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danna Sep 7, 2010 02:34 PM

I've learned not to say "I'm coming to Chicago, where should I eat?" So...

I have dinner reservations on Thursday at L2O and Friday at The Girl and the Goat. Periodically I try to call Schwa just for the hell of it, no answer so far. Which one of the above should I sacrifice if I get through? If I got so lucky...could I get a cab in that neighborhood after dinner?

I haven't decided where I'm staying yet, but it will probably be the James, Intercontinental, the Wit, or the Elysian if I strike gold in the back yard before Sept 30th. I want to get some Italian Beef for my husband's nostalgia lunch on Thursday. Would like it not to be too far out of the way or a terrible line.

On Friday, I need a lunch spot. not too heavy, hopefully. I also need a lunch/brunch for Saturday, but it CAN be a feed-bag...I'm having a country club dinner on Sat night so I don't need to save too much stomach room. Blackbird, avec, topo, frontera, purple pig , bristol, bongo room....I dunno what's open for lunch. Our non-food activities - so you know what parts of town we'll be in - will include the Contemporary art museum (calder!) , maybe the Shedd or Field, window shopping/strolling Bucktown/Wicker Park, a bit of running in Grant park.

Macarons excite me, quality frozen yogurt excites my husband. We might be interested in after dinner drinks in a scenic location that doesn't have a velvet rope or a scene. Violet hour? Rootstock?

Finally, I've already gotten some advice about restuarants going from Bloomingdale to O'Hare on Sunday morning, but I'll take more if you have them. Any swanky spots for drinks (or just fun or decent) after the country club event in Bloomingdale Sat night would be appreciated.

Thanks SO much!

-----
L2O
2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

  1. nsxtasy Sep 7, 2010 03:23 PM

    >> I have dinner reservations on Thursday at L2O and Friday at The Girl and the Goat. Periodically I try to call Schwa just for the hell of it, no answer so far. Which one of the above should I sacrifice if I get through?

    These are really different kinds of places; if you have a strong (or weak) affinity for high-end dining specializing in seafood, casual contemporary American dining, or leading-edge molecular gastronomy, that ought to guide your decision. (Personally, I wasn't all that impressed with L2O, and I haven't been to GatG, although I've heard good reports.)

    >> If I got so lucky...could I get a cab in that neighborhood after dinner?

    Yes, for all three. L2O is in trendy Lincoln Park on a stretch full of residential high-rises; GatG is on a stretch of Randolph in the West Loop full of restaurants; and Schwa is on a very busy street in Wicker Park. All bode well for finding cabs.

    >> I haven't decided where I'm staying yet, but it will probably be the James, Intercontinental, the Wit, or the Elysian if I strike gold in the back yard before Sept 30th. I want to get some Italian Beef for my husband's nostalgia lunch on Thursday. Would like it not to be too far out of the way or a terrible line.

    Portillo's on Ontario is just a few blocks from the James and Intercontinental, and about half a mile from the other two.

    >> On Friday, I need a lunch spot. not too heavy, hopefully. I also need a lunch/brunch for Saturday, but it CAN be a feed-bag...I'm having a country club dinner on Sat night so I don't need to save too much stomach room. Blackbird, avec, topo, frontera, purple pig , bristol, bongo room....I dunno what's open for lunch. Our non-food activities - so you know what parts of town we'll be in - will include the Contemporary art museum (calder!) , maybe the Shedd or Field, window shopping/strolling Bucktown/Wicker Park, a bit of running in Grant park.

    For Friday lunch, Blackbird is good but not that convenient to where you will be. Avec and Bristol are not open for lunch on either day. Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are both open for lunch on Fridays, and convenient to the hotels (see above regarding nearby Portillo's for distances). You can reserve at Topo for lunch via Opentable, or try for one of the limited reservations at Frontera over the phone. Frontera Grill is open for brunch on Saturdays, same deal regarding reservations. David Burke's Primehouse, also in River North near Topo, is a great steakhouse and a great place for lunch (they also have good burgers at lunchtime). Cafe Spiaggia is good for Italian food for lunch and is near the Elysian. When you're at the Shedd and Field, Bongo Room is close by; while their breakfast pancakes are fantastic, their lunch fare is just okay. Also near the museums is Lou Malnati's at 8th and State for deep-dish pizza; call ahead with your pizza order to avoid a long wait while it bakes. And Hackney's has good burgers, French dip (roast beef sandwiches), and fried onion loaf. When you're in Bucktown/Wicker Park, you can go to the other location of Bongo Room, or Belly Shack is another good choice there. Burke's, Cafe Spiaggia, Bongo Room, Malnati's, Hackney's, and Belly Shack are all open for lunch on Fridays and Saturdays.

    >> We might be interested in after dinner drinks in a scenic location that doesn't have a velvet rope or a scene. Violet hour? Rootstock?

