HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Aug 1, 2011 05:09 PM

Dinner for two on a Wednesday evening?

Will be coming to Chicago for a multi-day wedding celebration over the Labor Day weekend. My wife and I are arriving early (Wednesday) to grab some private tourist time before the festivities begin.

We are looking for a special diinner for two along these lines:

* not the formality and real big deal of Avenues, Everest, Alinea.
*.would prefer somewhat upscale Italian but didn't enjoy Spiaggia last time. We sat at the bar and found the service to be formulaic, the food to be a shrug, and the prices, especially the wine markups, to be astounding. If we were visiting NYC, we'd opt for Marea or perhaps A Voce. In San Francisco, maybe it would be SPQR or Locanda.

Any chow hound suggestions for somewhat upscale, innovative Italian cuisine?

* if non-Italian option are superior, we are open. Over the last several visits, we have tried and enjoyed: Purple Pig, Publican, Longman and Eagle, The Girl and the Goat and Terzo Piano.

Are there other options that we should not miss?

Thanks very much for your advice.

1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

Terzo Piano
159 E Monroe St, Chicago, IL 60603

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

Purple Pig
500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. >> Any chow hound suggestions for somewhat upscale, innovative Italian cuisine?

    Absolutely! We have several: Piccolo Sogno, Cibo Matto, the Florentine, and Vivere. They're all great places, and exactly as you describe - somewhat upscale (not as pricey as Spiaggia) and very innovative. But if I had to pick just one, it would be Piccolo Sogno. I ate there a couple of months ago and absolutely LOVED it. The food was great, even the throw-ins like the amazing in-house breads. They also have an outdoor patio if the weather's nice.

    >> * if non-Italian option are superior, we are open. Over the last several visits, we have tried and enjoyed: Purple Pig, Publican, Longman and Eagle, The Girl and the Goat and Terzo Piano.

    We have some great non-Italian options too. Right now Sable is my favorite restaurant for contemporary American cuisine. Many of the dishes are available in half-portions so you can try more things. Food prices are unusually reasonable. And they also have amazing artisanal cocktails. Three other favorites for contemporary American are in Lincoln Park: North Pond, Perennial Virant, and Boka. Another option is Mercat a la Planxa in the Loop, our best place for tapas.

    >> Are there other options that we should not miss?

    Definitely! There's one type of food that Chicago does exceedingly well, and you can't find it in most other cities around the country. I'm referring to creative provincial Mexican cuisine. I'm not talking about enchiladas or tacos or carne asada, but innovative food with global influences. Rick Bayless has been serving such food at Topolobampo and Frontera Grill for years. Unfortunately, Topolobampo tends to fill up three months in advance for dinner, but for lunch you can often make reservations as little as a few weeks ahead of time. Frontera only accepts a handful of reservations and keeps most of the place available for walk-in traffic, but unless you can go 15-20 minutes before they open the doors, the waiting times for tables are horrendous. If you can't go early or get a reservation, there are other places around town that do a fine job with provincial Mexican cuisine. My two favorites not too far from downtown are Mexique in West Town, a couple miles west of the Mag Mile, and Mundial Cocina Mestiza in Pilsen, four miles southwest of the Loop.

    All of these choices are great places serving delicious food. But if I had to rate these choices and how much they should be a "don't miss" on an itinerary for a foodie from out of town, my first choice would be one of the four Mexican places I mentioned, because it's something you just don't find elsewhere. Second choice, well I just love both Piccolo Sogno and Sable... but since you obviously enjoy fine, innovative Italian cuisine, I'd have to go with Piccolo Sogno based on your opening post. OTOH I also think it's worthwhile to take a look at the sample menus on the restaurants' websites, and if you find that one place in particular appeals to you more than the others, it's worth giving that some weight when making your decision. If you feel like you just crave one place more than the others, then go for it!

    Some of these places fill up with advance reservations, so I strongly recommend making reservations, and the sooner the better. All of the above except Frontera Grill are on Opentable.com

    HTH - feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

    Website links:
    www.rickbayless.com/restaurants (Topolobampo and Frontera Grill)

    Mundial Cocina Mestiza
    1640 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608

    1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

    Frontera Grill
    445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

    North Pond
    2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

    445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

    1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    Piccolo Sogno
    464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

    71 W Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603

    Cibo Matto
    201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601

    1 Reply
    1. In the non-Italian options- I'd also suggest Naha, which is consistently delicious, and Sprout- which serves a prix fixe 3 course meal, but has a lively atmosphere and great food as well. Sprout has Dale from Top Chef heading up its kitchen and we'ver really enjoyed it.

      500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610