HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >

Discussion

3 day trip to Chicago for young couple

  • i
  • Ionic Aug 29, 2011 11:22 PM

First off, I would like to say I am very much enjoying this board. Everyone seems incredibly helpful and detailed in their suggestions and I appreciate that, you guys are great. I've been reading this board for a couple hours now but would appreciate a more personal recommendation. Second, let me begin by apologizing for what will be a long and possibly boring post, I hope you all can make it through. A quick background: We are a couple in our mid to late twenties, adore food and drink and good times all the way around really. We tend to plan our vacations on eating and then go from there. We are from Dallas, Texas which is not the foodie town Chicago is, but we know good food nonetheless. We are visiting for 3 nights starting on the 11th of September and will be staying at the Four Seasons. We already have a blueprint if you will for our stay, but would love feedback and input where you all can give it. I love football and we are arriving right before kickoff of the Bears/Falcons game and need a place for some deep dish and a beer during the game, our plan is Pequod's. Dinner that night we were hoping to catch a hot beef at possibly Portillos or is there better? Monday morning I need a good breakfast spot, I've checked on the Bongo Room but everything seems super sweet, I'm looking for savory and salty (lots of BACON!). Dinner for the night will be our "nice" dinner, I would LOVE Alinea, but I'm worried that since I didn't make a reservation 6 months back it is probably a no go. Ria interests me quite a bit, we would like a tasting menu if possible but it won't be a deal breaker if not. I've had plenty of good steaks in my life so a steakhouse doesn't thrill me. Also not really feeling the Rick Bayless joints, maybe for another visit. The "nice" dinner doesn't have to be expensive either this board seems to be pretty high on Sable and Graham Elliot so those could be options. Tuesday is Hot Doug's and preferrably a "red sauce" Grandma's cooking Italian spot. We have hardly ANY Italian down here so something high in carbs and comfort is wanted, RoSal's? Last day is going to be either UNO or Giordano's I think for another pizza comparison. I'm terribly sorry again for the long-winded nature of this post, I tend to be horribly thorough. Any input would be greatly appreciated and feel free to give me totally different options or elaborate on my thoughts. Lots of snacks and drinks will also need to be had so I'd love to hear about those as well. Thanks to all of you guys and gals in advance.

-----
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

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

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. I love your post! Clearly you have done your due diligence, and the more you can say about what you know and what you're looking for, the easier it is for us to make recommendations that are specifically tailored to your needs. So therefore...

    >> I love football and we are arriving right before kickoff of the Bears/Falcons game and need a place for some deep dish and a beer during the game, our plan is Pequod's.

    I'll come back to this below.

    >> Dinner that night we were hoping to catch a hot beef at possibly Portillos or is there better?

    Portillo's is a fine choice, and you can walk there in 10-15 minutes from your hotel.

    >> Monday morning I need a good breakfast spot, I've checked on the Bongo Room but everything seems super sweet, I'm looking for savory and salty (lots of BACON!).

    Your perception is accurate; I love Bongo Room, but they are good for their sweeter dishes; the savory dishes are nothing special. Close to your hotel, I'd recommend the Original Pancake House on East Bellevue. Although they are known more for their sweeter dishes, they also have outstanding omelets (yes, and bacon). Another place close by is Tempo Cafe, which is a 24-hour diner type of place, with a full breakfast menu. As another option, all the luxury hotels in that area have restaurants serving breakfast, but they tend to be pricey.

    >> Dinner for the night will be our "nice" dinner, I would LOVE Alinea, but I'm worried that since I didn't make a reservation 6 months back it is probably a no go.

    You're probably correct, although it wouldn't hurt to call them and ask.

    In addition to Alinea, our best high-end restaurants include Everest, Avenues, TRU, Spiaggia, and Charlie Trotter's. Avenues, TRU, and Spiaggia are walking distance from the Four Seasons. Spiaggia specializes in Italian cuisine. More so than the others, there have been mixed reports here lately about Trotter's. All of these have extensive tasting menus available.

    >> Ria interests me quite a bit, we would like a tasting menu if possible but it won't be a deal breaker if not.

    I ate at Ria not long ago and it was a disaster, particularly for the service, although the food was not that impressive. I would not recommend it. You can read my detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/706515#6141756

    >> The "nice" dinner doesn't have to be expensive either this board seems to be pretty high on Sable and Graham Elliot so those could be options.

