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NYC Hound Coming Back to Chicago at the end of June

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This will be the 3rd or 4th time in the city, so looking to fill on gaps from previous trips. Will be arriving Tuesday midday (June 28) and leaving Friday midday (July 1).

Even though we love Alinea (been 2x), there's no need to go back right now as we have tickets to Next. We're also avoiding the very high end meals due to Next and a planned trip to Blue Hill Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY for our anniversary about ten days before we visit Chicago.

In the past we have tried Bongo Room, Publican, Hot Doug's, Xoco, The Gage, Frontera (only for brunch) Grill, Sepia (only for brunch), Lao Szechuan on previous trips. Really didn't like Bongo Room but that's about the only one.

We love raw bars, pork, local vegetables, charcuterie, tapas, offal, eggs, small plates, anything David Chang touches. I'm assuming we probably don't need to do any Asian food since most of it seems on par with NYC when you include Queens, unless it's something more interesting/fusion-y.

NB: Husband is not a fan of Chicago pizza (he's definitely a New Yorker here) or Italian beef sandwiches. We are also giant cocktail nerds who make regular visits to Pegu Club, Death & Company, PDT in NYC and in the past 12 months have spent time at Drink in Boston, the Columbia Room in DC, Bar Congress & Haddington's in Austin, and, of course, The Violet Hour in Chicago.

I am very curious about Stephanie Izard's restaurant given the Beard nomination and I liked her on Top Chef.

My itinerary so far:

Tuesday:

Late lunch at Purple Pig:
I'm thinking we hit them up around 1:30pm or 2pm.

Drinks at the Violet Hour:
Before 7pm. Still the best spot in town, I presume?

Dinner at the Girl and the Goat:
I've already reserved for 9pm.

Wednesday:

Late breakfast at Heaven on Seven:
Our timing is dependent upon when we wake up. We're staying at the Hotel 71 on Wacker & Michigan. There doesn't seem to be a lot of breakfast/brunch options between our hotel and the Shedd Aquarium, which is the destination for the day.

Drinks/snacks at Sable:
I'm really looking forward to trying Sable for the cocktails. Is this #2 spot in town, after Violet Hour? The menu also looks fantastic.

Dinner at Frontera Grill:
I called today and already reserved for 8pm.

Thursday:

Brunch at Feast or lunch at Big Star? Or other?
Is there a better late breakfast / early lunch place within a 10 minute walk of the Damen/North/Milwaukee Aves? I'm planning on spending the day doing shopping in Wicker Park.

Drinks at Aviary and Dinner at Next:
I scored tickets for 7pm the day they went on sale (!) so this is set in stone.

Friday:

Late breakfast / early lunch at Sable or Xoco

Then off to the train station. Thoughts?

Previous trip report:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/715732

-----
Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

Bongo Room
1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

Frontera Grill
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

Heaven on Seven
600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Violet Hour
1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

XOCO
449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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

Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

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  1. >> I am very curious about Stephanie Izard's restaurant given the Beard nomination and I liked her on Top Chef.

    I ate there Sunday night and just haven't had a chance to sit down and post something at length. In a nutshell, I thought all the savory dishes were very good indeed, and some of them were outstanding (and NOT the ones I would have expected). The desserts were disappointing, though.

    >> Late breakfast at Heaven on Seven:
    >> Our timing is dependent upon when we wake up. We're staying at the Hotel 71 on Wacker & Michigan. There doesn't seem to be a lot of breakfast/brunch options between our hotel and the Shedd Aquarium, which is the destination for the day.

    There are a lot of breakfast/brunch options right around your hotel. These include South Water Kitchen, Yolk, and LB Bistro, all of which are within a block or two. I should note, I'm not that big a fan of Yolk, as I find the menu very conventional (unlike say Bongo Room, which I love for its creative pancakes). I haven't been to LB Bistro but it has received some positive comments here; it's in the Sheraton and is run by a two-time winner of a world pastry chef competition. Fox & Obel is a little further but still close by, with its great baked goods (cinnamon swirl rolls, croissants, etc) and good breakfast fare in the cafe (cobb omelet).

