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Please help finish my Chicago eating itinerary!

m
ManhattanLawyer Sep 1, 2011 01:56 PM

Hi everyone,

I'll have 3 days in Chicago. I've managed to secure an Alinea reservation already (thrilled!). My husband and I are NYC foodies so our goal is to find things that we can't really get in New York. With that in mind, I'd love your suggestions

Brunch:
Frontera Grill (already reserved this)

What are your thoughts on Bongo Room, Jam, Xoco, any others?

Lunch:
Lou Malnati's (post-Shedd aquarium)
open to suggestions for other days

Dinner:
Alinea one night so I was thinking more casual places for the other 2

What are your thoughts on:
Girl & Goat (is it actually good or just hyped because of Top Chef?)
Publican
any other places

For drinks, I was thinking Aviary and Sable - thoughts?

I love pastry - is Vanille considered the best? We'll probably be staying near North Michigan Ave. so any patisseries near there?

Thanks!

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

Bongo Room
1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

Frontera Grill
445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

XOCO
449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

  1. p
    PopMegaphone Sep 1, 2011 02:15 PM

    For me, Lou Malnati (heavy) and Alinea (21-courses) would be way too much food for one day. If possible I would move Lou Malnati to another day and eat something lighter. Showing up to Alinea a little hungry will help maximize the experience. Just my opinion.

    I prefer Publican over Girl & Goat. I'm in the minority, but I think G&G is overrated. For me everything was oily and over seasoned. Publican rarely fails, and it's easier to get a reservation.

    Assuming you're no interested in food - Aviary over Sable.

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

    3 Replies
    1. re: PopMegaphone
      m
      ManhattanLawyer Sep 1, 2011 02:23 PM

      Hi PopMegaphone,.

      Lou Malnati and Alinea are on different days. Sorry for any confusion

      Day 1:
      Dinner: TBD

      Day 2: Friday
      Brunch: Jam, Bongo Room, ?
      Lunch: Lou Malnati
      Dinner: TBD

      Day 3:
      Brunch: Frontera Grill
      Dinner: Alinea
      will probably only have a light snack or perhaps pastry midday if anything

      Day 4: Sunday
      Brunch: TBD

      Would you recommend Sable just for drinks or also for dinner? I've read some people rave about the dinner they had there and I do love the mix-and-match with the half-size plates to allow us to try more items.

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

      Bongo Room
      1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      1. re: ManhattanLawyer
        p
        PopMegaphone Sep 1, 2011 02:29 PM

        I haven't eaten enough at Sable to say for sure. Honestly, it's the type of place you can find in NYC.

        On the other hand, The Aviary is a great and unique experience. I'm not sure there is another place in NYC like it.

        1. re: PopMegaphone
          k
          kathryn Sep 1, 2011 04:06 PM

          Sable is fun if you're doing bartender's choice, but it's much like Death & Co in NYC.

          The Aviary is one of a kind. Nothing like it in NYC.

    2. chicgail Sep 1, 2011 02:29 PM

      Frontera is great brunch. So is Publican. I adore Jam. Ate there this morning. Bongo Room is good if you like really sweet stuff. I had a red velvet pancake there recently that was so sweet I couldn't eat it.

      The Girl and the Goat is that great. But you can only get a res about 3 months out. Another really Top Chef restaurant in town in Sprout (Dale Levitski).

      Both Aviary and Sable are great places for drinks. You might also want to consider the Violet Hour in Wicker Park.

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

      Violet Hour
      1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

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

      1 Reply
      1. re: chicgail
        chicgail Sep 1, 2011 03:24 PM

        Just an additional thought about Jam. I really like this place.

        This morning I had a dish that was their seasonal play on biscuits and gravy. It was fresh creamed corn, smoked crudo, a biscuit and perfectly fried egg topped with black salt. The last time I was there, a few months ago, I realized I had another variation on the same theme: asparagus cut into even discs, maybe 1/4-inches long - some slices were cooked; some were served raw. This was highlighted with touch of pickled red onions, a brunoise of pork belly, a basic béchamel sauce with ... a fried egg topped with black salt. I'm in a rut.

        My husband, who is watching what he eats these days, had two poached egg whites with arugula, and other greens, topped with black salt. He loved it.

        Here's way more. http://foodbeest.com/?p=2974

      2. nsxtasy Sep 1, 2011 02:34 PM

        >> What are your thoughts on Bongo Room, Jam, Xoco, any others?

