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Feb 18, 2011 08:29 AM

An Alternative to TRU?

Hello Chicago Chowhound Contributors:

I'll be in Chicago in mid-March for four nights dining solo. I already have three restaurants chosen (Sable, Mexique, and Avenues) and I'm trying to find a fourth. I had a really phenomenal meal at TRU a year and a half ago and I could easily go back there. However, I would like to consider another fine dining experience. I am not considering Alinea (dined there very recently) or Everest (will be going with a friend soon) or Spiaggia (not interested in Italian) or Schwa for this trip. Can anyone make comparisons between TRU and Charlie Trotters, Sixteen, Ria, and Naha? For this meal I am interested in food with complex taste combinations, interesting wine pairings, and at least a moderately quiet room. I'm staying near TRU, but I am willing to go anywhere as long as it's convenient to public transportation. Thank you very much for any assistance.

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

Charlie Trotter's
816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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  1. One place that I do not see on your list is L2O. While there have been many positive and negative posts on the dining experience, I can say that I loved my meal there (and I ate post-Laurent Gras). I can't really speak towards your other suggestions, but if you want a great fine dining seafood experience, I would definitely consider L2O

    2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

    1. Your itinerary sounds great so far! I'm not sure I would add a second fine dining dinner since you already have one (Avenues), but hey, I'm sure you're aware of that. Anyway...

      Charlie Trotter's has everything you're looking for and it's the one I would recommend, based on what you've specified. The food is great (complex and creative), the wine pairings and list are great, the room isn't overly noisy, the service is exceptional, etc. Sixteen, aside from the food being not quite on the same level of complexity, I found that the room was surprisingly noisy, surprising because the tables are spaced quite far apart. I guess the huge glass windows and high ceilings contribute to the noise level. Ria, I had a bad experience (dreadful service and only so-so food), but aside from that, it too is fairly noisy (you wouldn't expect it based on looking at the room, but for whatever reason the noise carries and we could hear conversations from across the room), and their chef Jason McLeod recently left. Naha really isn't a fine dining restaurant in the same category as the others you mention - no tasting menus, no "armies" of servers, and of course not as expensive either; rather, it's an excellent "casual finer dining" restaurant (like Sable and dozens of others around town). The only other high-end places here that you haven't mentioned are Carlos, which is thorougly excellent but is in the suburbs 25 miles north of downtown, and L2O (where I've had inept wine service) and Les Nomades. I'll also add that every one of these restaurants (other than Alinea) has had at least someone who had a bad experience there, but I think they all deserve consideration - even ones where I'VE been disappointed - because plenty of other people have enjoyed meals at each of them. I'm saying this in the hope that perhaps we can rehash the endless arguments from those (including me) who have had a bad experience at one particular place or another. It's possible to have a great meal at any of these.

      If you'd consider adding something a little different to your itinerary rather than another high-end place, just to throw out an example taking into account your interest in fine dining, I'd consider Shanghai Terrace. They offer really creative Chinese cuisine in a very upscale atmosphere (it's in the luxurious Peninsula Hotel, on the opposite side of the Lobby restaurant from Avenues). It's an interesting take on Chinese, and the food and service are exceptional (as long as you don't mind paying contemporary American prices for Chinese food). Anyway, it's just a thought, and I hope I've also answered your question!

      2 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        I pretty much agree with nsxtasy-all good recs. I was at Trotter's in July and had a lack luster meal from a service and wine service. The food was wonderful but nothing really bad but a far cry from my previous Trotter's experiences. Shanghai Terrace is an interesting suggestion. Its been a while since I've been but it generally flies under the radar.

        I love L20 but have not been post-Gras. If the quality hasn't dropped, and I don't know either way, that would be my recommendation. I think that Les Nomades is under-rated and it pretty well fits your requirements.

        Naha is fabulous but I don't believe they offer a tasting menu.

        Shanghai Terrace
        108 E Superior, Chicago, IL 60611

        Les Nomades
        222 E Ontario, Chicago, IL 60611

        500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

        1. re: HoosierFoodie

          My recent experience at Trotters in November was similar to yours. I would not choose it again.

          I also am crazy about Naha and, yes, the menu is a la carte.

          It's been a while since I've been to Tru, which was wonderful and I haven't been to Sixteen or Ria.

          500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

      2. So much for any ability to refrain from rehashing all our bad or so-so experiences. Mine have been at L2O, Sixteen, and Ria, and I would not choose any of those again.