Been there before...
visited Chicago last fall for the first time, stayed in the E. Lakeview/Lincoln Park area and loved it. I found a number of small, inexpensive places to eat that made me really happy. I also dined at The Girl and the Goat, Frontera Grill, and Mercat a la Planxa. They were all good in their own ways, but, to be honest, the really high end fare didn't knock me out enough to warrant having spent that much money. So I'll be in Chicago again over Memorial Day weekend with my daughter and would love to hear what Chicagoans have to say about where I should take her to eat. She's a huge Rick Bayless fan so we will probably hit up Xoco or one of the other two. What else do you recommend?
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654
Girl and the Goat
809 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60661
I'm a little bit confused here, because it sounds like you might be saying that the three places you mention are "really high end fare" and too expensive. Or maybe you're not, I'm not sure. I'm trying to understand what you mean, without letting the words get in the way. What I'm having trouble with is, I don't consider those places to be "really high end fare" or all that expensive. At Girl and the Goat, entrees are mostly in the high teens, and they're in the low twenties at Frontera Grill. Depending on what you eat and drink, a typical bill at either place might be in the $60-75 range including moderate alcohol and tax/tip. (Mercat's tapas tend to wind up totalling more than that, up in the $90-100 range, in my experience.) I'm absolutely not trying to pick apart your words, but rather, I'm trying to understand whether you're looking for suggestions that might be in that same $60-75 range, or if that's too much and you're looking to spend less. I hope that makes sense, so that you can tell us what price range is acceptable to you.
Also, you don't mention whether you will again be staying and spending time in the Lakeview/Lincoln Park area, or elsewhere in the city. Knowing that would help too.
For some of our very best places without spending a huge amount of money, I'll probably be recommending Topolobampo (Mexican) for lunch, Sable (contemporary American) for dinner, and one of our deep-dish pizza places (Lou Malnati's, Uno/Due, Pizano's) for either lunch or dinner. If you're staying in Lakeview again, I'll also probably be recommending Deleece (contemporary American) for dinner and brunch, and Southport Grocery for breakfast. But I'd like to get a better sense of how much you're looking to spend before committing to those recommendations.
In the meantime, you might want to read through this discussion. It has an overview listing some of our best in various food categories, as well as advice for getting the best value for your dining dollar. It also has a lot of advice there about ethnic restaurants (Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, etc) in various neighborhoods around the city:
Where are the best Chicago dinner *values* - the hidden gems? - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/697829
You may have some more specific comments and questions after looking through that discussion, either about the ethnic places, or about the dinner specials at various places, etc.