        I love Bongo Room. They have unusual pancake dishes, such as pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. Plus, one order is three GIGANTIC pancakes, but you can get one-third and two-thirds portion sizes at a reduced price, so you can try multiple items. This is a great and unique place, if you enjoy sweeter dishes for breakfast. Jam is also very good indeed. Not as unique as Bongo Room, it's sort of a contemporary American riff on a breakfast restaurant. For me, XOCO is more of a "if you happen to be in the neighborhood and want something quick" type of place. Especially since you already have a reservation for Saturday brunch at Frontera Grill next door. There are other excellent breakfast restaurants in and around Chicago, notably Southport Grocery, M. Henry/M. Henrietta, and Walker Brothers, but all of those are some distance (5+ miles) from downtown. If you're limiting it to those places close to downtown, my very first pick would be Bongo Room (but only if you enjoy sweeter dishes for breakfast), second choice is Jam. Maybe you can work both into your visit.

        Also note that none of these places take reservations, and they all tend to get very busy on Saturdays and particularly Sundays, roughly 9:30-12:30. Weekdays, you can walk right in and be seated.

        >> Lunch:
        >> Lou Malnati's (post-Shedd aquarium)
        >> open to suggestions for other days
        >> Dinner:
        >> Alinea one night so I was thinking more casual places for the other 2

        Most of the nicer places in the greater downtown area are open for both lunch and dinner, so these recommendations apply to both meals, except where noted otherwise: Sable for contemporary American, Piccolo Sogno or Cibo Matto for Italian, Mercat a la Planxa for tapas (dinner more so than lunch), Nacional 27 for Latin fusion, Sunda for pan-Asian, David Burke's Primehouse for steaks (burgers at lunch), La Sardine for French bistro fare. Top picks? The best dinners I've had recently in Chicago were at Sable and Piccolo Sogno.

        >> What are your thoughts on:
        >> Girl & Goat (is it actually good or just hyped because of Top Chef?)

        I thought it was pretty good overall; you can read my detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/742267#6486004 Some of the savory dishes were outstanding (e.g. pig face), others were generally good too. I hated the desserts, and I really think good desserts are an important component to a dinner. Overall, I didn't think it was just hyped; in particular, her culinary style is interesting (basically, throwing a lot of ingredients together). But there are other places in the city (e.g. Sable, Deleece) as well as the suburbs (Michael, Inovasi) where I've had dinners consisting of one terrific dish after another after another, including the desserts, and this wasn't one of them. (For a NYC comparison, I felt the same way - one terrific dish after another - about Craft.) I recommend checking out the menu on their website, and reading the reports, and if you think that's where you want to go, make a reservation. Note that they first take reservations three months in advance. They fill up quickly, but this is one of those places that doesn't release all their spaces on Opentable, so if you don't see availability on Opentable, try phoning.

        >> Publican

        This is more of a mixed bag, for various reasons. The Publican is more of a pub-type drinking place, with a large space in the middle of the room for standing next to high-tops while drinking. About half of the seating consists of those awful looooong communal tables where you're stuck dining next to strangers - not bad if you are dining solo, not great if you want some privacy with your companions. Fortunately, you can mention your preference for a private table when making a reservation in advance, and they will try to accommodate that. They have a great beer list. As for the food, I found some of the items very good (mussels), others not so great (pork rinds) and it, too, has desserts I found dreadful. (Awful desserts really isn't that common for me; the only two places I can recall where they were totally unsatisfying are Publican and Girl and the Goat, and you happened to mention both.) One more consideration is that the Publican is REALLY LOUD. I have no desire to go back. I think the food is significantly better at Blackbird, another of Kahan's restaurants, as well as many other places. But if you're looking for more of a beer hall type place, rather than a finer dining place, it might be exactly what you want.

        >> For drinks, I was thinking Aviary and Sable - thoughts?

        I absolutely love the food at Sable. I'm really not much of a drinker, but those who are, appreciate the craft cocktails there. They have one of the best mixology/barkeep staffs in the city. I haven't been to Aviary, can't really say.

        >> I love pastry - is Vanille considered the best? We'll probably be staying near North Michigan Ave. so any patisseries near there?

        I love pastry too. I've tried most of the patisseries and bakeries around the Mag Mile (North Michigan Avenue) and haven't been impressed by any of them. Fox & Obel, our premier gourmet food store (think of NYC's Dean & Deluca, Balducci, etc) is nearby and has some excellent baked goods, but I primarily like them for their bread baking, rather than pastries - things like wonderfully rich cinnamon swirl rolls, brioche, rustic fruit and nut breads, etc. They also do some nice pudding type stuff - bread pudding, chocolate brut (a chocolate version of bread pudding), classic Americana banana pudding, etc.

