Good day Chicago board. I'm travelling with friends to Chicago in another month and was hoping you could provide me with some recommendations. Looking for something different, and ethnic. A colleague recommended Frontera Grill, would anyone agree? I've had my eye on Blackbird and Avec. Anything goes, but I would prefer to keep it centrally located. Does anyone have any 'must tries' they can recommend?
Sorry if this is a bit vague, however I'm travelling with some rather adventurous eaters, so pretty much anything goes.
615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
I would suggest taking a look at these topics, as an introduction; they include overall advice as well as suggestions for "must tries":
first time Chicago - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477
Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697829
After you've looked at those, you'll probably have a better idea of what we have to offer, and you'll be asking more specific questions, which we'll be happy to answer.
To address the places you've mentioned...
I think Frontera Grill is excellent for dinner if you can get one of their few reservations or go early, but otherwise you risk a long wait for a table, which I hate. For a weekday lunch, I think Topolobampo, its sister restaurant inside the same place, is even better, because reservations are relatively easy (they're three months out for dinner) and because the prices are similar to Frontera's (at dinner it's significantly more).
Blackbird is a good place for lunch, but its downsides - NOISE, cramped seating, smallish portion sizes - may not make up for the delicious food. We have other places that do a better job. Avec is even worse, with its no-reservations policy, uncomfortable wooden seats, communal-only seating, and, yes, NOISE (and the food there doesn't impress me, either).
Since you asked about Avec, I'll also suggest the Purple Pig, which is a small plates fairly new restaurant right on Michigan Ave. The food is delicious and has some interesting things on the menu for your adventurous friends, but no reservations- so either a good place for lunch or be prepared to wait if it's a prime dinner hour.
re: ms. mika
In the same mode as Avec and Purple Pig, you and your friends might like Gage, also on Michigan Avenue, but a bit further south, across the street from the Art Institute. My preference of all of them would be Publican in the West Loop. Specializes in micro-and European beers and ales, oysters, fish and pork dishes.
Seems like everyone is all about the pig these days.
So far you really haven't given anyone much to go on. It's even more confusing that some of the things you've said contradict each other (you say you're "looking for something different, and ethnic", but Blackbird and Avec are neither). Without anything specific to go on, names of some of the newer and more popular places are just getting tossed around (or they're based on the names of restaurants you've heard of but may not really be what you're looking for). After all, there are dozens if not hundreds of excellent restaurants in the areas in and around downtown Chicago. If you can provide us with more specific information about what you'd like, we can recommend restaurants tailored to those preferences. Help us so we can help you.
Already good suggestions and notes in the "first time" thread linked above - and it's hard to pick amongst all our great restaurants. In the general "central" area, there are so many options - and Chicago is quite easy to get around.
Frontera is great - and if you stop by around 4:30 PM, you can put your name on the list for a table - we've always gotten one at a reasonable time. But don't miss Xoco next door for great breakfast, lunch or snacks.
Mercat a la Planxa - every time I go here, I come out smiling - and my guests are too.
Naha - wonderful smart New American or Province.
Green Zebra - superb food that happens to be vegetarian.
If you're in town on a Saturday, go to the Green City Market for brunch in Lincoln Park. A favorite source for chefs, the quality and variety is wonderful and there are several great meals to nosh while shopping. Or pick up some supplies - Capriole cheese, Potters Crackers, Tomato Mountain salsa, anything from Three Sisters and walk over to North Avenue beach for an impromptu picnic.
1460 W Chicago, Chicago, IL 60622
Mercat a la Planxa
638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605
Green City Market
1750 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614
161 N Jefferson, Chicago, IL 60661
500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610