    >> Drinks/snacks at Sable:
    >> I'm really looking forward to trying Sable for the cocktails. Is this #2 spot in town, after Violet Hour? The menu also looks fantastic.

    The food is indeed fantastic; it's worth spending a full dinner there! Don't miss the sweet corn creme brulee.

    >> Late breakfast / early lunch at Sable or Xoco

    Since you're already eating at Frontera Grill, I would not plan a meal at XOCO as well. And I think Sable merits dinner! Where would I go instead? For a weekday brunch-ey stuff, I'd consider Jam if you want to stay close to downtown. If you want to do more lunch-ey stuff, there are so many places - maybe one of our best Italian places, like Cafe Spiaggia, the Florentine, or Coco Pazzo. Or one of our best French bistros, like La Sardine.

    7 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      I look forward to your writeup of the Girl and the Goat!

      I chose Heaven on Seven because we don't really have a lot of Cajun in NYC (in fact one of the few places is actually closing soon) and they serve breakfast all day (I'm thinking we'll probably end up eating around 11am). Also because at one point in time, my husband liked to collect hot sauces. Do you think one of the options you mentioned is better than Heaven on Seven?

      Regarding Yolk, looks like the South Michigan Ave (South Loop) location would be geographically better for us, so I'll keep that in my back pocket, along with LB Bistro, though LB Bistro is technically in the opposite direction of where we'll be going. I'd prefer to find something south of our hotel. I'll make a note of South Water Kitchen but I'm dubious we'll get there before breakfast service ends at 10:30am, and I hate being that last order in before the kitchen closes.

      I'm really torn between Sable, Girl and the Goat, and Frontera Grill. We have 2 free dinners due to Next, so one of them could potentially shift to lunch.

      Actually looking at the lunch menu for Sable, I'm drooling, and a lot of the dinner options are on there, as well as that whole great-looking grilled cheese section. I think we'll do lunch at Sable on our last day in town. And maybe grab a pastry at Xoco for the road (which is really what I'm interested in and didn't get to try the last time).

      -----
      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      Heaven on Seven
      600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      South Water Kitchen
      225 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, IL 60601

      XOCO
      449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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

      1. re: kathryn

        >> Do you think one of the options you mentioned is better than Heaven on Seven?

        No, not necessarily. I just wanted to mention the breakfast places close to your hotel, so you would know that you have additional choices. By all means, keep your plans for Heaven on Seven! Also note that there are two locations, the Rush location northwest of your hotel and the Wabash location south of your hotel. The Rush location tends to serve the hotel district whereas the Wabash location tends to serve the office district, which means differences in serving hours and traffic patterns.

        >> Regarding Yolk, looks like the South Michigan Ave (South Loop) location would be geographically better for us, so I'll keep that in my back pocket, along with LB Bistro, though LB Bistro is technically in the opposite direction of where we'll be going. I'd prefer to find something south of our hotel.

        I was just thinking that a restaurant a block from your hotel would be convenient, then you could take whatever (cab, bus, walk) down to the Field Museum without having to stop in between. For this reason, I was thinking of the Yolk location near your hotel (at Grand and McClurg). Obviously, do whatever makes the most sense to you!

        >> I'm really torn between Sable, Girl and the Goat, and Frontera Grill. We have 2 free dinners due to Next, so one of them could potentially shift to lunch.

