Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Jan 9, 2011 05:43 PM

Thoughts on Ria

Hi Chicago Hounds....NY Hound here, will be in Chicago next month. Made a res. at Ria, and would like to get your thoughts on the place. Overall impressions, favorite dishes, etc.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I ate dinner there last month and it was a disaster, with numerous problems with the food as well as the service. I described them at length in a detailed report in this topic:

    Opinions of Ria please -

    11 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      thanks've provided much food for thought (yeah..I went there). You encountered some of my restaurant pet peeves which will certainly factor into whether or not I keep this res. I was hoping to find the "next great thing" in Chicago....been to Alinea (in it's own class), Tru, Blackbird, Avec, Mercat, Frontera, L20, Boka etc. Is it Everest? Avenues? Schwa? Come forth Chicago.

      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

      Avec Restaurant
      615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

      1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

      1. re: drumwine

        Given the recent reviews I've seen of Avenues, that would be my first choice.

        At a visit to Everest a few months ago I encountered wonderful food, but gaffe after gaffe service-wise. And other people have echoed my experience. Very disappointing for a restaurant that has been around as long as Everest.

        Schwa is a unique experience. If you can get a reservation it might be worth it. I didn't love the food, but others have and I do want to go back to give it another try. A recent poster here noted that they closed the night he had a reservation with no warning and no reason given. Unless someone died, that's just weird, inappropriate, and bad business.

        1. re: drumwine

          Your question about the "next great thing" covers a lot of ground, because some of the places you mention are expensive, chef-driven high-end places and others are mid-priced and more casual a la carte type places.

          Not many truly high-end places open up in any given year. Most of them have been around a a long time, especially Everest and Avenues (although it's only been a couple of years since Chef Duffy took over at the latter). I don't think any place is worthy of that tag in the high-end group.

          Among more casual restaurants, there are always many good ones. (I ate at Boka last month and enjoyed it.) There are always some that get lots of media buzz - of which the current leaders are the Girl and the Goat, and the Purple Pig - while others don't get the buzz but may be equally good. For one of the latter, I love Sable, in the Hotel Palomar. They've been open about a year. They serve artisanal cocktails, and hired away their chief mixologist from the Violet Hour. Chef Heather Terhune, who spent ten years in charge of Atwood Cafe, runs the kitchen, and the contemporary food is fantastic. Don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee!

          The "next great thing" will probably be Next, the new restaurant that Grant Achatz is involved in, but it's not open yet. For places receiving the most buzz lately, check out Chicago Magazine's "hot list" at

          1. re: nsxtasy

            I did just read (maybe in Zagat's weekly email) that Ria was just revamped, not major changes, but hopefully fixing the issues.

            1. re: jbontario

              Thanks very much for the feedback & ideas...will tuck into the thought bank.
              nsxtasy...."next great thing" was offered as a 3-way pun on G. Achatz's project, my next potentially swoon-full meal, & what's "hot" in your town. Was meant to cover a lot of ground.
              And I love sweet corn creme brulee! Good call. If you're ever in NYC, Quality Meats has one of the best.

              1. re: jbontario

                >> I did just read (maybe in Zagat's weekly email) that Ria was just revamped, not major changes, but hopefully fixing the issues.

                What I heard is that the temporary closing for a couple of weeks is for a revamp of the interior and research on changes to the menu. Unfortunately, neither of those were the problem areas we experienced in our ill-fated dinner. OTOH I have heard that Ria heard about my post and took it to heart, so maybe they have made the changes needed. So much of it was really basic stuff too, stuff that every restaurant should already know (like not trying to clear plates when people aren't done eating, like asking about coffee, etc).

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Did Ria contact you regarding your post? How did you know that your post had reached them? I'm curious.

                  1. re: mountsac

                    I have not been in contact with them. A friend went since then and was chatting with them, and they said they had heard the comments I posted.

            2. re: drumwine

              If you can get into Schwa its a must. No, it is not impeccable service, the music is loud, they only play rap, and they are most likely stoned the entire time, but the food is as inventive and unpretentious as any fine dining in the city. Had it not been for the 24 seats and lack of attentive staff it certainly would have received 2 stars on food merit alone. Michael Carlson is tremendous and its BYO so you can save a couple hundred vs. the Trus and Avenues of the world.

              1. re: sommerw1

                Beware, even if you get a reservation at Schwa, they may cancel it on you at the last minute. See

                1. re: sommerw1

                  They play metal, as well. :-) We heard some Slayer during the beef s'mores course.

                  That said, yes they are not the most refined service and yes they may just cancel on you at the last minute, but if you can get in there the "bang for the buck" is unmatched.


            3. Nsxtasy has commented on how terrible the meal there was. I had the opposite experience and truly loved the whole experience. For me, the service is what set it aside, the perfect balance of high-end chic restaurant without too much pretentiousness.

              I loved Ria and think it deserves that 2nd Michilen star it got!

              I am always really really happy at Boka, too.

              1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

              1 Reply
              1. re: Chargenda

                My meal wasn't terrible, but it was FLAWED. And the things that went wrong were things that shouldn't go wrong anywhere, not even at your neighborhood Chili's - trying to clear plates from diners who are still eating, failure to bring sweetener with iced tea, failure to ask if we wanted coffee service, failure to pour equal portions, undercooked food, tiny portions, etc. This wasn't one or two things; problems occurred throughout the meal. Most of those are likely due to improper training of the staff. Maybe they have improved since last month, maybe they haven't. But based on my dinner, it doesn't deserve one star, and doesn't even deserve a mention. It was an absolute embarrassment for a restaurant that is supposed to be a high-end place.

                I ate at Boka later the same week. Now, let's keep in mind that Boka is not as high-end a place, nowhere near as expensive and not trying for the same somewhat formal dining experience. But Boka really had its act together, with the servers, busstaff, and runners all doing their jobs flawlessly. I even noticed a very impressive way the service staff dealt with one particular situation during the meal. The contrast with Ria was like night and day.

              2. My experience was also the opposite of nsxtasy. I loved it. International level quality; beautiful presentation, perfect execution. I loved every bite and can't wait to return when they re-open soon. IMHO better than Avenues and L20.

                1 Reply
                1. re: DutchOenophile

                  I also like Ria. While nsxtasy is entitled to his / her view based on a single visit, consider how likely it is that many other reviewers, not to mention the professional Michelin inspectors, are off the mark by so much. Although do bear bear in mind many of the objections raised around service are not Michelin star criteria, which may explain some of divergence. It is at least possible that the visit described is something of an outlier, not representative of the overall restaurant experience.
                  For what it is worth I thought the food at Ria (based on the tasting menu) was generally very good, creative, flavorful and well cooked, with a few hits and near-misses. Impossible to say after one visit if it is worthy of two M stars, but from my visit definitely in the frame to be that caliber.
                  I also agree with previous poster though who steered you towards Avenues - it is an unfair comparison as I have been to Avenues 6 or 7 times versus Ria only once, but it is outstanding and essentially is fairly new from a cuisine perspective as Curtis Duffy has only been there a couple of years as nsxtasy pointed out.
                  Curtis Duffy trained under Grant Achatz, first at Trio in Evanston (now closed) and then at Alinea where he was ultimately Chef de Cuisine. Duffy is featured in Michael Rhulman's book the Reach of Chef which covers Achatz extensively.
                  So I would go to Avenues, but don't write off Ria.

                2. Executive chef Jason McLeod has left Ria, according to the report at