    Two of the best meals I've had in the past year were at Sable; I think the food is absolutely outstanding. I've posted detailed reports on both those meals in the Sable discussion at www.chow.com/topics/704524 They don't have a tasting menu per se but with half-portions available on most of the items, you can create your own; the other night two of us split seven half-portions of savory dishes and two desserts. Graham Elliot is good too, and offers a tasting menu. So does North Pond, which also offers its exquisite setting in the middle of the park. Graham Elliot and North Pond are mid-priced places where dinner for two including wine/tax/tip will probably cost $200-250 or thereabouts; Sable is less expensive than those other two, under $100 for two without alcohol, otherwise $150ish is typical. Sable can be pretty casual for attire (although you can dress up if you like), whereas business casual is the norm at Graham Elliot and North Pond.

    >> Tuesday is Hot Doug's

    I assume you are aware of its inconvenient location, and you don't mind allowing plenty of time to get there and back, as well as waiting in line for ~90 minutes. If you want to avoid those downsides, you might want to consider Franks 'n' Dawgs in Lincoln Park, which also has unusual sausages etc.

    >> and preferrably a "red sauce" Grandma's cooking Italian spot. We have hardly ANY Italian down here so something high in carbs and comfort is wanted, RoSal's?

    For fairly conventional Italian, I'd go to Cafe Spiaggia. It's right near your hotel and consistently good. It's the sister restaurant to the high-end Spiaggia next door.

    If you're interested, some of our most creative Italian restaurants have a more varied, contemporary menu but still offer traditional pastas and sauces; these include Piccolo Sogno, Cibo Matto, the Florentine, and Vivere. None of these is as close to your hotel as Cafe Spiaggia.

    >> Last day is going to be either UNO or Giordano's I think for another pizza comparison.

    There are two popular types of deep-dish pizza in Chicago. One is the single-crust "pizza in the pan" whose best and most well-known places include Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and the original locations of Uno and Due. The other is the double-crust "stuffed pizza" from Giordano's, among others. If you're interested in doing a comparison, I recommend trying one of each.

    You mentioned Pequod's above. Pequod's is definitely in the "pizza in the pan" category, along with Malnati's, Uno, etc. The main difference is that Pequod's pizza has a crust that gets coated with cheese that chars during baking. It's not my favorite, but some people like it. It's also not very convenient to the Four Seasons; it's about 2.5 miles so you'd need to take a cab or public transit. My top recommendation for pizza in the pan near the Four Seasons is the newly-opened location of Lou Malnati's on State just north of Oak. For stuffed pizza, the Giordano's on Rush Street is a good choice.

    Again, I think your post is perfect for providing so much information. Feel free to ask more questions and we'll try to help!

    -----
    Pequod's Pizzeria
    2207 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

    Alinea
    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

    Charlie Trotter's
    816 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60614

    Bongo Room
    1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

    Giordano's
    730 N. Rush St., Chicago, IL 60611

    Tru Restaurant
    676 North Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

    North Pond
    2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

    Avenues At the Peninsula
    108 E Superior, Chicago, IL 60611

    Cafe Spiaggia
    980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

    Everest
    440 S La Salle St Ste 4000, Chicago, IL 60605

    Portillo's
    100 W Ontario St, Chicago, IL 60654

    Tempo Cafe
    6 E Chestnut St, Chicago, IL 60611

    Original Pancake House
    22 E Bellevue Pl, Chicago, IL 60611

    Piccolo Sogno
    464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

    Vivere
    71 W Monroe Street, Chicago, IL 60603

    Spiaggia
    980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

    Cibo Matto
    201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601

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

    Sable Kitchen & Bar
    505 North State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

    The Florentine
    151 W. Adams, Chicago, IL 60601

    Lou Malnati's Pizzeria (Gold Coast
    )1120 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610

    Franks 'n' Dawgs
    1863 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

    1. Personally I would go with Malnati's or Uno or Duo for pizza. I have had problems with the Giordano's on Rush on more than one occasion.

      1 Reply
      1. re: HoosierFoodie

        They are entirely different kinds of pizza. I don't think one substitutes for the other. I think the "classic" Chicago-style deep-dish is the single crust at Malnati's et al, but for those who want to try the double-crust "stuffed" pizza, Giordano's is a great choice (and I've never had any problems there). Other places that serve stuffed pizza include Bacino's, Edwardo's, and Nancy's, but none of those is anywhere near the Four Seasons. If you're looking for alternative locations, you can cross the river at the south end of the Mag Mile (about a mile south of the Four Seasons) and you'll be right near the Giordano's in the Prudential building and the Bacino's on Wacker. Giordano's has additional locations in the Loop, and there are locations of all of these in other neighborhoods all over the city and suburbs.