    The Violet Hour is interesting, and is not far from Schwa. I've never heard of Rootstock. A couple of places near the hotels are Bin 36 (a wine bar) and Pops for Champagne. And the bar at the Signature Room, on top of the Hancock, is a popular place to get a drink with a view.

    10 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy
      danna Sep 24, 2010 07:09 AM

      Thanks! Here's the itenerary:

      Thursday - lunch Portillo's, dinner L2O

      Friday - morning pastry Fox & Obel, lunch [Jam,Bongo Room, Frontera/Topo] dinner Girl and Goat

      Saturday - morning pastry ?, lunch Purple Pig, dinner at a country club in the burbs. Drinks afterward in Bloomingdale...still no recs.

      Sunday brunch in the 'burbs - still deciding, maybe Shaw's

      Questions: does this look OK? no repetitve? no clinkers? You said Bongo Room's lunch wasn't special...can you get the breakfast at lunchtime, or does it stop? Do you think we'd be wasting a meal to get a breakfast type thing anyway? Perhaps Frontera/Topo is a better idea? What about Bouchon? Is that still good?

      I have wound up at the James (ontario and rush). We may try to walk back from G&G to the James after dinner. Are any of the drinks places you mentioned near that route? Or am I just as well served to use the free drink coupons at the bar in the hotel? (i think it's where Burke's Prime HOuse is)

      My husband wants to know if Portillo's is really good. He's suspicious of anything that's conveniently located to Michigan ave ;-) He also wonders if Manny's Deli is still around.

      Thanks!

      -----
      Bongo Room
      1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

      L2O
      2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

      1. re: danna
        nsxtasy Sep 24, 2010 08:37 AM

        >> Questions: does this look OK? no repetitve? no clinkers?

        Yes, it looks fine. Personally, I think there are better choices for an expensive meal than L2O, but a lot of other people have a higher opinion of it than I do.

        >> You said Bongo Room's lunch wasn't special...can you get the breakfast at lunchtime, or does it stop? Do you think we'd be wasting a meal to get a breakfast type thing anyway?

        They serve the same menu all day long. The lunch items (sandwiches, salads) are decent but not unusual. The pancakes are unusual. It might be overload to follow pastries for breakfast with pancakes for lunch. OTOH you could get a partial order of pancakes to go with a sandwich/salad. Another option would be to do Bongo Room for breakfast and have a more savory (less sweet) meal for lunch.

        >> Perhaps Frontera/Topo is a better idea?

        I think our creative Mexican restaurants are one of our real local treasures. I would strongly consider doing Bongo Room for a breakfast one day, and making a reservation on Opentable for a lunch at Topolobampo (so you don't have to deal with the lines at Frontera).

        >> What about Bouchon? Is that still good?

        Le Bouchon is a French bistro in Bucktown. I haven't been there, but I've eaten several times at La Sardine, its sister restaurant (same ownership/management) in the West Loop. It's very good, if you enjoy French bistro food. I love their chocolate souffle with creme anglaise.

        >> I have wound up at the James (ontario and rush). We may try to walk back from G&G to the James after dinner. Are any of the drinks places you mentioned near that route? Or am I just as well served to use the free drink coupons at the bar in the hotel? (i think it's where Burke's Prime HOuse is)

        Yes, Burke's is in the James. Bin 36 is in Marina City (the two towers that look like corn cobs), which is on the river, so if you walk back via Wacker Drive, it's right on the way. Pops is on the way, too; from the James, it's two blocks west and one block south.

        >> My husband wants to know if Portillo's is really good. He's suspicious of anything that's conveniently located to Michigan ave ;-)

        It depends on what you mean by "really good". Portillo's is a really good place to get local specialties such as Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, as well as burgers and such. But it's not fancy at all; it's strictly in the cheap eats category. But the foods are well prepared, and cooked to order (you stand in line to place your order, pick it up at the other end of their assembly line).

        >> He also wonders if Manny's Deli is still around.

        Yes, it's still around, in the South Loop. Personally, my favorite Jewish deli is Steve's Deli, which is walkable from the James.

        1. re: nsxtasy
          danna Sep 24, 2010 11:11 AM

          again, thanks...you're a trove of information.

          I'm envious of those who can eat a full breakfast, lunch and dinner...but I can't manage 3 restaurant meals in a day. so I'm afraid it's Bongo Room OR a Bayless spot. Sounds like you vote Bayless. Only thing is...i really didn't want to make a res. for lunch...I don't want to be that structured. Maybe Xoco?

          And thanks on Portillo's. My husband is nostalgic for Italian beef from when he was a kid visiting Chicago. Sounds perfect for him. And good for me too...because it's not really my thing, so I can save up stomach room. I understand you're not a huge L20 fan, but I hear it has phenomenal bread service, and bread is crack to me. Also both husband and myself prefer seafood over most other forms of protein, so I have high, high hopes for L20!

          -----
          Bongo Room
          1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

          XOCO
          449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

          1. re: danna
            nsxtasy Sep 24, 2010 11:28 AM

            >> I'm envious of those who can eat a full breakfast, lunch and dinner...but I can't manage 3 restaurant meals in a day.

