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advice for celebrating in Chicago

My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage over Memorial Day in Chicago. We currently have reservations at MK (one of my favorites) and at Tru (we've never been).

Would like the 2nd dinner to be wonderful....is Tru the right spot?? Now I'm wondering if Spiaggia would be a better choice.

Please help, and remember, it needs to be a place I can get a reservation now for Memorial Day.

Thanks!

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Spiaggia
980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

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  1. Tru is great. The only place I can tell you I prefer with confidence that you might get in is Avenues. Ria also worth a look, but reviews have been more inconsistent there.
    Depends what you want. Tru is a pretty dining room with good food, Avenues is a more conservative room (although has stunning views and well spaced tables) with the best food in the city, with the possible exception of Alinea. My opinion for sure, but it also has 2 Michelin stars versus Tru's 1.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Chihab

      TRU, Avenues, and Spiaggia are all excellent places where you're likely to find great food and service. Ria, not so much.

      Also, it's not clear from your post which day(s) you're looking for, but these places are not all open every day of the week. Avenues is normally closed on Sundays and Mondays, and TRU on Sundays.

      >> Avenues is a more conservative room (although has stunning views

      Huh? From almost every seat in the room, there is ZERO view of anything other than the blank facade of the Park Hyatt across the street. (Unless perhaps you're referring to the view from the small bar seating, with its five or so stools facing the kitchen.)

      Avenues is on the north side of the fifth floor of the Peninsula Hotel, facing Chicago Avenue, and only has small windows in alcoves on the north side of the main dining room. Directly across the street is the uninteresting slab facade of the Park Hyatt, which is the view for anyone facing northwest. Those facing northeast (and those turning to that direction) can see the top of the Water Tower, and behind it, the slab of upper floors of Water Tower Place, but not the park or street below.

      Because the restaurant is on the fifth floor, you cannot see down to the street unless you are seated directly next to the windows. All the window alcoves, except one, contain two-tops, and the only person who is up against the window and able to look down is facing away from the window - no view unless they're turning around. And even if you turn around, it is impossible to see Michigan Avenue from any of the two-tops; it's obscured by trees and rather far away.

      There is a four-top in the window alcove in the northeast corner of the restaurant. From that one table, the person facing southeast has a nice view of the park below to his left, and can see Michigan Avenue behind it. The person facing southwest must turn around for a view. Everyone else has no view of the street below.

      If you want a great view, go to Everest (or North Pond or the Signature Room or Sixteen, or NoMI when it reopens as NoMI Kitchen on June 3). Don't expect any view at all from Avenues unless they're willing to reserve you the four-top in the northeast corner of the room.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Everest has great views - if you are seated near a window. You must request that in advance.

        North Pond has great views - during daylight hours. Otherwise you pretty much look out on a dark city park. The food is very good, but probably not quite at the same level as some of the others.

        Signature Room has great views but lousy food.

        NoMi does have good views, but (did) have lots of problems with the service and food. Hopefully they will have solved that when it reopens.

        Never been to 16 so I can't comment.

        All that being said, Tru will be a wonderful dinner, but so would some of the others - notably Spiaggia, Avenues and Everest. For me, if the choice is between view and food, I'll usually go for food, but I do get the romantic aspect of your choice. I don't think you can go wrong at any of those.

        1. re: chicgail

          Thanks so much for the suggestions! We will be there over the weekend, Friday and Saturday (coming in from Detroit).

          I also will almost always pick food over view.

          We ate at Everest once and didn't have a good experience. I realize that was most likely an anomaly, but those things tend to stick with you when you spend $400 on dinner.

          We love Chicago and can't wait to spend a few days in your beautiful city!

          1. re: elenabrand

            I understand your bad experience at Everest. We had one also. The food was extraordinary, but the service was pathetic. I don't think it was an anomaly.

            Sounds like it is down to Avenues, Spiaggia and Tru. I don't think you can go wrong. Have a wonderful weekend. And congratulations.

            1. re: chicgail

              Which is odd, because at Everest I had the absolute best service I have seen in any restaurant, anywhere. I'm not disputing your experience, just noting that mine was precisely the opposite.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I'd pick Tru. 1) you haven't been 2) word is that since Tramanto left the food is much better. 3) a lot of people complain about Spiaggia going so far as to say they wouldn't return if someone else was buying! 4) Avenues would be a good choice but I prefer the room at Tru. Nsxtasy is correct, there is no view from Avenues but then there isn't from Tru either.
                Lastly, I always find the debate that nsxtasy, chicgail and I have about Everest. fun. Everest was my wife's and mine first fine dining experience at a five star restaurant and it was truly magical and will always be fondly remembered. Upon our returns, service and food has always been stellar. I don't doubt chicgail, I just had different experiences.

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                Spiaggia
                980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                1. re: hoppy2468

                  >> 3) a lot of people complain about Spiaggia going so far as to say they wouldn't return if someone else was buying!