      2. Thank you so much nsxtasy and HoosierFoodie...wonderful replies! We don't at all mind traveling a bit for our food experiences, I don't want to feel like I missed out on something special because it wasn't within walking distance. We regularly will drive 25-30 min or more to dinner, I drive 3 hours away every couple months to Lockhart, TX just to have BBQ for lunch. First question, am I better off with Portillos or the Wiener's Circle for a classic dog, and will Portillos fulfill our need for the best hot beef in Chicago? We have an Original Pancake House not 4 minutes from my front door so what do you think of Ann Sather's or EATT? After talking with my fiancé she is just about sold on Sable solely because of the fried chicken and waffles and I do love me some cocktails. Have you heard of them possibly doing cocktail pairings with about 3-5 half portions so I can create my own tasting menu of sorts? Graham Elliot seems to be a little of mixed reviews and tiny portions but I would still like to hear your imput on the two restaurants head to head. We like hip and contemporary and want a great and fun atmosphere. I'll throw in Longman and Eagle as well since it seems to be a highly reviewed gastropub. I'm going to do a bit more research on the Italian restaurant front, Picollo Sogno sounds pretty great, and is RoSal's not really recommended as a good spot? On to the pizza, the "caramelized" crust at Pequod's sounds glorious to me but who knows. I've heard that the butter crust at Malnati's isn't to be missed so that could be an option. We will do two pizza joints, one on the first day and one on the last so both the pan pizza and stuffed will be tried. I guess Giordano's is the pick for stuffed, but the other choice will be between UNO, DUE, Malnati's or Pequod's. Just a disclaimer, we would rather have a Chicago experience other than going to a corporate machine full of tourists even though I am one. Last one for now, any cool coffee and pastry type places to stop by for a break during the intense shopping marathons I will be enduring with my fiancé? Thanks again for all of your input, back to researching!

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

        9 Replies
        1. re: Ionic

          IMO The Wiener Circle is only destination worthy if it's the weekend and around 3 am in the morning. During the day Portillos is fine.

          Ann Sather's (again my opinion) is totally overrated and not worth your time.

          I love Longman and Eagle I highly recommend it. Just get there little early because they don't take reservations.

          Excluding restaurants like Aliena, Avenues and Schwa - Graham Elliot is my favorite in Chicago. The food is assessable, inventive and fun. I think missing out on molecular gastronomy restaurant in Chicago would be a mistake. Graham Elliot fits that bill perfectly.

          -----
          Wiener Circle
          2622 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

          1. re: Ionic

            I think if you were originally attracted to Peaquod's then go. I would then check out Lou's or Pizano's for comparison. Giordano's is pretty good for stuffed crust but also very heavy. Not a dis on it. Just a data point if you want don't want to be full for hours afterwards.

            I'm not a fan of the Weiner's Circle schick but that is more at the end of the night. Portillo's is a good bet for an Italian beef (not a hot beef. Get it partially dipped with sweet and hot). It is also a reliable spot for a Chicago style hot-dog.

            I LOVED Hot Doug's and if you go on a Tuesday before noon, the line won't take that long. I went on a Monday at 11:30 and it took 20 mins or so. Don't get an ordinary dog there. You have to get something different. The fries weren't a big deal to me but I didn't get the duck fat fries (although I hear there isn't much of a difference.) Plus Doug himself works the order stand and is so nice. I'm not a big driving fan but I would drive there if you have in/out privileges at your hotel. Just to make it easier.

            I haven't been to Longman and Eagle yet but it gets a lot of great reviews, some so-so reveiws, and a couple bad reviews. So like almost every restaurant in Chicago! If the menu appeals, go for it! Note that there is no reservations so that could be a drawback if you go on the weekend.

            I'll throw out another suggestion since you like hip and trendy - Sunda. I loved everything I had there. Very fun atmosphere, great drinks, and a nice playful take on the food. I still crave the kobe beef "sushi".

            You should also look at the menus for the Italian places. They might not be as old-school as you want. (i.e. smaller plates/contemporary take). But that would be your personal preference.

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

            1. re: Ionic

              That's very helpful again!

              >> am I better off with Portillos or the Wiener's Circle for a classic dog, and will Portillos fulfill our need for the best hot beef in Chicago?

              They both have excellent representations of Chicago hot dogs. But you can't get an Italian beef sandwich at Wiener's Circle, whereas you can get one of the best at Portillo's. So you're really not gaining anything by going all the way to Wiener's Circle, and it's inconvenient and won't get you an Italian beef. I'd stick to Portillo's for that reason - one stop, conveniently located, to get both specialties.

              >> We have an Original Pancake House not 4 minutes from my front door so what do you think of Ann Sather's or EATT?

              I don't think much of Ann Sather's; it's not bad, not anything special. I haven't been to EATT; I've walked by there (including just the other night) and looked at the menu, wasn't all that impressed. The Wells Street location of Meli Cafe is downtown and pretty good.