            Neither can I!

            >> so I'm afraid it's Bongo Room OR a Bayless spot. Sounds like you vote Bayless.

            Not necessarily. I think both are excellent at what they do, so you have to decide which one sounds better TO YOU. Looking at the menus may help, on the Bayless website at www.rickbayless.com/menu and on Menupages at http://chicago.menupages.com/restaurants/bongo-room-2

            >> Only thing is...i really didn't want to make a res. for lunch...I don't want to be that structured. Maybe Xoco?

            Without a reservation, you're taking your chances. Topolobampo will probably be full, and Frontera Grill and XOCO may both have long waits. I've been to all three, and all three are good at what they do. However, the food at XOCO is not as unusual; they call it "Mexican street fare", and you can find similar food in any city in the United States. Whereas the food at Topo/Frontera is a lot more different, featuring more unusual ingredients and techniques. Their menus are posted on the Bayless website, so you may want to take a look over there to help make your decision.

            Oh, and I forgot to make one comment about the previous post:

            >> Sunday brunch in the 'burbs - still deciding, maybe Shaw's

            I think Shaw's brunch is an excellent choice, as long as you would like seafood for brunch. I'm guessing you read my recent report about their Sunday brunch in the brunch topic at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/364403 AFAIK the buffet at their Schaumburg location is identical to the one downtown.

            P.S. Thanks for the kind words!

            1. re: danna
              uhockey Sep 24, 2010 02:58 PM

              The bread service at L2o blows every other restaurant outside of Joel Robuchon at the Mansion out of the water - and while Nsxtasy is not a fan, I personally rank it as the 5th best meal of my life - behind Alinea, Extended Tastings at Per Se and The French Laundry, and Vidalia24 under Chef RJ Cooper. I think what Gras does with fish is on par with Le Bernardin as the some of the best I've ever had, as well - and his Foie Gras in Cotton Candy with Bee Pollen is the best single dish I've ever eaten.

              I am a fan but could also make a very strong case for Trotter's and (of course) Alinea. I can eat 3 meals a day - sometimes 4 (Trotter's tasting followed by TRU dessert tasting.) :-)

              http://uhockey.blogspot.com

              -----
              Alinea
              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: uhockey
                nsxtasy Sep 24, 2010 03:14 PM

                The meal I had at L2O reminds me of uhockey's comment about another restaurant, which he said " was 'fine.' I don't go out of my way for 'fine.'" I thought it was pretty good, but nothing really "wowed" me. When I'm paying $75-100 per person inclusive, that would be okay. When I'm paying twice as much money the way I was at L2O, a restaurant should wow me; many of the dishes should be exceedingly delicious and memorable. The only item I felt that way about was the small complimentary canele at the end of the meal. Dinner wasn't bad; it just wasn't good enough to justify the high price tag. For half as much money as L2O, I've had far better dinners at North Pond, Tallgrass, Michael, and Vie; for one third the price, I've had far better dinners at Cafe des Architectes and Inovasi.

                I've had dinners at some of the most expensive restaurants in Chicago, including Alinea, Everest, Charlie Trotter's, and Spiaggia, all of which were exceptional, candidates for my personal "best dinner of the year". L2O wasn't anywhere near the ballpark.

          2. re: danna
            chicgail Sep 25, 2010 07:46 AM

            I like lunch at Bongo Room. They have excellent and very large salads and some very good sandwiches as well if you don't want breakfast at 1 pm. That being said, Topo is a much more unique experience.

            I would personally skip L20 for Tru or Trotter or Schwa or Spiaggia or Everest, but I know that opinions differ on this. And it's not surprising. I don't mind spending $25 for a lunch that's meh, but if I'm spending upwards of $300, I want it to be worth my while. And that's why people's opinions are so strong on these top tier places. The top tier joints just don't get to have clinker nights and expect good recommendations or repeat customers.

            I happen to love both LeBouchon and The Bristol. Both are in a neighborhood north of the central tourist area where you are staying, but it is that neighborhood you wanted to window shop. I just don't think either one is open for lunch.

            -----
            Bongo Room
            1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

            Spiaggia
            980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

            1. re: chicgail
              nsxtasy Sep 25, 2010 08:28 AM

              Le Bouchon, like its sister restaurant La Sardine, is open for lunch. This may be a recent thing for Le Bouchon, as it's website says "now open for lunch", implying this was not always the case.

              1. re: nsxtasy
                chicgail Sep 25, 2010 08:45 AM

                Thanks for the update. I'm sure they'll be seeing me for lunch one of these days.

          3. re: nsxtasy
            h
            harken banks Sep 24, 2010 03:18 PM

            >> I've never heard of Rootstock.

            Nsxtasy...your knowledge usually seems to have no limits. You've never heard of Rootstock??? I'll admit I've not been there yet, but it has a great buzz in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

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