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Recomendations for a tourist in his own city

Hi all I am half way through a 3 year stint out in Boston and I am headed home to chicago for training. My company gives me a 50 (pre tax and tip) budget per night for dinner and I would like to take what money is on the table. I would like to go to any new restaurants or ones that are getting better. I would prefer if they had bar seating so I am not at a table for two as only one.

I am coming in the week of may 3rd - 6th and would like sugestions for the river north area or a place i can get to via subway or short cab ride. I know one night is going to be Sushi so maybe Japonais or the sushi place on wells near Lous can't remember the name for the life of me. Other than that I am open for two nights whats new and good right now?

Thanks in advance for any help.

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Japonais Restaurant
600 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60610

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  1. My top recommendation among the new restaurants is Sable, in the Hotel Palomar in River North. What's great about Sable - in addition to the great contemporary American food - is that they offer half-portions of most of their menu items, so you can try more of them, even when dining solo. Don't be deceived by the low prices, either! I made that mistake and ordered four half-portion items (I thought they'd be really small since they totalled $30), then was too full for dessert! They also have great artisanal cocktails. www.sablechicago.com

    Quartino is another option in River North. They have small plates of Italian cuisine. www.quartinochicago.com

    For tapas, you can go to Cafe Iberico in River North or Mercat a la Planxa in the southeast corner of the Loop. www.cafeiberico.com and www.mercatchicago.com

    Creative provincial Mexican food is another option. If you haven't been to Mexique, it's worth trying, with great Mexican food (with a slight French influence) in a lively bistro setting. It's in West Town, a couple miles west of River North, an easy ride by cab or #66 CTA bus. www.mexiquechicago.com

    Girl and the Goat is another option for contemporary American food. You probably won't be able to get a reservation at this point, because of all the hype, and waits for walk-ins have been up to two hours unless you get there before 5:00. OTOH as a solo willing to sit at the bar, sometimes you may luck out with a short wait. Skip the desserts; they're not all that good. It's in the West Loop so you would need to cab or take a bus or have a long walk (a bit over a mile). www.girlandthegoat.com

    All of these should fit nicely within your stated budget.

    Even if you're dining solo, I would still recommend making a reservation in advance, to expedite your seating (and when doing so you can mention your preference for seating at the bar). You should be able to make reservations at all of the above, either on Opentable.com or over the phone, except for Cafe Iberico (which doesn't accept reservations) or Girl and the Goat (which does, but typically fills up way in advance but still takes some walk-ins). If you plan to go to one of our hottest restaurants without a reservation, I recommend taking a look at this photo-essay from Metromix, which tells you when to go to avoid the longest waits for seating at our most crowded restaurants: http://chicago.metromix.com/restauran...

    1. Sable and G&TG are two places I would suggest as well. A few other additional thoughts- Purple Pig, although you can't make reservations, being solo and going during the week, you may have better luck. I'd also look into Sunda- they have great sushi as well as a variety of small plates that are tasty.
      A couple other places that have just opened recently that I haven't tried yet in River North are- Hubbard Inn, Paris Club and GT Oyster & Fish.

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      Purple Pig
      500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      1. I'm not much of a sushi person so I haven't been myself, but a newer sushi restaurant in Chicago that got a ton of great reviews is Arami. It's in West Town, a short cab ride from River North (or bus ride via the #66).

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        Arami
        1829 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

        7 Replies
        1. re: danimalarkey

          >> It's in West Town, a short cab ride from River North (or bus ride via the #66).

          That little area of Chicago Avenue in West Town within a few blocks of Ashland sure has a nice assortment of new, good restaurants! In addition to Mexique and Arami, it's also home to Green Zebra, Leopold, and Ruxbin Kitchen.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Not quite a restaurant but certainly worth a mention, too: Hoosier Mama Pie Co. Still the best piece of pie I've ever had (lemon chess with fresh blueberries).

            And there's Branch 27 - I haven't been since John Manion was brought in to overhaul the menu after it opened to lackluster reviews, but he has a good track record and the menu is looking great.

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            Branch 27
            1371 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL 60642

            1. re: danimalarkey

              There's no consensus on Hoosier Mama. FWIW, I've found their pies ordinary in taste and overpriced - just a huge disappointment.

              If you enjoy pastries, these are the best within the city limits, starting with the best of the best:

              Vanille Patisserie (Clybourn Corridor and French Market) - www.vanillepatisserie.com
              Fox & Obel (River East) - www.fox-obel.com
              Floriole Cafe & Bakery (Lincoln Park) - www.floriole.com
              Alliance Bakery (Wicker Park) - www.alliance-bakery.com
              Swedish Bakery (Andersonville) - www.swedishbakery.com
              Fritz Pastry (Lakeview) - www.fritzpastry.com

              Floriole and Fritz are the newest of these.

              And if you're looking primarily for breads rather than pastry, Fox & Obel is THE place.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I have two friends that aren't big foodies who ate at hoosiers weren't in love with it so I am not in a rush to try them. However I am thinking Sable sounds awesome as far a s the small plate concept thanks nsxtasy (and its close to my hotel). Next the sushi place i was thinking of was Sushi Naniwa, but i am still at a loss for a place I am thinking maybe mexique since thursday is cinco de mayo.

                I want to thank you for all the sugestions if you have any more please keep them coming as my reservations are soft for now.

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                Sushi Naniwa
                605 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Hoosier Mama isn't cheap, no, but I've been happy with their offerings. I think their strength lies in non-fruit offerings (such as the chess or sugar cream). Their savory pies are pretty great, too. But, to each his/her own!

                  Another bakery is La Farine (http://www.lafarinechicago.com/). I haven't been yet and it looks like some online reviews are mixed. Still might be worth checking out, especially if you're in the area.

                  Lastly, as far as Fox & Obel, have there been issues with the quality since the escalation of their financial difficulties? I know some of departments have lost some of their luster and appeal (to me), but it would be a real shame if the bakery has taken a turn for the 'not as good as it used to be'.

                  1. re: danimalarkey

                    I've liked Hoosier Mama, including their fruit pies. I am also big fan of Floriole on every count, except that they are very expensive.

                    Friz and Vanille are very good for their limited French offerings (croissants and macarons).

                    1. re: danimalarkey

                      >> Another bakery is La Farine (http://www.lafarinechicago.com/). I haven't been yet and it looks like some online reviews are mixed. Still might be worth checking out, especially if you're in the area.

                      I've been to La Farine. I thought it was okay - not bad, but not up there with our best (the ones I've listed above).

                      >> Lastly, as far as Fox & Obel, have there been issues with the quality since the escalation of their financial difficulties? I know some of departments have lost some of their luster and appeal (to me), but it would be a real shame if the bakery has taken a turn for the 'not as good as it used to be'.

                      I got a bunch of stuff from their bakery and prepared foods departments within the past week or two, and the quality was as good as ever - IOW everything was great!