              Here's the thing about Chicago's best creative breakfast options: they're scattered all over the city and suburbs, and the ones in the downtown area, other than Bongo Room, aren't all that great IMHO. So if you want a really great breakfast, you might be better off driving out of downtown. I like Jam and it's not far from downtown, but I looked at their website menu and I didn't see bacon on it. Southport Grocery, in Lakeview, about five miles north, is excellent. M. Henry and M. Henrietta, about seven miles north, are outstanding. Note, these places don't take reservations, and they get busy on weekends. But since you said you don't mind traveling, I figured I'd throw these options out.

              >> After talking with my fiancé she is just about sold on Sable solely because of the fried chicken and waffles and I do love me some cocktails. Have you heard of them possibly doing cocktail pairings with about 3-5 half portions so I can create my own tasting menu of sorts?

              Yes, absolutely! The serving staff at Sable is extremely helpful, and so is the barkeep staff; they'll do anything for you. Their staff has been there a while, too, so they can advise you on the food as well as the drinks, and come up with just about anything for you (as they did for my companion this past weekend). As for putting together a bunch of half portions, that's part of what's so great about Sable - the ability to have a lot of different items because of the half portions. Our server on Saturday recommended the chicken and waffle but we passed in order to get other items. If that sounds good to you, go for it! I don't know if you read my posting about Saturday's dinner in the Sable discussion ( www.chow.com/topics/704524 ) but don't-miss dishes for us included the corned beef reuben strudel and the duck sausage, as well as the sweet corn creme brulee, of course. This was one of the very best dinners I've had in the city in the past year, and I enjoyed the food far more than at other well-known places in the city I've tried during that time (which include Girl and the Goat, Ria, and Longman & Eagle - see below). Although there are a few naysayers as with any place, there are many others here who have praised the delicious food as well as the unusual cocktails at Sable. Read the reviews, check out the menu, then try it and see for yourself!

              >> Graham Elliot seems to be a little of mixed reviews and tiny portions but I would still like to hear your imput on the two restaurants head to head. We like hip and contemporary and want a great and fun atmosphere.

              I consider both places hip and contemporary. Graham Elliot's food is good too, but it's significantly more expensive; more creative and unusual maybe, but for sheer taste, I prefer Sable. Also, Sable's got some of the best and most unusual cocktails in the city. I guess fun is where you find it; I love sitting at Sable and watching Chef cooking on the line alongside her staff in the open kitchen, but if you like watching the barkeep staff, you can easily eat and drink in the bar room on the other side of the hoststand.

              >> I'll throw in Longman and Eagle as well since it seems to be a highly reviewed gastropub.

              I ate there last night. It was just awful (my worst dinner in quite a long time), and I do not recommend it. I posted a long, detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/804480

              >> I'm going to do a bit more research on the Italian restaurant front, Picollo Sogno sounds pretty great, and is RoSal's not really recommended as a good spot?

              I haven't been to RoSal's, so I really can't say. But I think it's worth spending a few minutes taking a look at the menus at all of the Italian places, and using that to help you decide on one. If one menu really "speaks to you", it's probably a good choice.

              Incidentally, I posted a detailed report of my recent dinner at Piccolo Sogno at www.chow.com/topics/743590#6528588

              >> On to the pizza, the "caramelized" crust at Pequod's sounds glorious to me but who knows.

              Then I think that's probably a good choice. Just don't misunderstand; the "caramelized" term refers to the charring of the cheese on the outside of the crust, and it's not at all sweet.

              >> I've heard that the butter crust at Malnati's isn't to be missed so that could be an option.

              I eat there often. I've tried the butter crust, and even though I tend to like things with a butter flavor, I decided after trying it that I like the standard crust better. Just FWIW.

              >> We will do two pizza joints, one on the first day and one on the last so both the pan pizza and stuffed will be tried.

              I think that makes a lot of sense.

              >> I guess Giordano's is the pick for stuffed, but the other choice will be between UNO, DUE, Malnati's or Pequod's.

              Yes, that makes sense, so you can try one of each style.

              >> Just a disclaimer, we would rather have a Chicago experience other than going to a corporate machine full of tourists even though I am one.

              The experience at the downtown locations is basically similar to that at outlying locations; the difference is that many (not all, but many) of the customers in the downtown locations tend to be visitors from out of town, whereas more customers (again, not all, but more) in outlying neighborhoods and suburbs tend to be locals. So, for example, if you went to the Giordano's on Belmont (not far from Wrigley Field) or even the locations in the Loop, they would tend to have more locals than the one on Rush Street in the middle of the Mag Mile hotel district.

              >> Last one for now, any cool coffee and pastry type places to stop by for a break during the intense shopping marathons I will be enduring with my fiancé?

              Absolutely! The answer to this one depends upon whether you're a coffee aficionado or a pastry fan. For the very best coffee, there are a couple locations in the Loop of Intelligentsia, our best local coffee roaster. Around the Mag Mile, about the best you can do is Lavazza, which is not local, but has several locations in that area.

