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Visiting Memorial Weekend - Which Restaurant would you drop?

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I'll be on vacation in Chicago and have a few places already on our agenda, but can't decide which restaurant to drop between the following, any help?

1. Girl and the Goat
2. Avec
3. Table 52

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

Table fifty-two Restaurant
52 West Elm Street, Chicago, IL 60610

Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661

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  1. I would drop Table 52, but that doesn't mean it's what you should drop. Art Smith's southern upscale cooking is not as high on my preferences.

    But it's about what you like, what you can't get at home and what you want to experience here.

    The Girl and the Goat is Stephanie Izard's (of Top Chef) new place. It's a difficult reservation to get. I've not eaten there yet, but I liked her previous place a lot.

    Avec is mostly small plates in a communal table setting. Some people here hate that; others find it fun. They don't take reservations and the wait can be long. The food is very good. If I were planning on a gastropub type place, however, I would probably choose either Purple Pig, Publican, the Bristol or Eagle and Longman over Avec. Maybe that's because they are a little newer and trendier. Of those, only Publican takes reservations and E &L and the Bristol are a little outside the main tourist area (you don't say where you are staying).

    What more can you tell us about your preferences, what you want to experience and where you are staying and maybe we can give you more/better direction.

    16 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      I agree with chicgail; it all depends on what you want.

      Before I continue, though, you say that these places are "on your agenda". Do you have reservations at them? Avec, as noted, doesn't take reservations, which means you can decide at the last minute whether to go there or elsewhere. But the other two both fill up their reservations book well in advance, and if you don't have a reservation, you could be out of luck (although I've heard of people going to G&TG without a reservation and not waiting terribly long, but I wouldn't count on it). I strongly recommend getting reservations in advance for anywhere you want to go that accepts them. For places that fill up well in advance (including G&TG and Table Fifty-Two), I recommend making them NOW.

      As for the specifics of the three you mentioned, chicgail's description of Avec is very apt. I'm not a fan, for a lot of reasons - I hate waiting to be seated, it's noisy, the seats are uncomfortable, and the food hasn't impressed me - but a lot of people like it and you might like it too. The food is contemporary American with a Mediterranean focus and you can get a better feel for it by looking at the menu on their website. I haven't been to Table Fifty-Two because I've looked at the menu on their website and it just doesn't thrill me either, but again, you might like it. I've heard numerous glowing reports about G&TG and I have a reservation to go there in April, so I expect to be posting a detailed report here between now and your visit.

      Based on the places you list, I'll give you a couple of additional recommendations for your consideration. First, I really love Sable. The contemporary American food from Chef Heather Terhune is amazingly delicious! They offer full and half portion sizes on a lot of their dishes so if you want to try a lot of things like a "small plates" place, you can. They offer a huge selection of unusual artisanal cocktails. And they take reservations (including on Opentable.com). As an added bonus, the food is quite reasonably priced. If you go there, don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee!

      I would also recommend that you might want to consider broadening your itinerary, because it's mostly American now. We have a lot of great American restaurants here, but we also have so many other cuisines, I recommend throwing in something else to give your food some diversity. In particular, I'd recommend various places for other, different kinds of food including creative provincial Mexican (Topolobampo - reserve now, Salpicon, Mexique), tapas (Mercat a la Planxa, Cafe Iberico), pan-Asian (Red Light, Sunda), Latin fusion (Carnivale, Nacional 27), and Italian small plates (Quartino).

      Enjoy your visit, and feel free to ask more questions!

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Staying at the Palomar..Michigan Ave/Wacker roughly.

        My preference is I want the best Chicago has the offer. We do have a slight weakness for great pastas. Our trip is about a week and we have the following planned thus far:

        Lunchs
        Topolobampo or Fontera Grill (Reservations already)
        Hot Dougs
        Burt's Place
        XOCO

        Dinners
        Graham Elliott
        Alinea
        Next (hopefully)
        Tru
        Spaggia

        Snacks
        Murphy's Red Hot
        Johnnie's Beef
        Ann Sathers
        Old Fashioned Donuts
        Maxwell Street Market
        Kurowski Sausage Shop

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        Alinea
        1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

        Hot Doug's
        3324 N California Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

        Old Fashioned Donuts
        11248 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60628

        Topolobampo
        445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

        Burt's Place
        8541 N Ferris Ave, Morton Grove, IL

        Kurowski Sausage Shop
        2976 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60618

        Johnnie's Beef
        1935 S Arlington Heights Rd, Arlington Heights, IL 60005

        1. re: albatruffles

          Sable is right in your hotel!!!