        Vanille is indeed one of our very best patisseries, with terrific entremets (individual-sized mousse cakes) and very good French macaroons and croissants. They have two locations. One is a satellite location in the French Market in the commuter train just west of the Loop. The French Market also features Pastoral (our best cheese market, also sandwiches) and Canady le Chocolatier (an artisanal chocolate-maker). Their main location is on north Clybourn. Four blocks east of Vanille's Clybourn location is another of our very best patisseries, Floriole, so it's easy to hit both of them in one trip. Floriole has great baked stuff, including French macaroons etc, as well as great desserts like panna cotta and pots de creme. Those three - Fox & Obel, Vanille, and Floriole - are IMHO the very best patisseries within a few miles of downtown Chicago.

        >> Would you recommend Sable just for drinks or also for dinner? I've read some people rave about the dinner they had there and I do love the mix-and-match with the half-size plates to allow us to try more items.

        The dinner I had there this past weekend - as I reported in the Sable topic at www.chow.com/topics/704524#6786486 - was one of the very best dinners I've had in the past year, for the food. (I'm not particularly interested in alcoholic beverages, just food.) I too love the mix-and-match, so you can try a lot of things. The first time I went there I got so full that I didn't have room for dessert, which was a big mistake, since Chef Terhune's desserts are as outstanding as her savory dishes. I learned not to order everything at once, so that now I order a few dishes at a time, and hold onto the menu, doing several iterations this way to judge how I'm doing.

        I would encourage you to look at the menus on the websites of the restaurants you're considering, to help you decide on which ones to go to. Doing this gives you a pretty good guide of what you'll have to choose from. Of course, not everyone likes the same things, so a place whose menu sounds amazing to one person, may not be as interesting to someone else. But I've found that in most cases, if a website menu sounds like food I'll enjoy, it usually turns out to be just that.

        Feel free to ask more questions, and enjoy your visit!

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

        Alinea
        1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

        Blackbird Restaurant
        619 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL 60606

        La Sardine
        111 N Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60607

        Bongo Room
        1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

        David Burke's Primehouse
        616 N Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611

        Frontera Grill
        445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

        Nacional 27
        325 W. Huron, Chicago, IL 60610

        Mercat a la Planxa
        638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

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

        Deleece Restaurant (on Southport
        )3747 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657

        Michael
        64 Green Bay Road, Winnetka, IL 60093

        Piccolo Sogno
        464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

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

        Cibo Matto
        201 N State St, Chicago, IL 60601

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

        Inovasi Restaurant
        28 E. Center Ave, Lake Bluff, IL 60044

        XOCO
        449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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

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

        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

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

        1. k
          kathryn Sep 1, 2011 04:19 PM

          As a fellow NYer:

          Frontera Grill is great but I think their brunch menu is on the limited side, isn't it? I assume you're less interested in the egg/French toast/etc-type dishes.

          I found the pancakes at Bongo Room way too sweet, I much prefer Clinton St, Breslin, etc. in NYC

          Jam on the other hand was excellent and creative, I don't think you'd find that type of menu really in NYC

          Xoco is good for breakfast but probably not all that different from Hecho en Dumbo or Casabel

          I found Publican and Girl and the Goat to both be great, buy very different.
          Publican seems very similar to Momofuku Ssam Bar with local ingredients, lots of pork and seafood, but blond wood and beer. G&TG is probably more unique.

          The Aviary is not to be missed. Sable and Violet Hour are similar to Pegu Club, PDT, Death & Co. Both very good, with better food at Sable, but the Aviary is unlike any other cockail lounge I've visited. Don't miss the In the Rocks, Blueberry, Truffled negroni, Chartreuse. We loved it so much we went two nights in a row. And got lucky enough to visit the basement speakeasy, The Office, as well. I'd ask when sitting down of you're interested. Seems like it fills up about 7pm.
          Only 16 seats, totally different menu, more traditional cocktails but insanely decadent food menu with caviar, Spanish ham, oysters, steak tartare, etc.

          We did Aviary and Publican a few nights ago for dinner, which was great. G&TG is also very close to the Aviary.

          Maybe on Friday night, do The Aviary early, late dinner at Girl and the Goat, then perhaps Sunday brunch at Publican (IIRC they take reservations).

          Have a great time! I'm jealous of your Alinea reservation.

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

          Frontera Grill
          445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

          Violet Hour
          1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

          XOCO
          449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

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

          3 Replies
          1. re: kathryn
            nsxtasy Sep 1, 2011 04:35 PM

            >> Frontera Grill is great but I think their brunch menu is on the limited side, isn't it?

