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Jun 24, 2010 01:49 PM

Dinner for two for around $150 downtown?

So my boyfriend and I are broke college students who are lucky enough to have gotten a $100 gift card for any open table restaurant. We both love food and are very adventurous. What restaurant would you recommend for us that would end up being around 150 with one app and two entrees or so? We'd really like to try something different and perhaps "foodier" than what we can normally afford on our budget. Any suggestions?

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  1. Yes, it's vague! :) But we can fix that. ;)

    First of all, about that $150 target. You don't mention alcohol, which is always the big variable in pricing. If you don't have wine or other alcohol, for $150 you can eat anywhere except for about a dozen of the top fine dining restaurants, and each have your own appetizer, entree, and dessert. If you plan to have a couple of rounds of drinks or to split a bottle of wine, then the $150 price target will rule out some places, and you'll probably want to concentrate on restaurants with entrees in the $20-25 range (of which there are plenty). So let us know what you're planning.

    You also don't mention what part of the city or suburbs you live in. This may be an opportunity to eat at an outstanding restaurant in your own neighborhood that you haven't been able to try before now.

    You say you like all sorts of food, but... are there certain types you've been wanting to try? Or are there certain types you love so much you just can't get enough of? Just to give you a few ideas: contemporary American, Italian, French bistro, steakhouses, seafood, pan-Asian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Latin fusion, Mexican, tapas, Greek, etc.

    If you let us know your alcohol intentions, location, and food preferences, we'll be better able to provide specific, appropriate recommendations of places we think you'll love.

    6 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      We live on the Gold Coast near the Viagra Triangle which gives us a wide range of areas we can walk or take the el to. As for drinking, because we're cheap college students we usually split a bottle of wine at home first, but if the restaurant is reasonable enough we'd have a glass or two or a bottle at the restaurant. We'd really like to try something innovative, perhaps fusion-y? We tend to like New American, French, Italian, Japanese, and all kinds of Asian food. Is that a bit better?

      1. re: ajs489

        Just an FYI: make sure that the gift card covers alcohol

          1. re: ajs489

            Graham Elliot would work well for you. On Huron, between Wells and Franklin. Not snooty, inventive food.

            Sunda is a good choice for innovative Asian. Also nearby.

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

        1. re: ajs489

          Yes, that makes things a lot clearer. If you have the wine at home, that will give you a lot more flexibility on your budget, since restaurants typically charge 2.5-3.0 times as much as the wine costs in a liquor store.

          For contemporary American, my favorite is Cafe des Architectes, which has had absolutely terrific food and very good service in all of my dinners there. It's also a great bargain, with a 3-course prix fixe menu for $42 every night, and a limited 3-course menu for $29 Sundays-Tuesdays. Graham Elliot, suggested below, is another good choice, and so are Naha and MK, but all three will use up more of that budget than CdA.

          For Italian, Cafe Spiaggia is great, and may be the best choice of all if you haven't been there and you like Italian food. Also extremely close to you.

          For pan-Asian food, I agree with the suggestion of Sunda, which is fairly close by.

          Top pick? I would take a very close look at the website menus of Cafe Spiaggia (go to and click on CAFE not on DINING ROOM) and of Cafe des Architectes ( ) and Sunda ( ). I think any of these three would be a great choice for you, so whichever menu really grabs you, go for it!

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Thanks! We recently went to Japonais with another gift card, which I think may be a bit similar to Sunda, but I'm definitely going to look more into Cafe des Architectes!

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

            Japonais Restaurant
            600 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610

        1. re: ajs489

          Happy to do that, ajs489. Other than that it looks like Sunda is similar to Japonais, please give us some direction regarding what is unsatisfactory about the other suggestions.

          I would second the recommendations of Cafe Spiaggia and add Mercat a la Planxa, Province, and Perennial. I gather that you are not tourists, but live in the area, so I would add Sola and Brown Trout, which are in neighborhoods, rather than the central tourist area. There are also excellent places in some of the suburbs if that works for you.

          Cafe Spiaggia
          980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611