              For the very best pastry in the Mag Mile area, go to Fox & Obel. This is our premier upscale gourmet food store, and it was named one of the ten best bread bakeries in the country by Bon Appetit magazine. I love their rich cinnamon swirl rolls, their brioche, their croissants, their rustic fruit and nut loaves, and other baked goods. They also do a nice job on bread pudding, chocolate brut (a type of chocolate bread pudding), and other desserts. Another excellent place for pastry is Vanille Patisserie, which does wonderful croissants and French macaroons and entremets (individual-sized mousse cakes). Vanille has two locations. One is in the French Market, located in the commuter train station on the west side of the Loop; that's a great place to visit because it has a lot of other booths there, including Pastoral (our best place for cheese and sandwiches) and Canady le Chocolatier (for artisanal chocolates). The other location is on the north side on Clybourn, which is a trendy area and is a few blocks walk from another of our best places for pastry, Floriole.

              The Clybourn location of Vanille Patisserie is also near Franks 'n' Dawgs, which I had previously suggested as a possible alternative to the inconvenient location and long lines of Hot Doug's. Since that post, the Tribune just published an article on the new charcuterie program that they're starting at Franks 'n' Dawgs; you can read it at www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/...

              I'll try to make sure all these places get links below my post and to the right. If you need any directions or anything else at all, feel free to ask more questions - answering them is fun!

              -----
              Fox & Obel Food Market
              401 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611

              Intelligentsia Coffee
              53 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago, IL 60604

              Bongo Room
              1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

              Intelligentsia Coffee
              55 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL

              Southport Grocery & Cafe
              3552 N Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

              Piccolo Sogno
              464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

              Rosal's Cucina
              1154 W. Taylor St., Chicago, IL 60607

              M. Henry
              5707 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60660

              Lavazza
              162 E Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60611

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

              French Market
              131 North Clinton, Chicago, IL 60661

              Vanille Patisserie
              2229 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

              Floriole Cafe and Bakery
              1220 W Webster Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

              M. Henrietta
              1133 West Granville, Chicago, IL 60660

              Espression Lavazza
              875 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

              Longman & Eagle
              2657 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647

              Meli Cafe & Juice Bar
              540 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654

              Jam Restaurant
              3059 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, IL

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Jam for brunch today was awesome. Fresh OJ. Tiny orange cake to start. Loved the malted custard French Toast with pink peppercorn. Very creative and subtle. My Eggs Benedict with fennel hollandaise was incredibly flavorful. Plus you can't go wrong with four generous pieces of crispy pork belly. Eggs were perfectly poached. Thumbs up!

                1. re: kathryn

                  Crispy pork belly huh? That's all I needed to hear! What type of distance would we be talking about to get there from the Four Seasons?

                  1. re: Ionic

                    It's shown on the map to your right. Jam is about 2.5 miles west of the Four Seasons. You can take a cab, or if you want to go by public transit, catch the #66 CTA bus that runs up Chicago Avenue. The Four Seasons and Jam are both a couple of blocks north of Chicago Avenue, so you'll have a short walk at either end. If you go by cab, your driver will probably take the same route - straight up Chicago Avenue.

                    Jam is excellent - think of it as a creative upscale contemporary American version of a breakfast restaurant. I don't think they take reservations, and it's closed Tuesdays. Cash only, no credit cards, but there's an ATM inside. www.jamrestaurant.com

                    If you'd like to read reports...

                    nsxtasy - www.chow.com/topics/364403#5505170
                    uhockey - www.chow.com/topics/746341#6054204
                    chicgail - www.chow.com/topics/795560#6679844

                    -----
                    Jam Restaurant
                    3059 W. Logan Blvd., Chicago, IL

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      Thanks nsxtasy!

                2. re: nsxtasy

                  >> Since that post, the Tribune just published an article on the new charcuterie program that they're starting at Franks 'n' Dawgs

                  The Tribune changed the website address for this article, and the previous link won't work. It's now available at www.chicagotribune.com/features/food/...

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Thanks nsxstasy, I am going to check that out right now.

              2. >> After talking with my fiancé she is just about sold on Sable solely because of the fried chicken and waffles and I do love me some cocktails. Have you heard of them possibly doing cocktail pairings with about 3-5 half portions so I can create my own tasting menu of sorts?

                I've been to Sable a lot and it does have some great cocktails and small bites that you can share, but if I was only having one or two dinners here, I wouldn't pick Sable. Also- we've had the chicken and waffles and did not like them at all, but on the plus side- you can try several things, so you should still try them and see if you like them. For a small plate type place, I'd pick G&TG any day over Sable- but it's also one of the most popular places in town so it's hard to get into. Sunda, as mentioned, is also a really good spot if you like sushi and asian- also small plates that you can share and is one of my favorites. Another spot which I really like is Sprout which has a 3 course prix fixe. There are so many great choices in Chicago, the hard part is picking one.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ms. mika

                  I'd pick Avec for small plates over Sable or G&TG. The food is very good, and it's a Paul Kahan restaurant.

