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L2o or TRU

I will be visiting chicago near the end of next week. of course my first restaurant choice was Alinea, however they are completely booked. So it comes down to what i believe are the runner-ups to alinea: tru and l20. Which one would you recommend?

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Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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  1. I have yet to try TRU, by my recent meal at L2O was truly revelatory.

    1. Between those two, TRU. Absolutely. My dinner at L2O was enjoyable but flawed, with food that was decent but hardly great, and service that was erratic.

      I would also consider Charlie Trotter's.

      16 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Been to L2O in the last year once, maybe twice don't remember. Been there 3-4 times total. Been to to Tru a couple of times this year. I would urge nsxtasy to give L2O a second shot. Unless that was a second shot. A bad experience can really leave a bad taste in ones math....pun intended and I've been there.

        My experiences at both have been very, very good and I don't think you can really go wrong at either. Tru the last couple of times we've been have really been on top of their game after a period where I didn't think that much of it for what it should be.

        L2O the last time was very, very good and the service was great for our 7 top.

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        L2O
        2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

        1. re: HoosierFoodie

          I second HoosierFoodie's sentiment -- L2O is the finest meal I've had in Chicago (up against praiseworthy nights out at Alinea, Schwa, Trotter's, etc.). The room, the service, and -- most importantly -- the food were simply transcendent. I hope nsxtasy gives L2O one more go, or else demurs -- his (or her) prolific posts are so rich and informative, but I think that this is one instance where giving a negative warning every single time L2O is mentioned may be a disservice to Gras' gem. Enjoy!

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          L2O
          2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

        2. re: nsxtasy

          i was also thinking of charlie trotters and everest, as i saw them in my copy of Le Grande Table du Monde. Charlie trotters seems rather outdated.

          whats the dining room like at TRU? how does the dining room compare to that of l2o's?

          1. re: mjm1218

            >> Charlie trotters seems rather outdated.

            Actually, I think it's quite the opposite. No other restaurant has stayed at the forefront of the culinary scene over the years better than Charlie Trotter's. And he continues to evolve and change with the times.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              I was at Trotters less than two weeks ago. I would agree with nsxtasy that Trotter has done a good job of keeping his place at or near the forefront. And he has evolved but from my view he may be sliding backwards. We were not presented with a menu just simply told what the courses were. In the past you could take the left side of the menu or the right side (one being vegetarian). This option was not presented though I am sure that a vegetarian menu could have been done. My wife might have opted for that if she knew what was on that menu. No big deal as the menu was excellent!

              We were with a group of six and the service was good-certainly not great. A couple of requests for more water ($48.00 worth on the bill), a napkin removed when one of us excused themselves but not replaced so that request was also made. A gratuity (18%) was automatically added in and I'm glad I caught that. I don't like not being told and since there were no menus there was no way of me knowing.

              No offer for a desert wine which would have been awesome with the dessert. The dessert just showed up. In fact, if there was a sommelier in the building we didn't meet them. I know my way around a wine list so that wasn't an issue and the waiter seemed very, very knowledgeable, though.

              The food was as good as I've had in Chicago in a long time. They were fantastic about avoiding the couple of food allergies/issues we had around the table. The staff was very, very nice and we were seated immediately. So it was a positive experience, I will go back, but it didn't seem to be what it used to be; though we hadn't been there in 5 years. Certainly still in the top 4-5 in an excellent dining city.

              1. re: HoosierFoodie

                >> A gratuity (18%) was automatically added in and I'm glad I caught that.

                How many were in your party? I know many restaurants that do that with large parties (typically 6 or more), few if any with parties of 2 or 4.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  "I know many restaurants that do that (add service charge) with large parties (typically 6 or more), few if any with parties of 2 or 4."

                  On Trotter's web site check the 'Grand Menu' where it states "An 18% Service Charge is Added to Each Check". So everybody gets the bite (would actually save me 2% since I usually tip 20%).

                  We are sorta planning on going to Trotter's in the fall when we return to dine at Alinea a 2nd time and in preparation I was reading a Trotter book I got from the local library called "Excellence in Service" (or something similar), basically written when they were "the top restaurant in the USA" 10 years ago.

                  In this book he says he would never add a fixed service charge at his restaurant because part of customer service excellence involved letting the customer make the decision on how much to tip.

                  Couldn't help but smile when I read it ... times change.

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                  Alinea
                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                  1. re: willyum

                    Thanks for the clarification.

                    I don't like that policy. It's not that I would tip any less than that (and you can always add on to the mandatory tip on the check if you would normally tip more). I just think it should be up to the customer to decide. At the nicest restaurants, I would expect that undertipping is relatively rare... but maybe not, since there must have been problems that led him to implement that policy.

                    I don't mind the mandatory tip when it comes to larger parties, because there have been times when I've been with a group in which people chip in and underestimate their share. It always ends up coming out of the tip unless someone notices and is willing to make up the difference by overpaying their share - both bad choices.

                2. re: HoosierFoodie

                  Did you really pay $48 for water? Was it sparkling water? For some reason, that astounds me. I've never eaten at a restaurant of that ilk (L20, TRU, Alinea, etc) so is that norm?