        Just mulling over the pluses and minuses of each for lunch or dinner... At Sable the cocktails may or may not appeal at lunch. The Girl and the Goat is not open for lunch, so that's not an option there. With no reservation, one way to avoid long waits at G&TG and at Frontera Grill by arriving early (like 5:00). If you'd consider lunch for Frontera Grill, I think a better bet for lunch is Topolobampo, its sister restaurant, for several reasons. Topolobampo accepts reservations (including on Opentable); they fill quickly for dinner when they open the book three months ahead, but it's a bit easier to get lunch reservations there. Plus, Topolobampo is much more expensive for dinner, but the prices are very similar to Frontera's at lunchtime.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Hmmm, running into logistical problems here. We'll probably want to eat around 10:30-11am and Frontera doesn't open until 11:30am. Topolobampo doesn't open until 11:45am.

          I looked at the Topolobampo lunch menu and it doesn't seem quite as appealing as Frontera Grill's.

          Thanks for the ideas!

          -----
          Topolobampo
          445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

          1. re: kathryn

            >> Hmmm, running into logistical problems here. We'll probably want to eat around 10:30-11am and Frontera doesn't open until 11:30am. Topolobampo doesn't open until 11:45am.

            Here are more options.

            XOCO is open all morning. It is next to Frontera Grill and Topolobampo (it's also from Rick Bayless), and has a more "street food" type menu. It's open all morning. However, I've found that mid-morning finds them in between breakfast and lunch offerings, and what they have can be rather limited. www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

            Mexique is another, excellent Mexican restaurant, about two miles west, and it opens for lunch a little earlier, at 11:00. However, I'm afraid what you'd gain from the slightly earlier hours, would be lost from the added travel. www.mexiquechicago.com

            It sounds like you're catching a train at Union Station. You could have breakfast/brunch at Lou Mitchell's. It's near Union Station and it's an institution that's been around forever. The food is very good, albeit utterly conventional breakfast fare. www.loumitchellsrestaurant.com

            A few blocks north of Union Station is another commuter train station called the Ogilvie Transportation Center. In one of the concourses is the French Market, which has a lot of different stalls, including some of our best vendors - Vanille Patisserie which is one of our very best bread and pastry shops, Pastoral which is our top cheese store and has excellent sandwiches, Canady le Chocolatier for artisanal chocolates, etc. This might be your best bet if you're limited in time and need to catch a train; you can graze from one booth to another, getting whatever looks good to you. www.frenchmarketchicago.com

            >> Are reservations a must for Sable?

            I haven't observed long waits for a table. That being said, if you know when you want to go, making a reservation beforehand is always a good idea; you can cancel it if your plans change. They take reservations on Opentable.com as well as over the phone.

            >> Can a party of two easily have a full dinner at the bar on a weekday night?

            I haven't eaten at the bar, but I don't see why not.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Thanks, that was quite helpful!

        2. re: kathryn

          My hubby and I absolutely LOVED Heaven on Seven. If it's not too early for cocktails, make sure you try one there. They make a good mint julep. I had forgotten that they serve breakfast, too, so I'll have to stop by when we go to Chicago in 2 weeks.

          -----
          Heaven on Seven
          600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

          1. re: Oboegal

            >> My hubby and I absolutely LOVED Heaven on Seven. If it's not too early for cocktails, make sure you try one there. They make a good mint julep. I had forgotten that they serve breakfast, too, so I'll have to stop by when we go to Chicago in 2 weeks.

            Just make sure you are aware of the hours, which differ between their Wabash location (in the Loop south of the river) and their Rush location (in River North north of the river). Wabash serves breakfast starting at 9 on weekdays and 10 on Saturdays, and is closed Sundays. Rush opens at 11 every day, serving a lunch menu during the week and a brunch menu on weekends. www.heavenonseven.com

      2. Quick note on Sable...their lead bartender came from Violet Hour, and he's doing some pretty impressive work.

        The whole bar staff are virtual encyclopedias about all things booze related.

        -----
        Violet Hour
        1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

        7 Replies
        1. re: BigE

          Thanks! Which do you think is better? I'm a huge Violet Hour fan and actually have spent some time with bartenders in NYC who are ex-VH.