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Looks good. Maybe we'll give it a shot.

          2. re: albatruffles

            Skip Sathers

            Really not worth your time.

            1. re: delk

              Not ever for the cinnamon buns?

              1. re: albatruffles

                I'm not a big sweets-eater, so take this for what it's worth: no.

                1. re: chicgail

                  I AM a big sweets eater - and I agree: no.

                  When I want a great cinnamon roll, I go to Fox & Obel for their cinnamon swirl rolls. They're not overloaded with cinnamon, and they use a very rich dough. Sheer heaven for this sweets eater.

            2. re: albatruffles

              Everyone has his or her own list of favorites, and that list has only a little bit of overlap with mine. Where it really misses out, I think, is in the "snacks" category, where any list ought to start with Garrett's Popcorn and Fox & Obel (even if only for the baked goods). You'll find a discussion of what Chicago does especially well, and where to experience the best of Chicago, in this topic:

              first time Chicago - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693477

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Had Garrett's on the agenda, just didn't mention since we will probably go the last day and take on the plane back to LA. Same with Kurowski's.

                What am I missing with Fox & Obel? Looks like a cool place for locals, but as a tourist it looks like standard casual American cuisine. The baked goods looked like the standouts in the pics. Plus, like you said, I feel that we are already heavy on American food.

                Regarding your link...your pizza and hot dog places made the top 5 in our preference, but got booted to Perquads/Burts and Murphy's/Wiener Circle. Al's was our #2 to Johnnie's. So, we are not that far off.

                The French Market may be worth checking out. Does Chicago have a Farmers' Market that is considered the best?

                Thanks thus far for your help.

                1. re: albatruffles

                  >> Had Garrett's on the agenda, just didn't mention since we will probably go the last day and take on the plane back to LA.

                  If you're flying from O'Hare, the easiest way to do that is to wait till you get to the airport, and buy it there. Garrett's has stores in Terminal 1 (United) and Terminal 3 (American) and they make it there, so it's just as fresh as their stores downtown, with everything but the long lines. (No store at Midway, sorry.)

                  >> What am I missing with Fox & Obel? Looks like a cool place for locals, but as a tourist it looks like standard casual American cuisine. The baked goods looked like the standouts in the pics. Plus, like you said, I feel that we are already heavy on American food.

                  Fox & Obel is our premier gourmet grocery store, with the best of everything. Baked goods and prepared foods (including salads and sandwiches) are the most likely to appeal to visitors from out of town, while fresh meats and fish probably aren't going to be on your agenda.

                  >> Regarding your link...your pizza and hot dog places made the top 5 in our preference, but got booted to Perquads/Burts and Murphy's/Wiener Circle. Al's was our #2 to Johnnie's. So, we are not that far off.

                  Fair enough.

                  >> Does Chicago have a Farmers' Market that is considered the best?

                  The Green City Market ( www.greencitymarket.org ) is generally considered the best in the city; the one in Evanston ( www.cityofevanston.org/evanston-life/... ) is perhaps the best in the suburbs.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Much appreciated on Garrett's and the Farmers' Market!!!

                    1. re: albatruffles

                      Worth noting that the Evanston Farmer's Market is only on Saturdays between May and October. The Green City Market is only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays between May and October. There is an indoor Green City Market two Saturdays a month before the May outdoor opening. You can check the dates here.
                      http://www.greencitymarket.org/calend...

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                      Green City Market
                      1750 N Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

                      1. re: chicgail

                        good to know, perfect

              2. re: albatruffles

                For what it's worth, I would also drop Graham Elliot (along with Ann Sathers, as others have mentioned). Being a "celebrity chef," Graham gets a lot of pub, but many others in the same area/price range offer better food and ambiance. MK and Sepia both come to mind.

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                Graham Elliot
                217 W. Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60654

                1. re: Possumlad

                  Ann Sathers is officially off the agenda!!!

                  Looked at your recs. I'd keep Graham over MK, but my girlfriend and I will look into Sepia further. They had a few dishes that looked really good. I don't want to be swayed by just celebrity chefs, but Graham's food still looked very cool.