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                  Alinea
                  1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                  1. re: lbs

                    Top tier (and not-so top tier) restaurants typically charge a bundle for bottled water whether it be still or sparkling. I've been places (can't remember where) when we were charged for purified tap water in a glass carafe. That annoyed me.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      I've never been in a restaurant that didn't have tap water available for free. And yes, most places nowadays also offer bottled water for an extra charge.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Ah, but this wasn't just tap water -- it was PURIFIED tap water. And in a nice carafe. Seriously.

                        1. re: chicgail

                          Charging for it would have annoyed me, too!

                          1. re: chicgail

                            Was it in a Britta carafe? :) I would of been annoyed. Thanks for the feedback - both of you! I was asking in seriousness and not snarkiness so I appreciate that!

                            1. re: lbs

                              I would have laughed out loud if it had been a Britta carafe. No, it was a frosted, embossed carafe with the restaurant's name on it.

                      2. re: lbs

                        Yes on the water and it was bottled. Figi brand....if I remember correctly. I'm sure we went through a lot of it. I expected a charge and I've seen prices that high before just a comment. Sort of brings their wine pricing into perspective!

                        I understand the gratuity on tables of 6 but without it stated on a menu I had no way of knowing. I'm not in the habit of checking websites of restaurants before go. Maybe should start. I know that in large groups there is a greater possibility of some jerk who thinks 5% is ample. I'm not sure what I think of the auto gratuity for any size party.

              2. Definitely L2O. The food tastes better. Some of TRU's dishes just don't work for me (including the dessert tasting). I also prefer L2O's service. TRU's a bit robotic and impersonal for my taste.

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                L2O
                2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

                1. Both L2o and Tru are fantastic - so is Trotter's. While I personally give the edge to L2o, you can't go wrong with any of them.

                  Of course, you could do the tasting at Trotter's and then head over to TRU for the dessert tasting........I did.........and it may be the best 5 hour dining experience outside the extended tasting at The French Laundry (and it cost about half as much). :-)

                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                  1. L2O wants a credit card to reserve a table on Opentable.com Is this commonplace in Chicago? I don't care for the practice. Would they do the same on the phone?

                    I had finally made a decision, but now i'm back to wondering about Tru. Also debating calling Schwa, just for the hell of it...but I know if I were so lucky as to get a rez, I'd never be able to cancel it if I decided to go elsewhere. (Were talking 6 weeks from now)

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                    L2O
                    2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: danna

                      "L2O wants a credit card to reserve a table on Opentable.com Is this commonplace in Chicago? I don't care for the practice. Would they do the same on the phone?"
                      ___________________________________

                      This is commonplace at many restaurants, not just in Chicago.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        really? I can't ever recall being asked for a credit card in NYC (or in the South either, for that matter, but NYC is just where i would expect it...if anywhere). The last time this happened was at L'Etoile in Madison several years ago. I was starting to think it was a midwest thing.

                        1. re: danna

                          Credit card info is being required at NYC top-tier restaurants (Per Se, Momofuku Ko, L'Atelier Joel Robuchon) when reservations are made, and a number of restaurants require it for holidays too.

                          1. re: ellenost

                            Yes, it's common for the top-tier restaurants in Chicago, New York, and other major cities. In most cases you have up to a certain point (24-72 hours in advance) to cancel without a penalty, but if you don't cancel and you don't show up, there is usually a charge. Opentable explains such policies in detail, and they should do so over the phone as well.

                            1. re: ellenost

                              Daniel, as well. And every single place in NYC that I called last year for NYE reservations. :-)

                              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                              1. re: uhockey

                                weird. did you have a large party? In the last 2-3 years my husband and I have eaten at Babbo, Scarpetta, Convivio, and Cru (now deceased , I believe) and none of them wanted a cc. I didn't realize I was slumming it ;-) It's obviously been too long since I was at Daniel.

                                hey, wait...i just realized you wrote New Year's Eve. I imagine that's a little different.

                                So, anyhow, I suppose I now have to decide if I can get over my pique...or not. I really liked the looks of L2O on the Bourdain show. But I loved Tru way back around the turn of the millenium.

                                1. re: danna

                                  Many top tier restaurants in major cities around the world now ask for credit card information because the frequency of no-shows means they have turned other people away and will lose money on the lost reservation. This assures that people will show up or -- if they don't -- the restaurant can at least recover part of the tap.

                                  1. re: chicgail

                                    Been to both and I would overwhelmingly recommend L2O over Tru. By a wide margin.

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                                    L2O
                                    2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

                                  2. re: danna

                                    Babbo required a card when I went there. Scarpetta I walked in and sat at the bar and had a mindblowing meal. :-)

                                    http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                    1. re: danna

                                      Just put that card down and let Chef Gras and his team take care of you - you will not regret it.

                                      http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                      1. re: uhockey

                                        Thank you all for you posts. I went to L2o and very much enjoyed the twelve course menu. These responses were very insightful!