            I think it's one of the more varied brunch menus around town. But you can take a look and decide for yourself: www.rickbayless.com/menus

            Topolobampo and Frontera Grill aren't the only places serving creative provincial Mexican cuisine in Chicago; our best also include Mexique, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, and Mixteco Grill, none of which is in the immediate downtown area the way Topo/Frontera are. You can check out all of their menus and decide for yourself which works the best for you. And you might also consider shuffling your meals around, maybe doing a Mexican place for lunch or dinner and someplace else for Saturday brunch. Just don't give up that Frontera reservation unless you're sure you don't need it, because reservations there are very hard to come by.

            >> I found the pancakes at Bongo Room way too sweet

            In most cases, the pancakes themselves aren't unusually sweet; it's the sauces on top that are. Those who don't enjoy sweeter dishes may be better off asking for the sauce to be omitted or served on the side (or going elsewhere). FWIW, I've never found any of the Bongo Room pancakes to be too sweet, but that's probably because I enjoy sweet dishes (and love breakfast because it's a way to make a meal out of dessert).

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

            Frontera Grill
            445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

            Topolobampo
            445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

            Mixteco Grill
            1601 W Montrose Ave, Chicago, IL 60613

            Mexique
            1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

            1. re: nsxtasy
              k
              kathryn Sep 1, 2011 05:56 PM

              I guess Frontera is "limited" in terms of sweet breakfasty options, but if you're ordering the dishes that are also on the dinner menu, it should be ok.

              1. re: nsxtasy
                l
                lbs Sep 2, 2011 06:39 AM

                (and love breakfast because it's a way to make a meal out of dessert).

                Just had to comment that line made me laugh out loud in a good way. :)

            2. coconutgoddess Sep 1, 2011 04:35 PM

              I LOVE the chicago food scene... such a yummy city! I have always wanted to try Graham Elliot... but never have.
              PLEASANT HOUSE BAKERY is a great spot, and CRISP is a must stop for me with the best Korean chicken. something I just dont get out here in UT.

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

              1. d
                DutchOenophile Sep 3, 2011 07:29 AM

                Fellow NY'er here too (I live in Chicago and work in NY so in both places every week). Personally, I'd recommend places in Pilsen for Mexican food over Frontera brunch, but lots of disagreement and depends which you'd prefer, which of course we don't know. I haven't found any decent Mexican food in NY so Chicago will win hands down over NY in that department, wherever you go, Frontera included.

                I love Girl & The Goat. Fantastic. You'll love it.
                Publican is good (I really don't see the comparison with Momofuku Ssam??) but not profound. Purple Pig is also good and worth a stop--maybe lunch?

                I second what someone said above--Aviary is unique and not like anything in NY. Sable is great but is similar to other places in NY such as PDQ etc. (though it's not pretending to be a speakeasy--just top quality mixology).

                There's a Belgian bread company that also, I hear, produces some pastry. A little research will identify it. I've had their bread--outstanding. I bet their other offerings are outstanding.

                If you want another gastronomic experience, I had a blow out dinner at L20 this past week. They have two new(ish, 5 months) great chefs who are doing great things. Think Eleven Madison Park. You'd love it.

                -----
                Purple Pig
                500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                6 Replies
                1. re: DutchOenophile
                  nsxtasy Sep 3, 2011 07:57 AM

                  >> There's a Belgian bread company that also, I hear, produces some pastry. A little research will identify it. I've had their bread--outstanding. I bet their other offerings are outstanding.

                  You would lose that bet. You're undoubtedly referring to Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter on Walton, near the Drake and Oak Street Beach. I've tried their breads and pastries, including the croissants, eclairs, the plain bread, and the bread with white chocolate inside. They're all decent, nothing special or outstanding about any of them. The breads, pastries, and other desserts are far better at Fox & Obel, Vanille, and Floriole.

                  1. re: nsxtasy
                    d
                    DutchOenophile Sep 3, 2011 08:16 AM

                    Interesting, thanks for the report. I did look up the name of the Belgian place and the reviews on other sites are pretty strong, but I trust what you say. The one loaf of bread I had from there was better than the outstanding offerings at Fox & Obel--yes, I agree, otherwise the best source of bread (but IMHO not other pastries) in Chicago. (This does not include Bennison's bakery in Evanston for bread which IMHO is the best in the area). Anyway, a tangent.

                    Also agree that Vanille is good.

                    However, for ManhattanLawyer--none of these will beat the stuff you can find in NYC. The macaroon in Chicago can't compare to those in NYC and same for pastries (give me a croissant from Petrossian cafe anyday!). I'd forget the pastry part of your quest and focus on the other things.