                  -----
                  Avec Restaurant
                  615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

                  1. re: ms. mika

                    I thought that Sable's chicken and waffles were only ok. Waffle seemed too thick and there was too much bourbon maple syrup. Needed slightly more butter and chicken to balance it out.

                  2. One more CH checking in with a new set of thoughts. I didn't see you mention where you are staying so I will assume the touristy center of the city and I will assume you don't have a car.

                    Pequods is ok and yes you can watch the game there so why not? It will be a taxi ride. Some people love it; I've had both good and mediocre experiences there.

                    Portillos for sure for Italian Beef (I, for one, recommend a combo - beef and an Italian sausage - with sweet and hot peppers, wet) Again, many options and many opinions.

                    If you don't like super sweet avoid Bongo pancakes. They are VERY sweet I was there two weeks ago and ordered a red velvet pancake that was literally too sweet for me to eat and then back last week and had a savory special with eggs and artichoke pesto that I enjoyed. Don't bother with Ann Sather. I had recent wonderful breakfasts at Jam and at Longman & Eagle (1 Michelin Star), but both of those are in neighborhoods.

                    I think Sable is great for a drink, and a bite but not dinner - and I know nsxtasy will push back on that, but it's my opinion (and shared by others). Try Alinea if you're interested - you never know! But it is VERY expensive. I like Graham Elliot, but also Naha or Cafe Spiaggia for superb and reasonable authentic Italian slow food. Girl and the Goat is awesome, but you can't get in for 3 months. Can't speak to Ria; haven't been there. Also another vote for Sprout - it's reasonable, very good and the exec chef was a Top Chef contendor.

                    Ditto on giving Hot Doug's a try, but know that it is not anywhere near the tourist center of the city. Without a car HD's is a bit of a schlep and will take you out of doing other tourist stuff like museums and parks, etc. Franks n Dawgs is an alternative to HD's, but IMO, not as good, but much easier to get to.
                    Uno over Giordanos any day! Malnoti's is another good option - very similar to Uno.

                    RoSal's is a pretty standard mom and pop Italian place. Pretty good, not but not knock your socks off great Italian, but still it may be exactly what you're looking for. If you can get a res at Piccolo Sogno, you may well be better off.

                    -----
                    Naha
                    500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

                    1. Wow, it seems we need to extend to 7 days and not just 4! Thanks lbs, Pop, Chicgail, ms. mika, and of course nsxstasy. I'm about to check out Sunda's menu, we love Asian/fusion so it may be a contender, is the fish super fresh? I've crossed Ann Sather's off along with Wiener's Circle unless I find myself drunk stumbling around at 3am, which might not be so bad. It took me a minute to figure out what G&TG was but it finally came to me, sounds great but my fiancé isn't so hip on offal. With the popularity of it right now it may be off the list anyway. Seems Sable collects pretty strong opinions, and if anyone else has input I would love to hear it. Chicago has a ton of great sounding Italian joints and I'm really liking that Picollo Sogno has a great patio, I've been itching for some great patio weather but with it being 103 plus degrees here for basically the last month and a half. So far I have decided Portillo's, Hot Doug's, and Intelligentsia are places I have to go. Another question, I have Next and Aviary on my facebook and I know they have a crazy lottery type reservation thing going on, but every morning they send out openings for the day to emailers. Is it worth the try for the last minute seatings and is it worth the hype? Or would I be better off with a traditional reservation at one of the suggestions like Sable, Avec, Graham Elliot, etc.? I'm staying at Four Seasons btw if I didn't mention it before, but once again distance is not a big issue. It seems as though now my openings are still a "nice" night out, an Italian spot, and breakfast. You chowhounders are amazing and I give you all great thanks for all the help. Keep it coming, I like the research :)

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

                      Avec Restaurant
                      615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

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

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: Ionic

                        Sorry for the awful grammar and sentence structure, typing on the ol iPhone isn't very conducive to my "novella" length replies...

                        1. re: Ionic

                          >> I'm about to check out Sunda's menu, we love Asian/fusion so it may be a contender, is the fish super fresh?

                          Yes. And they have more than just sushi; they have quite a selection of pan-Asian specialties. It's quite lively and noisy. You can find the menu on their website; there's a link to the right where you can click to get to their website, or just click on this - www.sundachicago.com

                          >> Chicago has a ton of great sounding Italian joints and I'm really liking that Picollo Sogno has a great patio, I've been itching for some great patio weather but with it being 103 plus degrees here for basically the last month and a half.