          -----
          Violet Hour
          1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

          1. re: kathryn

            >> I'm really torn between Sable, Girl and the Goat, and Frontera Grill. We have 2 free dinners due to Next, so one of them could potentially shift to lunch.

            I've had lunch and dinner at Sable and was very dissapointed in their lunch. Much of their small plates weren't available at lunch and the sandwiches we had were dissapointing. We also had very poor service when we went for lunch, so if you're sold on going to Sable, I would suggest dinner over lunch. Of the 3 places though - do not miss G&TG. I was just back this past weekend and the food was really great. It was even better than our previous visits. The place really does live up to the hype.

            > > Drinks/snacks at Sable:
            I'm really looking forward to trying Sable for the cocktails. Is this #2 spot in town, after Violet Hour?

            In my opinion, Sable is not the #2 spot in town for cocktails after Violet Hour. They have a very long cocktail menu, but the cocktails we've had there have not blown me away. Without a doubt, if you're really into creative cocktails- you have to try The Drawing Room. Their lead mixologist was a semi-finalist for a James Beard award and this is one of Grant Achatz's favorite spots in town. The cocktails are super creative, they'll make something for you based on what you're interested in and let you try all sorts of unusual spirits if you ask. Definitely sit at the bar, but if it's not crowded, they'll also roll a cart over and mix something tableside.

            -----
            The Drawing Room
            937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

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

            1. re: kathryn

              >> Which do you think is better? I'm a huge Violet Hour fan and actually have spent some time with bartenders in NYC who are ex-VH.

              I recommend going to both the Violet Hour and Sable.

              I'm not that much a judge of these things, but I had lunch today with someone who is, and he said that he considers Mike Ryan (head bartender at Sable), along with his staff, to be one of the top three bartenders in Chicago. He also said he thought Sable was the best combination in the city for great cocktails and great food. His words, not mine.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I definitely have had Sable recommended to me by a few people in the industry.

                How hard would it be for a party of two to walk in, grab some seats at the bar, and have a full dinner on a Wednesday night?

                But between Sable, Violet Hour, Drawing Room, and Aviary, I don't know how I'm going to get all this drinking done!

                -----
                The Drawing Room
                937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

                Violet Hour
                1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

                1. re: kathryn

                  I always eat at the bar when I go to Sable, usually on weeknights before a show at the Harris or a movie at the Siskel. It's pretty easy to get two seats together before 6:30 but it fills up surprisingly quickly after that.

                  1. re: mcgeary

                    Thanks! It's always surprising to me how early Chicago eats (6-7pm) vs New York (8-9pm).

                    1. re: kathryn

                      >> It's always surprising to me how early Chicago eats (6-7pm) vs New York (8-9pm).

                      The hottest time for reservations in Chicago - the one that's most difficult to get - is 7:30, and reservations tend to fill equally before and after that time. 6:00 is still considered early here, so it's pretty common for places to have openings at 6:00 and 9:00 but not in between. Granted, some people choose to eat on the early side, and others much later, but 7:30 is the peak here at most places. And yes, it's indeed earlier than in New York.

          2. Just a heads up, the Wabash Heaven on Seven (which I really like for it's odd location, my doctor, eye doctor, lab for bloodwork are in the same building!) is CASH only.

            Lunch there is crazy busy, with waits (I just get gumbo to go) but breakfast is not as bad.

            If you have a nice weather afternoon, grab a couple of gumbos and jalapeno muffins and walk a block to the park!

            1 Reply
            1. re: delk

              Thanks for the tip!

            2. Revised itinerary:

              Tuesday
              Late lunch at the Purple Pig
              Drinks at the Drawing Room -- I noticed they have a drink by a friend on the menu, which tipped the balance. I assume Tuesday at 6pm/7pm will be easy to walk in and get seats at the bar? Looking forward to trying the Bukowski (Malort, Drambuie, honey, lemon, basil) as friends gave us Malort as a gag gift for our wedding a few years ago. Any recs for specific cocktails?
              Dinner at Frontera Grill or Sable -- giving my husband the choice since I can't seem to make up my mind!