                    1. re: DutchOenophile
                      nsxtasy Sep 3, 2011 09:19 AM

                      I really never understood the praise of Bennison's as being best at anything. Oh, don't get me wrong, it's not BAD. But I really don't think it's GREAT, either.

                      I should first mention, its location happens to be extremely convenient for me, and I've been going there on close to a weekly basis for many years, so I'm intimately familiar with virtually everything they have. There are a few things they do extremely well, such as their palmiers and simple custard cups. But I find most of their pastries to be just average - not bad, but not the best around, either. They don't do a great pastry cream like in the fillings of the eclairs at Three Tarts or Gourmet Frog. Their pastry slices lack the strong flavors you'll find in similar items at Swedish Bakery. Their cinnamon rolls can't hold a candle to the rich cinnamon swirl rolls at Fox & Obel. Their donuts are pretty good, but they're just donuts, not to die for in any way. The French macaroons can't compare with those at Vanille, Floriole, or Alliance. And the breads are even less distinguished, not even as good as those at Foodstuffs or Whole Foods. They don't have any breads with the richness of the brioche loaf at Fox & Obel, or the complexity of the rustic fruit and nut loaves there. They're just plain old bakery type loaves of bread - good, but nothing I would go out of my way for. The croissants are nothing special. (In particular, their almond-flavored items tend to not have much almond flavoring; in addition to the croissants, this applies to their bostock and their marzipan slices.) You're certainly welcome to your opinion, but I've probably been there more times than anyone here, and I just don't see it.

                      Chicago does have some great breads, and great pastry (and I think anyone who loves either ought to check out what we've got). But Bennison's wouldn't be in my top ten in either category. Again, they're not bad, either; It wouldn't be in my bottom ten in either category. Overall, I think they're just sort of mid-pack.

                      -----
                      Swedish Bakery
                      5348 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640

                      Gourmet Frog
                      316 Green Bay Rd., Highwood, IL 60040

                      1. re: nsxtasy
                        chicgail Sep 3, 2011 09:54 AM

                        This probably deserves its own thread, but I am one of those people who adores good bread and ia only moderately interested in sweet pastries.

                        I do think Bennison's bread is outstanding. The bakery and their Master Bakers have won a number of awards for it, including the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, an international artisan bread baking competition held every three years in Paris. Their raisin bread was named the best in the country.

                        Other bread bakeries I love include Red Hen on Milwaukee Avenue and Heavenly Hearth in Wilmette.

                        1. re: nsxtasy
                          d
                          DutchOenophile Sep 4, 2011 08:23 AM

                          nsxtasy, I'm really surprised at your take on this, as I find Bennison's outstanding and I consider myself a fairly discerning customer.

                          You certainly express yourself with profound confidence in your opinion, which isn't necessarily bad (I do that too, I think) but readers should understand there is another, equally strong, confident and knowledgeable view that disagrees with your expressed certainty.

                    2. re: DutchOenophile
                      k
                      kathryn Sep 3, 2011 08:46 AM

                      Both Publican and Momofuku Ssam are loud, have lots of wood in their decor, have a similar farm-to-table philosophy, use country hams, local vegetables, lots of pork and seafood dishes, offer raw bar/oysters. IMO they're like brothers from different mothers.

                    3. m
                      ManhattanLawyer Nov 2, 2011 06:40 PM

                      Hi everyone, I'm back! Leaving for trip soon and just have one last question. Here is the itinerary as it stands

                      Day 1:
                      Dinner: Girl and Goat

                      Day 2:
                      Breakfast: Bongo Room
                      Lunch: Lou Malnati
                      Dinner: Publican (late dinner so hopefully can do Aviary or Sable before, with strong pref for Aviary but I know it's tough to get in)

                      Day 3:
                      Brunch: Frontera Grill
                      Dinner: Alinea
                      Hopefully a midday sweet stop at Vanille and/or Floriole

                      Day 4:
                      Brunch: Here's where I'm struggling. This is on a Sunday so my first pick, Xoco, isn't open. Also need to leave for airport around 11:30 so am hoping to be at brunch around 9:45. I don't think North Pond opens that early which is too bad. Of the restaurants that will be open that early, many don't seem to take reservations and have long waits pretty early. In NYC I would never have to worry about places being busy at 10 AM, but based on reviews it seems like that is a popular brunch time in Chicago and I would hate to get somewhere and have a really long wait and not be able to eat, or have to rush through breakfast.

                      So my first issue is whether I roll the dice on a no res place, and if so, which one: Jam, Yolk, M.Henry? Another?