                          Our weather in September is delightful, with pleasant days and nights. It's a wonderful time to eat on the patio. And if it turns out to be raining that night, it's not a problem; Piccolo Sogno has the ability to fully enclose the patio so that it becomes part of the main dining room.

                          >> I have Next and Aviary on my facebook and I know they have a crazy lottery type reservation thing going on, but every morning they send out openings for the day to emailers. Is it worth the try for the last minute seatings and is it worth the hype?

                          I haven't been there so I can't speak to what it's like. But I would not count on getting a last minute seating. They put any openings up at random times and they get snapped up within minutes. So to get a reservation there, you have to be really lucky by going to their website at exactly the right time; otherwise you can waste a lot of time checking their website in vain.

                          >> Or would I be better off with a traditional reservation at one of the suggestions like Sable, Avec, Graham Elliot, etc.?

                          I think you would be MUCH better off with a traditional reservation at Sable or Graham Elliot. That way, you won't have to worry about being stuck standing around for an hour or two waiting at a place that doesn't accept reservations.

                          Incidentally, Avec does not accept reservations, and they often have waits of 90+ minutes to be seated. There's lots more you should know about Avec when considering it. They only have communal seating, so you'll either be sitting at the bar, or at an eight-top with strangers; those are the only choices. The seats are the most uncomfortable in town; you'll have a choice of a backless flat barstool, a backless box, or a bench that's similar to a church pew. It's VERY NOISY, one of the loudest in town. As for the food, I haven't been impressed, but some other people like it a lot.

                          >> Sorry for the awful grammar and sentence structure, typing on the ol iPhone isn't very conducive to my "novella" length replies...

                          You're doing fine, better than many others - no need to apologize! :)

                          -----
                          Avec Restaurant
                          615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

                          Piccolo Sogno
                          464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

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

                          Sunda
                          110 W. Illinois St., Chicago, IL 60654

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            I do think nsxtasy has valid concerns regarding Avec. I always go after work so there's never a wait.

                            However, I'm still going to advocate graham elliot. As a foodie you should go to at least one molecular gastronomy restaurant. It's something Chicago is known for.

                            I'm just going to assume you aren'tt going to get a reservation for Next, but... I can't comment on their current menu (I go in two weeks), however their discontinued French menu was a lot of fun. If you can get in, you should go.

                            The Aviary is great, it's one of the most unique cocktail lounges in the country. IMO a Grant Achatz experience is always worth doing.

                            -----
                            Avec Restaurant
                            615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

                            1. re: nsxtasy

                              nsxtasy's points are valid with Avec, but I think that the pros far outweigh the cons for them. If you go early enough the wait wont be that long and imo the communal tables make it a bit fun. the food is outstanding..ive never had a bad meal there. they will also take you number so you can go somewhere to have a drink if the bar is too crowded, i would recommend Sepia, its across the street and has a nice bar

                              -----
                              Avec Restaurant
                              615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

                            2. re: Ionic

                              The Aviary is going to be a lot easier to get into than Next and is well worth it; definitely the most unique and interesting cocktails I have ever seen (and they taste as good as they look). I am two-for-two in obtaining same day reservations via sending them an e-mail when they issue an alert on Facebook for same day reservations. I also was able to get in with no wait as a walk in one time. If the weather is warm, your odds are much better as their outdoor seating just about doubles their capacity. If you do not get in via reservation, if you show up a little before opening (The Aviary opens at 6pm), there is a good chance you will not have too long of a wait.

                              Next was an amazing experience; I just recently have begun dipping my feet into the fine dining venues, so do not have a lot to compare it to, but both my wife and I absolutely loved Next. We were able to score tickets via the same day reservation system, but it took a few tries before we caught our lucky break. Usually the Facebook alert comes out around 1:00pm for the same day tables.

                              1. re: Gonzo70

                                "I need a good breakfast spot, I've checked on the Bongo Room but everything seems super sweet, I'm looking for savory and salty"

                                Let me chime in on this one data point on breakfast. You might want to give Ina's a look-see, not so much for bacon, but they did have an awesome pulled-pork hash last time I was there (they got the pork from Smoque). It's a short cab ride from downtown. And, in the Loop the Gage (on your way to the Art Inst. perhaps) puts together a nice Irish breakfast (with several meats on the plate, if I recall correctly).

                                http://breakfastqueen.com/

                                http://www.thegagechicago.com/index.p...

                                -----
                                Bongo Room
                                1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

                                1. re: jbw

                                  Pulled pork hash sounds delicious, let me rephrase. It doesn't HAVE to be bacon, any pork product will suffice :)

                                2. re: Gonzo70

                                  We walked into The Aviary around 6:30pm last night (Tuesday) and it was maybe 1/3rd full. Very easy to get in if you go on the early side.