              Wednesday
              Brunch at Heaven on Seven
              Drinks at the Aviary -- by my husband's request, we were blown away from the video and photos from this weekend's opening. As huge Alinea fans, he has requested we go as many times as possible. I hope the line situation dies down by June.
              Dinner at the Girl and the Goat -- 9pm reservation
              Nightcap at Sable -- Any recs for specific cocktails? War of the Roses seems very popular.

              Thursday
              Brunch at Feast or lunch at Big Star
              Return visit to Aviary
              Dinner at Next -- 7pm

              Friday
              Takeout breakfast from Xoco assuming I can get there before 10am

              -----
              Alinea
              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

              The Drawing Room
              937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

              Frontera Grill
              445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

              Heaven on Seven
              600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

              XOCO
              449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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

              Purple Pig
              500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

              19 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                >> Drinks at the Drawing Room -- I noticed they have a drink by a friend on the menu, which tipped the balance. I assume Tuesday at 6pm/7pm will be easy to walk in and get seats at the bar? Looking forward to trying the Bukowski (Malort, Drambuie, honey, lemon, basil) as friends gave us Malort as a gag gift for our wedding a few years ago. Any recs for specific cocktails?

                Yes, Tuesday at 6pm or 7pm you shouldn't have any problem walking in. Definitely sit at the bar- it's small, but it's a lot of fun to chat with the bartenders, ask questions and they'll let you sample some of the more unusual spirits. I think by the time you come the menu will have changed for the season, but they are definitely open to making any cocktail you like- so if it's not on there and you want it- they can make it. Mr. Mika actually has had the Bukowski- with the Malort it has a bit of an almost plastic type of after taste- even though that doesn't sound good- the drink itself was good and very interesting. The last time we went, we didn't order any drinks off the menu, but threw out some ingredients we wanted to try or liked and had them create us some cocktails. For example, Mr. Mika got a drink with yellow chartreuse, a bit of absinthe, cynar (artichoke liquer) and gin and lemon I think, and it was really good. It looks like you have quite the itinerary planned, so can't wait to hear your trip report! We can't wait to try Aviary too!

                -----
                The Drawing Room
                937 N Rush St, Chicago, IL 60611

                1. re: kathryn

                  Kathryn, having read your posts extensively in Manhattan I'm pretty sure you'll love Girl and the Goat - I found every dish I had there quite memorable and I my commentary can be found here on CH or in the blog. I also think you'll really like Purple Pig.

                  Considering your love of Clinton St. Pancakes I cannot recommend M.Henry enough - it is worth going out of your way for.

                  http://uhockey.blogspot.com

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

                  Purple Pig
                  500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                  1. re: uhockey

                    >> Considering your love of Clinton St. Pancakes I cannot recommend M.Henry enough - it is worth going out of your way for.

                    I'm a big fan of M. Henry but it's up to you whether it's worth the travel time (about an hour each way from downtown by public transit, or 20-25 minutes by cab/car) for a breakfast place. It's about ten minutes less by el to their new sister restaurant, M. Henrietta, which has an identical menu and is right at the Granville el stop. For something closer to downtown, consider Jam, which is about 2.5 miles west of the Mag Mile and a short walk from the #66 CTA bus which runs up Chicago Avenue. As previously noted, there are many other decent options for breakfast within a short walk of your hotel. You can find more nearby breakfast suggestions in the discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/693985 (but honestly I think your itinerary looks fine as is...)

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      It may come down to going out of our way for a great breakfast (vs good breakfast) and trying to see a friend's 5 month old in Lincoln Park now.

                      Breakfast will always be there, babies don't stay stay babies for long!

                  2. re: kathryn

                    War of the Roses is delicious. I can also vouch for the Toast of the Town, Drunken Angel, Fedora, and the Dreich and Crabbit. Honestly, I don't think I've ever put a foot wrong with drinks there -- the bartenders are terrific.