                      Or do I be safe and book a table somewhere? Mercat a la plancha (I love Catalan food but am worried that the brunch menu isn't online because it changes so frequently), or Perennial Virant?

                      Any opinions would be really appreciated, and I promise to report back with a very detailed trip report!!

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

                      Bongo Room
                      1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

                      Frontera Grill
                      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                      North Pond
                      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                      Perennial Virant
                      1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

                      XOCO
                      449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                        uhockey Nov 2, 2011 07:06 PM

                        M Henry. Get there early. It is well worth it.

                        We'll be there this weekend as well - Alinea, Next, and Nugent's last day at Les Nomades.

                        Xoco, Marmalade, and Bleeding Heart Bakery Cafe (open for 56 straight hours from Friday-Sunday) will be breakfasts.

                        The Chicago pastry scene fails compared to New York - badly - but Fritz would be my first stop of the bakeries in Chicago without a doubt. Would also consider Doughnut Vault - no doughnuts in NYC that I've tasted can compare.

                        http://endoedibles.com

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

                        Les Nomades
                        222 E Ontario, Chicago, IL 60611

                        XOCO
                        449 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                        1. re: uhockey
                          k
                          kathryn Nov 3, 2011 06:52 AM

                          Doughnut Vault is closed Sundays.

                          http://thedoughnutvault.tumblr.com/

                          The Doughnut Vault serves up piping-hot, fat and delicious doughnuts... Tuesdays-Friday starting at 8:30am until we run out. And Saturdays at 9:30am until we run out.
                          401 1/2 N. Franklin

                          PS I'd highly recommend the doughnut from the pastry board at The Dutch, the blood pudding waffles w/ foie gras butter and wine-poached pears at Public, and the thin/crispy dutch baby covered with bacon at the Spotted Pig when you're in NYC again.

                          1. re: kathryn
                            uhockey Nov 3, 2011 08:23 AM

                            Noted. They could go to DV a different day - its a snack stop, not a full meal. ;-)

                            February for NYC. I keep missing out on Spotted Pig for one reason or another and The Dutch was on my list.

                            http://endoedibles.com

                        2. re: ManhattanLawyer
                          b
                          Bdav1818 Nov 2, 2011 07:13 PM

                          Don't bother with Jam, Yolk, M. Henry, or any of the other traditional breakfast/brunch places. Make a 10am reservation at Perennial Virant and you won't have to worry about a thing. I had brunch there a month or so ago, and it was amazing- the only thing close is Publican, but since you're doing dinner there already, it's perfect.. Looking at your plans, brunch at Perennial Virant will really round our your itinerary.

                          -----
                          Perennial Virant
                          1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

                          1. re: Bdav1818
                            uhockey Nov 2, 2011 07:59 PM

                            If it is "like Publican" how does it "round out" the agenda?

                            As someone who visits NYC frequently there are a lot of spots like both PV and Publican - there is not a place in Manhattan doing breakfast like M. Henry or Bongo Room. Chicago's brunch scene blows NYC out of the water imo for pancakes, French Toast, etc.

                            Incedentally, does PV serve off the dessert menu at brunch?

                            http://endoedibles.com

                            -----
                            Bongo Room
                            1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

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

                            1. re: uhockey
                              b
                              Bdav1818 Nov 2, 2011 09:04 PM

                              Maybe I was unclear- I meant that, "the only thing close" to the quality of PV's brunch is that of the Publican. I wasn't saying that the 2 restaurants are at all similar, but that they are 2 of my favorite places to have brunch. Since ManhattanLawyer is already having dinner at Publican, to me, it makes the decision of PV for brunch easy.

                              1. re: Bdav1818
                                uhockey Nov 3, 2011 02:38 AM

                                Understood - I just think one would be better off to experience a truly CHICAGO spot (even Ann Sather below) since I find the NYC brunch scene weak in the sweets department (probably because they do bakeries so well.)

                                http://endoedibles.com

                          2. re: ManhattanLawyer
                            k
                            kathryn Nov 3, 2011 06:51 AM

                            Definitely try for Aviary before dinner -- it is not to be missed.

                            They do take same-day reservations requests via email for 6pm, 8pm, and 10pm time slots.

                            Since you're having a late dinner, I'd try for the 8pm tables. Nick has said on Facebook that's the easiest time to get in, since everybody else is having dinner at 8pm.

                            You can set up a draft email beforehand to the reservations address. Just note w/ party size, time of 8pm, your name, and your phone number, and remember to send it out around 10am the day of.