                              2. Proceed carefully. Your "nice dinner" is planned for Monday, but many of the best restaurants are closed on Mondays. Be sure to double check opening days and times.

                                1. Fantastic point DRN0001, that's one thing I'll definitely have to check on. It's good to know that at least some people have had success using the same day reservation system. I might try every day I'm there and if I get lucky and hit I'll have to change my plans. That's kind of a bummer with Avec, the food sounds great but the lack of reservations and lack of comfort will be something to think about. Now that people have mentioned it, it would be a shame if I visited without some experience with molecular gastronomy. So this question is aimed towards nsxtasy, but if anyone knows jump on in...have you had Sable for lunch and would it be a sufficient experience or would dinner be the better choice? Breakfast may be 86'd In favor of hitting up Sable for lunch and Graham Elliot for dinner. Thoughts?

                                  -----
                                  Avec Restaurant
                                  615 W Randolph St Ste A, Chicago, IL 60661

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

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Ionic

                                    If you are referring to NEXT when you remark about the "same day reservations system" be aware that the current menu is called "Tour of Thailand". I would consider the food served to be Thai-influenced/drawn from Thai cuisine; it is not really Thai food. The heat and spice profiles are also muted in keeping with Achatz's own preferences while he certainly dials up the sweetness that is often a part of Thai food. Modern techniques are used with only a few touches that might be considered MG.

                                    Regarding Sable - since you are going to be at the Bears game on Sunday I imagine lunch at Sable will NOT be an option - good. Only the brunch menu (various ho-hum egg dishes) is served on weekends. The normal lunch menu is available on weekdays - but with only one item available (IIRC) as a half portion, so you should take that into consideration as well.

                                    1. re: Ionic

                                      >> have you had Sable for lunch and would it be a sufficient experience or would dinner be the better choice? Breakfast may be 86'd In favor of hitting up Sable for lunch and Graham Elliot for dinner. Thoughts?

                                      I haven't had Sable for lunch, but I think I can take a stab at answering the question. One thing to consider is how different the menus are. In comparing the lunch vs the dinner menus, I see that some of the dishes we enjoyed over dinner (e.g. sweet corn creme brulee) are also on the lunch menu, while others (corned beef reuben strudel, pistachio duck sausage) are not. Neither is the chicken and waffles dish you were hoping for. Something else to think about - when a dish is on the dinner menu but not on the lunch menu, you can ask them if they can make it for lunch; maybe they can, maybe they can't, but it can't hurt to ask. Also, I don't know if Chef is normally around during the lunch hours, but I don't think that's a big deal (unless you wanted to meet her). I know she is one of the more hands-on, detail-oriented chefs in the business - when she's in, you can see her on the line along with her staff - and our dinner on Saturday was terrific, even though she was out of town that particular evening. I don't know whether you would still want to enjoy the craft cocktails during lunch the way you might at dinner - your choice. And, of course, if you hit Sable for lunch, you'll at least get a chance to try *some* of what they have, while still trying Graham Elliot. This isn't exactly an answer, but it's all stuff for you to think about when deciding between lunch and dinner.

                                      As for the possibility of brunch which was previously mentioned, I've enjoyed brunch from Chef Terhune at her previous place, shortly before she moved to Sable when it opened a year ago. The brunch menu is entirely different from the lunch and dinner menus. I think it's excellent, when considered as a brunch menu, one of the better, more creative brunch menus in town. It doesn't have very many of the dinner dishes I've especially enjoyed, so it's not going to be the same experience as dinner or even lunch. But it does have the chicken and waffles dish on it. :)

                                      Incidentally, any time you're looking at website menus, one thing you probably want to know is how close the website menu will be to what you will find when you get there. I had two dinners in the past week, and in one, the dishes on the menu were totally different from the website one, although similar in style. Sable was the other one. The menus in the restaurant were almost identical to the ones on the website; the only difference I noticed is that the panna cotta dessert was orange-buttermilk flavored in the restaurant, lemon-buttermilk on the website menu.

                                      Chef Terhune usually changes the menus on a seasonal basis, but is planning to change it twice for this fall. When she does, many of the favorites remain, with some small twists, while other new dishes are added; some "signature dishes" (like the sweet corn creme brulee) seem to be mainstays.

                                      HTH

                                      1. re: Ionic

                                        You're here Sunday through Tuesday, correct?

                                        Next is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Your only chance would be on a Sunday. I believe it is the same for Alinea, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

                                        The Aviary, however, is closed Sundays and Mondays, so your only chance to visit would be on Tuesday.

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

                                        1. re: kathryn

                                          Sounds like that narrows down my options quite a bit. I appreciate the info!