                  Actually, there's only one person here saying that - and he had an uncommonly bad service experience, in which a server spilled something on him.

                  Really, all of these - Tru, Avenues, Everest, and Spiaggia - are among our best restaurants, with great food and (usually) great service. Despite the occasional bad report, you're still likely to have an excellent dinner at any of them.

                  When in doubt, I like to look through the menus on the restaurants' websites to help me decide.

                  Congratulations!

                  1. re: hoppy2468

                    There is no right or wrong here. No debate; just different experiences.
                    I absolutely know that Everest can deliver in the service department, but they didn't for me and other people have posted similar complaints (see above in this post). And still, the food there was outstanding. It was like the Kitchen staff had never met the FOH.

                    1. re: chicgail

                      Actually I did sit at the four-top in the northeast corner the last two times I was at Avenues (or at least the back-right four top which I assume is the same thing). So, I will concede I may have overhyped the view from the rest of the tables. That said, the windows are large and all of the 2-tops are oriented to face them. It does at least give the room a very pleasant and open feel in my humble opinion.

      2. We went to TRU for our anniversary trip to Chicago this past weekend. Having done lots of advance research on great restaurants in the area, we were really excited to go. We had the 9:15 seating and left 5 hours later! The pace of the food was exceptionally slow where the gaps between the placement of the settings to the actual food service was too long. I understand they want to give you an experience but starting dessert at 1am was absurd!

        We share the Grand Collection (9 courses) & the collection (6 courses) and a prime beef ribeye entree (we considered getting the full fixed priced menu as well but our server suggested otherwise). The food, though beautifully presented, lacked complexity in flavour and was at times overly salted, sugared or just unimpressive. Notably, the inside of a split pea soup came with a gorgeous display of lavender marshmallows cascading down the side of the bowl with silver foil, pea shoots, edible flowers and the shell of a split pea made of split pea mouse. The marshmallows just gave the soup an over sugar and over salted flavour, overwhelming all the other flavors. The scottish salmon was unexciting and was neither hot nor cold, as if it had been sitting a little too long. The pork belly had drastically different cuts for my husband & my pieces, where his was super lean, mine was almost all fat. Also bland in flavour.

        Our server noticed I didn't enjoy the salmon so he brought an extra dessert over at the end of the meal. With our tasting menu, the additional dessert, and the celebration cake for our anniversary, we were able to sample 4 different desserts there. (I had substituted our my carrot cake for sorbet). TRU is also known for their dessert tastings so I was excited to try all of these. Also, disappointed by all 4 desserts. They also provide mini desserts and exploding coconut truffles at the end of the meal. The truffles were refreshing and suprising but the mini desserts were unexciting.

        The service was outstanding with synchronized food placement by the servers but for the $500 bill at the end, the food just didn't stand up to its reputation. We had dined at Blackbird for lunch the day before and had significantly better food though the service there was abrupt and lacking with the servers tossing the bread onto our plates. Misai provided superior service and delightful food.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sunshine_foodie

          I really appreciate all of the feedback. We are really looking forward to our trip!

          Anyone have anything specific about the food at Avenues? It looks like a lot of vegetarian choices (neither of us are vegetarian). Is this their specialty?

          I also made reservations at Terzo Piano in the Art Museum for lunch on Saturday as we're planning to spend a good deal of time at the museum that day. Any feedback about his choice?

          Thanks!

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          Terzo Piano
          159 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603

          1. re: elenabrand

            >> Anyone have anything specific about the food at Avenues? It looks like a lot of vegetarian choices (neither of us are vegetarian). Is this their specialty?

            No, it isn't. I haven't been there with their current chef, Curtis Duffy, but I ate there when it was under Graham Elliot Bowles. Throughout its life (including pre-Bowles), it has been known as a restaurant that does all things - meat, fish, vegetables - with a slight specialization leaning towards seafood. I know the menu changes and they don't keep up with changes on the hotel's website (if you've found their menu there, you're a better web searcher than I am). Anyway, no, they should have the same variety of items you find at any high-end restaurant. HTH

            >> I also made reservations at Terzo Piano in the Art Museum for lunch on Saturday as we're planning to spend a good deal of time at the museum that day. Any feedback about his choice?

            I haven't been there but I've heard good things. I'm sure you're aware it's run by Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia. Oh, and in case your plans change, you don't have to buy admission to the museum in order to eat at the restaurant.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Menu is on the website, but dated as Dec 2010 so presume has changed:
              http://www.peninsula.com/Chicago/en/~...

            2. re: elenabrand

              elenabrand

              At Avenues you have a choice of two tasting menus and one is vegetarian. I'm not sure how easy it is to substitute courses although I'm sure they will accommodate any allergies. I had the non-vegetarian menu a few months ago and every dish was excellent except the final dessert which was just average.