                    1. re: mcgeary

                      Thanks! I've been hearing nothing but good things about Mike Ryan from NYC bartenders who have worked with him at Tales of the Cocktail.

                    2. re: kathryn

                      "Wednesday
                      Brunch at Heaven on Seven"

                      I don't get the appeal of this place. I liked the Wabash location for lunch in the 80's & 90's for take out but have been less than impressed by everything at the second location. Recently my cousin came into town and wanted to eat there. I went but tried to discourage her from eating there. Big portions of ultimately boring food. For the rest of the night I kept hearing "I should have listened..," Yes, they have dozens of bottles of hot sauce but if you don't want to eat what the hot sauce is being put on then what have you got? Chicago has much better offerings than this!

                      -----
                      Heaven on Seven
                      600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                      1. re: KateBChi

                        I couldn't agree more!

                        1. re: KateBChi

                          Do you have a better restaurant for a weekday brunch (10-11am ish) that is between the intersection of East Wacker & Michigan Ave & Shedd, that isn't the Bongo Room?

                          1. re: kathryn

                            Yolk.

                            http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                            1. re: kathryn

                              >> Do you have a better restaurant for a weekday brunch (10-11am ish) that is between the intersection of East Wacker & Michigan Ave & Shedd, that isn't the Bongo Room?

                              Here are three - two near your departure point, and one near the Shedd.

                              South Water Kitchen. During the week they serve breakfast till 10:30. It's around the block from Wacker and Michigan. www.southwaterkitchen.com

                              Also, LB Bistro, in the Sheraton, a block east of Wacker and Michigan, just across the river. www.lbbistro.com

                              Further south, right near the Shedd, is Little Branch Cafe. It's hard to find, and seems like just a hole-in-the-wall coffeehouse on the ground floor of a high-rise (which it is), but they cook great breakfast food to order. www.littlebranchcafe.com

                              P.S. I was VERY disappointed when I tried Yolk a couple of years ago...

                              1. re: nsxtasy

                                Yolk definitely requires careful ordering - there are duds to be sure.

                                http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  Thanks! I do have 2 of those options on my list, but I was hoping KateBChi would chime back in with a suggestion. :)

                                  1. re: kathryn

                                    Late to the party here, but I'd broaden the list a little...for example Balsan at the Elyssian Hotel has most / all of what you are looking for (raw bars, pork, local vegetables, charcuterie, tapas, offal, eggs, small plates). It is not cheap, but I thought it was excellent and definitely in the same league as Girl and the Goat from a food perspective - very different ambience, more upscale and less raucous (could be good or bad depending on what you like).
                                    Menu link below:
                                    http://www.balsanrestaurant.com/menus...
                                    For what it is worth I would put it ahead of Frontera and Purple Pig (I have not been to Sable), although I also really like the Purple Pig and it is more casual and cheaper (albeit with a potential wait).
                                    Balsan also does breakfast and brunch so if that is the only way to work into your schedule it might be worth a try.
                                    Finally, if you like David Chang you should also check out Urbanbelly and Bellyshack by Bill Kim.

                                    1. re: Chihab

                                      Not to reply to my own post, but...
                                      I ate at iNG at the weekend (new Homero Cantu place) and found it very David Chang like. Ambience is Ma Peche, menu more Ssam Bar (but food is more innovative than either). Service was patchy and seating was at communal tables which I don't really like....but the food was great and made up for it. We had the 8 course tasting menu (on the website menu it looks like they cook for you at random for 2 hours, but in fact this is a gimmick - in reality they tell you what the 8 courses are and it takes however long it takes), which had no bad dishes on it and some real stars (baozi buns especially).
                                      Along with Balsan I would also put iNG above Frontera or Purple Pig (and I really like both), based on what you said you liked in the initial post.

