experience to be lovely. The menu is very ambitious and the price point is really great. The weekday prix fixe menu is $25 and I think it's $35 on weekends(?)

                    My mother and I got the bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates as an appetizer, and it was very delicious, maybe nothing life changing, but really good nonetheless. My brother got the pork belly with caramel corn and cherry cola reduction--now this was absolutely amazing and very fun and creative! My father got the Beef Wellington Ravioli, it was nothing special and I would not recommend it to anyone.

                    My main reason for wanting to check out the restaurant was because of the duck burger with foie gras and dates. It was so well done, there was no hint of the dryness that you expect with duck. I could have used more foie gras, but then again who couldn't? I also tried some of my father's Steamed Wild Cod with Zucchini jacket, and it was phenomenal.

                    They also have a great wine list, a bit lacking on beer, and nice cocktail options (the humito was very refreshing). I think that this would be a perfect place to take your family. It has a great ambiance, great decor, it is not in the least bit pretentious, service is outstanding, and it really has great prices. Not to mention, they really like to focus on local and organic produce. I really enjoyed my experience at the May Street Market Cafe.

                    May Street Market
                    1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

                    1. re: LeChoiSauce

                      >> I just dined at May Street Market Café yesterday evening

                      Just to clarify... The actual name of the restaurant - the one that chicgail and I both found underwhelming - is May Street Market. It is located at 1132 W. Grand Street (at May Street) in West Town. It is easily confused with May Street Cafe, a different restaurant located at 1146 W. Cermak Street (at May Street) in Pilsen. (There is no "May Street Market Cafe".)

                      May Street Market
                      1132 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

                      May Street Cafe
                      1146 W. Cermak Road, Chicago, IL 60608