                            1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                              d
                              danimalarkey Nov 3, 2011 08:31 AM

                              Nightwood, located about 3 miles from downtown in Pilsen opens at 9am on Sundays and accepts reservations. I go here often for dinner -- seasonal, farm-to-table focus that I'm sure carries over into brunch. Also, their donuts are spectacular.

                              -----
                              Nightwood
                              2119 S Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60608

                              1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                                nsxtasy Nov 3, 2011 08:34 AM

                                >> Day 3:
                                >> Brunch: Frontera Grill

                                I hope you either have a reservation, or you plan to get there before they open Saturday morning. Last time I tried going to Frontera for their Saturday brunch, I phoned ahead from the car and found out that the wait to be seated was 90 minutes. (We instead went to Mundial Cocina Mestiza for brunch that day and loved it.)

                                >> So my first issue is whether I roll the dice on a no res place, and if so, which one: Jam, Yolk, M.Henry? Another?

                                Definitely not Jam, because they are closed. They are moving and their new location in Logan Square is not yet open.

                                My experience with Chicago breakfast specialty restaurants on Sundays, including M. Henry, is that you can walk right in at 9:00 anywhere, but by 9:30 you can expect a wait of 15-30 minutes, and the wait gets longer after that. M. Henry and M. Henrietta have a much more unusual, creative menu than Yolk. (For the same reason, I wouldn't go to Ann Sather, either.) However, M. Henry and M. Henrietta are up on the north side and may or may not be as convenient for your trip to the airport. Consider M. Henrietta rather than M. Henry, as the waits may be slightly shorter there. Southport Grocery is also worth considering, but the same situation with waits applies there too.

                                You don't mention how you are getting around and which airport you're going to, but another good breakfast place worth considering is Lula. It's on the way to O'Hare and an easy stop whether you're driving or taking the CTA Blue Line (it's right near the Logan Square stop). Again, the same situation applies with waits; you'll walk right in when they open at 9:00, but there will be waits if you go much later than that.

                                >> Or do I be safe and book a table somewhere? Mercat a la plancha (I love Catalan food but am worried that the brunch menu isn't online because it changes so frequently), or Perennial Virant?

                                I haven't been to Mercat a la Planxa, but I would be hesitant to go there early expecting tapas. It's located in a hotel (the Blackstone) and as you can see from their website, their breakfast menu is not at all tapas-like, and is more of a standard hotel breakfast menu. I don't know what time they start serving brunch, and from what they say on their website about brunch doesn't sound very tapas-like either.

                                Perennial Virant is an excellent restaurant. I've been there for brunch before Paul Virant took over in the kitchen, and it was lovely. As noted above, they open at 10:00, and you can make a reservation, including on Opentable.

                                Another option would be to switch your brunches around, doing M. Henry / M. Henrietta on Saturday, and then Mexique for your Mexican brunch on Sunday. They open at 10:00 and accept reservations. If you're flying out of Midway, you could do your Sunday brunch at Mundial Cocina Mestiza; they don't open for brunch till 11:00, but they're right on the way to Midway so your timing might still work. They take reservations too.

                                If it comes down to a decision between M. Henry / M. Henrietta vs Perennial Virant, I would consider the logistics (geographic location, ability to make a reservation, and your travel plans). Deciding between the two, MH/MH is a much more casual experience, whereas Perennial Virant is elegant (not super dressy at brunch, but more of a "white tablecloth" experience). You should look at the menus on their websites to get a better idea of the food they serve. Both are excellent at what they do, and it just depends on what you're looking for.

                                HTH

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

                                Frontera Grill
                                445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                                Lula Cafe
                                2537 N Kedzie Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647

                                Mercat a la Planxa
                                638 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60605

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

                                Perennial Virant
                                1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

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

                                M. Henrietta
                                1133 West Granville, Chicago, IL 60660

                              2. l
                                lenmad Nov 2, 2011 08:26 PM

                                You mentioned wanting uniquely Chicago-ish places. It certainly isn't fancy, but breakfast/brunch at Ann Sather's (in Lincoln Park/Lakeview) is local, and was good enough to warrant a visit from the Stanley Cup the morning after the Blackhawks won. Sorry, sweet tooth, but when I visit (born/raised Chicago, now live in Wisconsin) I have to pick up Garrett's Popcorn for the family. Otherwise the recommendations you've already gotten are good.

                                1. m
                                  ManhattanLawyer Nov 14, 2011 09:21 AM

                                  Hi everyone,

                                  I just wanted to report back on my trip since you were all so helpful with your suggestions.

