Long-time Chicagoans looking for the new
My husband and I will have a rare weekend sans kid in a few weeks, and we're looking for recommendations of new, exciting places to eat. We've been out of circulation for about a year and a half, but previously our favorite fun spots included Schwa, Alinea, North Pond, Lula, Kaze (RIP), and the original iteration of Custom House.
We have reservations at the Girl and the Goat. We've been to the Publican once and loved it. Where else are those in the know headed these days? We'll be staying on the Mag Mile and are willing to travel all over town.
I've searched this board but keep coming up with the usual recs for out-of-towners. I want to know what's new, superb, and unusual. Pretend that price is no barrier; we'll sort it out.
Here are the new/newish restaurants I've been to that really impressed me the most.
Leading the list is Inovasi, which is in far north suburban Lake Bluff. I've had dinner there twice and both times it was simply outstanding. I could go on and on but it's easier to give you the link where I wrote detailed reports on both dinners: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/687962
I also loved my dinner at Cibo Matto, the new restaurant in the Wit Hotel in the Loop. The food is Italian although many of the dishes would be equally at home in a contemporary American bistro. Don't miss the dessert featuring a cardamom panna cotta.
Those two are the best new restaurants where I've eaten. I would also stretch the definition of "new" to include another place where I've had superb food, Cafe des Architectes in the Sofitel off Michigan Avenue. Although CdA has been around for a while, it's only been a couple of years since they hired Chef Martial Noguier, whose cooking continues to impress me.
Three other new/newish restaurants that I've also enjoyed serve creative Mexican cuisine: Mexique in West Town, Yolo in Skokie, and Amelia's in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. I've also really enjoyed two dinners at Bistro Bordeaux, the new French bistro in Evanston.
New restaurants where I have dined but was not as overwhelmed include the Publican (some food very good, dreadful desserts but they have since hired a new pastry chef, and WAY TOO NOISY); Sixteen, in the Trump Hotel (food was decent but just didn't wow); L2O (again, food was decent but just didn't wow); Chilam Balam (seems like they were trying to make their Mexican food different without making it taste really great); Lockwood (dreadful service resulted in food arriving lukewarm); and Hot Doug's (ridiculously long waits on line for so-so food).
Places that have received a lot of buzz but where I have not yet been include Girl and the Goat, Graham Elliot, and the Purple Pig. I am also especially eager to try Sable, since I enjoyed Chef Heather Terhune's cooking so much at Atwood Cafe.
So that's what I can tell you about new places I have (and haven't) been to. That being said, there are so very many great places around Chicago that have been around for years, it would be a shame to ignore the very best places that are still as great as ever, especially if you've never been there - which means it's still new TO YOU. Most of us (including me!) have not been to every well-regarded restaurant in the city. You name a couple of places that I would consider "don't miss" spots and would recommend to any other longtime resident who hasn't been there: Alinea and North Pond. If I had to name one more restaurant as a "don't miss", a place where I've had some of the very best dinners in recent years, it would be Michael, in north suburban Winnetka, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary. I could go on and on about my fantastic meals there, but I've already posted detailed reports on several of them, so you can read them at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/351457
Don't exclude Inovasi and Michael because of their suburban location; both are a 2-minute walk from Metra commuter train stops where service back to the city runs well into the evening.