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Coming to Chicago for July long weekend - How am I doing?

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Chicago Hounds,

My wife and I are coming to Chicago for the long weekend in July (1st-4th). We will be visiting and eating with another couple while we are there. We have been before, and have some reservations. However, I am interested in your feedback on our choices, and whether we should consider changes. Here are a few guidelines:

1) Is there any chance to get into Next, for any of the days over that weekend? If so, how can I make that happen? I am struggling with the website. We would cancel any of our current dining plans if we could get in. We would need a table for 4.

2) We plan to start the weekend with a convivial meal. My wife has been to Blackbird already. We currently have a reservation at Graham Elliot.

3) We are going to the Cubs game on Saturday so we plan on doing something very casual and classic Chicago near Wrigley or Twin Anchors. I don't think we want to be bound by a reservation that night.

4) We would like to have a "tour"/high end meal which we plan to eat on Sunday night. We have been to Alinea. It was fantastic, and I am sure we would not be disappointed, but we like to try different places. We are currently booked for L2O. I was not aware of the fact that they lost Chef Gras when we made the choice. Should I be concerned?

How are our choices?

Any feedback, guidance or alternative suggestions are welcome.

Thanks in advance.

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Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

L2O
2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

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

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  1. I have no advice for getting into Next, other than to note that it may be easier to buy someone else's tickets on craigslist than to get them from the website.

    For dinner near Cubs Park, I love Deleece on Southport, which is half a mile north of Wrigley. They have contemporary American cuisine in a casual bistro atmosphere. I've posted a detailed report at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/757360

    For the Sunday dinner, I wasn't all that impressed with L2O when Gras was still there, so who knows. Spiaggia and TRU are both open Sundays, so you might consider one of those as an alternative. If you would enjoy something not quite as formal (or expensive) in a setting that's exquisite and unique, you could also consider North Pond.

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Tru is open Sunday now?

      FWIW, a buddy of mine who I trust food wise, really, really liked L2O last week...

      -----
      L2O
      2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

      1. re: HoosierFoodie

        >> Tru is open Sunday now?

        Oh wait, apparently not. I entered a Sunday date into Opentable to see what was open, and it showed up - but it happened to be one of the few Sundays they are open. Apparently they are only open 5-6 Sundays a year, and not all other Sundays. They would not be open on July 3. Sorry!

    2. Next restaurant's season ends June 30. They haven't said what happens after--if they will take a break or transition into the next menu the very next day. Also there's been no announcement regarding when the next season goes on sale. Only that it will be a single block of tickets, all at once. Good luck! I would closely monitor their Facebook page and LTHForum.com for updates, but I think they've got their hands full at the moment with the Paris 1906 menu/current season.

      1. Thanks to everyone for their help. I have to admit that my head is spinning. Here is where I stand.

        1) I am leaning heavily against L2O. I have heard and read the positive feedback. However, I must admit that there just seems to be more mixed reviews than I want going into such an haute (and expensive) dining experience. I guess that is why Robuchon got sick of 3 stars - the problem with high expectations.

        2) We are leaning towards North Pond. I will admit that the decision is not final, and it is difficult.

        3) Other options that we have looked hard at are C-House, Henri, Sixteen, Sepia, Bonsoiree, and Sixteen.

        4) Too bad places like Tru and Ria are not open Sunday night, but my impression is that I should not be dissapointed with what is available.

        Fire away with your opinions please - I am running out of time.

        -----
        Bonsoiree
        2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

        North Pond
        2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

        L2O
        2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

        C-House
        Chicago, Chicago, IL 60611

        4 Replies
        1. re: Halifax

          Re no. 4 -- this is a longshot suggestion, but The Aviary (Achatz's new cocktail bar) offers a 10-course menu every nice for 2 or 4 people and is open on Sunday nights. It's entirely likely that they're booked already for this weekend, but it can't hurt to make a phone call (they also sometimes offer same-day reservations for this table). While it is probably as focused on the drinks as their food, they have said that there is enough food to make sure no one is falling out of their chairs by the end of the night.

          As a follow-up to Next, they will be closed after tonight (June 30) until July 8th or so as they transition to their next menu.

          Re no. 2 -- kind of a curveball suggestion on this one, but take a look at Nightwood. Located in Pilsen, about 3 miles south of downtown, this is a fantastic farm-to-table restaurant. Definitely more casual than North Pond or Graham Elliot but still a strong focus on quality ingredients and creative preparations. Excellent cocktails, too. They accept reservations.

          -----
          North Pond
          2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

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

          Nightwood
          2119 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608

          1. re: danimalarkey

            The Kitchen Table at The Aviary is 10 courses of cocktails and bites (literally, one bite of food) and wouldn't be a good substitute for dinner. They take reservations via email a few weeks in advance and choose randomly from the requests for 6pm and 10pm. You'd need a pretty high tolerance for alcohol to partake (it can last up to 4 hours) and isn't a substitute for a tasting dinner menu.

            You can see the quantity of food here:
            http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com/2011/...

          2. re: Halifax

            Usually, the problem with dining in Chicago is that there are too many great options from which to choose. Sounds like you're running into that.

            >> 2) We are leaning towards North Pond. I will admit that the decision is not final, and it is difficult.

            I really like North Pond. The food is excellent and the setting in the middle of the park is exquisite. It is a very special place. If you change your mind and decide not to go there for dinner, consider going there for Sunday brunch.

            >> 3) Other options that we have looked hard at are C-House, Henri, Sixteen, Sepia, Bonsoiree, and Sixteen.

            Sixteen and Sixteen - that's Thirty-Two, right? :) Just kidding, of course. I've been to Sixteen, and FWIW, I was underwhelmed. The space is lovely, with huge windows and spacious seating. But the food just didn't wow me.

            HTH

            -----
            North Pond
            2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

            1. re: Halifax

              My first choices among those would be Bonsoiree. It's not in the central tourist area. It's quite small and the food is both very creative and extraordinary in its preparation.

              Second choice would be North Pond; beautiful, romantic location (especially if it's still light out) and very good food. I have found some great food there and some that was a little less impressive. The location, IMO outclasses the food, at least by a nose. I was there recently for brunch and there was no daytime valet. Since it's in the middle of a park, that means finding a parking lot and walking a bit. Just so you know.

              You might also want to consider Naha, which is very good, very consistent and very well located. Check out some of the menus.

              -----
              Bonsoiree
              2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

              North Pond
              2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

              Naha
              500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610