                                  Our flight to Chicago was delayed so we didn't make it in time to go to Girl and Goat so we went to the Purple Pig, which was great. Given that it was 11 PM we didn't want to order too much but this is definitely a place I could see myself returning often. Service was also quite good.

                                  We shared some cured meats: lingua agrodolce, fuet, jamon bellota - the lingua agrodolce was outstanding. We also had roasted butternut squash with pepitas and ricotta salata (very good); razor clams with oregano, lemon, and olive oil (good flavor and I'm not even a huge razor clams fan), and wagyu sirloin tips with fingerling potatoes, red onions, olives, bone marrow vinaigrette (great acidity from the olives). For dessert we had the apple and quince crostata which was an individual serving size. Very cute and good flavor. This was a wonderful place.

                                  Brunch at Bongo Room was great. The portions are huge!! And we only got the 2 pancake order which is considered a "half-portion!" I had the red velvet pancakes and the Thai chicken sausage with ginger. Husband had the apple tarte tatin pancakes and the canadian bacon. Both were very good - and different!

                                  Lunch at Lou Malnati's was the Chicago classic with cheese, sauce, and sausage. Very good flavor to the sauce.

                                  We snagged a res at the Aviary which was a lot of fun! The cider drink where they bring you the cider to watch infuse was great. Also had the chartreuse one, the ginger one, and whatever the one that resembles an old fashioned is. Really enjoyed this place.

                                  After Aviary we walked a block to the Publican. Fantastic atmosphere. Reminded me of a beer hall in Prague. Food was terrific. We had the La Quercia Rossa ham cured ham (delicious); wild king salmon lox with figs, fromage blanc, saba, and rye; Brussels sprouts with burrata, parmesan, onions, and lemon; roasted squash; sweetbreads with celery root puree & pomegranate salsa verde; suckling pig with golden turnip puree, truffled tapenade & feta; big woods blue cheese from Champaign, Illinois; and a waffle with honey butter and strawberry jam. Loved their beer selection - we had a dry cider and a red Flemish ale. The waffle was definitely the weak spot. Dry and flavorless. The highlights were the roasted squash and suckling pig.

                                  Brunch the next day was at Frontera Grill. We had the appetizer sampler - cheese quesadillas, chicken taquitos with crema, ceviche tostadas, jicama salad & guacamole, then we shared enchiladas with chicken mole and tacos with skirt steak. The tacos and enchiladas were both very good but I was not as impressed as I thought I would be overall.

                                  Dinner that night was Alinea. I don't have the menu in front of me so there's no way I could remember all the courses (plus that would destroy the surprise for anyone who hasn't yet eaten there). I will say that overall I am glad that I ate there. It was one of the most inventive places where I've eaten - definitely food as art. But it was not as magical as I had expected it to be. Service was a bit stiff - and, even more disappointingly, snobby. I am rarely a fan of wine pairings because the wines used in wine pairings are usually very boring and not that good and I'd rather splurge on a really outstanding bottle or two. Our sommelier not only said that wine pairings are the only way to go but then also tried to upsell us on the reserve pairings in a pretty insulting way. We'll just leave it at that. I did hear other servers describing the wine pairings in a less obnoxious way so I think that it was just an issue with our table’s sommelier. Onto the actual food, some of the courses were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed courses where I had to disassemble and reassemble my serving piece in order to eat the course. But overall, it just didn’t blow me away the way other hyped restaurants have done. I will admit I was disappointed that every table around us had the final dessert prepared by Chef Achatz and then when it came time for our dessert, the sous chef prepared it. I know that he is probably very very busy in the kitchen and therefore can’t serve every dessert but to be the only table in the room where yours wasn’t prepared by the Chef was disappointing.

                                  Last brunch was at Perenniel Virant. I was very disappointed with this brunch. We had the maple-bourbon breakfast sausage with sunny side up eggs, home fries, toast; apple bread with spiced apples and cherry compote; and the farm egg skillet with sweet and hot peppers, onions, smoked cheddar, cilantro, toast. The food in my opinion was not prepared that well and the flavors were all very one-note.

                                  So that’s it. I’ll be impressed if you read this far. Thanks for all your help again!!

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

                                  Bongo Room
                                  1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

                                  Frontera Grill
                                  445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

                                  Purple Pig
                                  500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                                    camusman Nov 14, 2011 11:29 AM

                                    I read this far and greatly appreciate your detailed report. Glad that most of the places hit the mark.

                                    1. re: ManhattanLawyer
                                      chicgail Nov 14, 2011 01:01 PM

                                      What a great report and - more pertinent - what a great eating trip. I must say I am a little jealous of all the good food in just a few days. Party on.

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