                                      1. re: Chihab

                                        So for those of us with a frame of reference outside Chicago, basically more modern decor, hefty meaty dishes that are still attractive, and equally crappy service? :-)

                                        http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                                        1. re: uhockey

                                          Pretty much. The decor is minimalist, light wood and with communal tables (reminded me of Ma Peche minus the cool mezzanine overhaning it). The food is a creative and Asian-influenced, ranging from high end interpretations of street food, to rich, spicy meat dishes and some really creative and more American influenced desserts.
                                          Honestly, David Chang was the best comparison I could think of, even if the original post hadn't prompted it.

                                          1. re: Chihab

                                            Is there any option for private tables, or is communal seating - which recently topped the Zagat list of the ten most annoying restaurant trends - the only option available?

                                        2. re: Chihab

                                          ....isn't patchy service par for the course at Chang restaurants?

                                          http://uhockey.blogspot.com

                            2. We just returned from Chicago- we are also NYers and loved, loved Chicago- not just the food but the entire City. Just to deviate a moment if you have not been to the Chicago Arts Institute go- wonderful museum and we also took the AIA boat tour - but if you have been there 3 times most likely you have gone. So on to the food: We also did not care for the Bongo room and we are breakfast enthusiasts. We did, however, love Mindy's Chocolate- it appears breakfast/brunch is only available on weekends and no reservations. We went on Saturday (10:45) and four of us waited 15 minutes to be seated- not bad. We had a duck hash with poached eggs, wonderfully light pancakes with bananas and butterscotch whipped cream and a fabulous french toast with a lemon curd and great hot chocolate and warm donuts (that looked and tasted a bit like churros). Everything was flavorful, light and what breakfast should be (the opposite, I thought, of the Bongo room). They also serve a plate of smoked fish but being from NY we weren't interested in what is so readily available at home. We did go to Alinea and Topoblamo (fabulous but I understand you want to try something new) . We went to Sprout which we absolutely loved. Bright flavors, very, very creative, and wonderful desserts and drinks. Quite reasonable- we had drinks and a bottle of wine and three courses (it is price fixed) all for $120/pp with a 20% tip. But it sounds like your dinner list is fixed so I urge you to try Mindy's chocolate- you won't be disappointed.

                              -----
                              Alinea
                              1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Mangita

                                >> the Chicago Arts Institute

                                I think you mean the Art Institute of Chicago, our biggest and most well-known Art Museum.

                                >> We did, however, love Mindy's Chocolate- it appears breakfast/brunch is only available on weekends and no reservations. ... you won't be disappointed.

                                Looks like Mindy Segal has (a) renamed her restaurant "Mindy's HotChocolate" (it was formerly called simply Hot Chocolate), and (b) stopped taking reservations, which is too bad (they had previously accepted them in the past, including on Opentable). And I was VERY disappointed by brunch there. We have some great places for brunch in Chicago; in addition to Bongo Room, I strongly recommend M. Henry/M. Henrietta, Southport Grocery, and Jam.

                                1. re: nsxtasy

                                  Yes, the Art Institute of Chicago- we loved it and all of Chicago and can't wait to return to your lovely City which has so much to offer not only food-wise but culturally as well.

                              2. One thought for your Wednesday breakfast/lunch - if the weather is good, take a cab up to the south end of Lincoln Park to the Green City Market and munch your way through the market. They make quite nice crepes from market ingredients and there are other hot food options as well - and you can browse all the wonderful foods from the area. When my son comes to visit, we pack a small insulated bag for some of the cheeses to take home ... a lot of the chefs shop here and both Wed and Saturday there are good chef demos at 10:30. It's a great way to view the inspiration of many of the dishes you'll be eating!

                                And I would definitely second Sprout for a dinner option - just a wonderful place!

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

                                Sprout
                                1417 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Siun

                                  Has anyone tried the new tamales at GCM? I think they only have them on Saturdays.