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Very Special Occasion in Chicago - Restaurant Suggestions

Hi!

My husband and I will be in Chicago for our 5th wedding anniversary and I am looking for a special restaurant for this day for the two of us.

I realize that Alinea is the place to go, but $200 per person without tips and drinks is just too much.

I'm also considering some of the restaurants on this list http://www.michelinguide.com/us/2011_... - the less expensive Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Will be happy to receive any recommendations and suggestions.

Thank you in advance!

P.S. No french food, please!

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Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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  1. From that list one of my favorites is Frontera Grill - and you could even go to the more upscalle Topolobompo which is next to Frontera Grill for less than $100 per person -

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    Frontera Grill
    445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

    1. Based on what you're looking for, my top recommendations are TRU for a high-end contemporary American dinner, Spiaggia for a high-end Italian dinner, and North Pond for an upscale contemporary American dinner. Here's why, along with a mention of some other alternatives.

      The very best places in town are Alinea, Everest, TRU, Spiaggia, and Charlie Trotter's. (Avenues is closed; borderline places with mixed reviews and a revolving door of chefs include L2O, Ria, and Sixteen.) These are our high-end restaurants, places where people get dressed up (jackets required for gentlemen), they offer lengthy tasting menus, there are armies of waitstaff, etc. Of the top group, Alinea is too expensive for you, Everest is French (although the menu isn't all THAT different from the others, since it's very contemporary and similar to these other places, not at all your traditional French), and Charlie Trotter's has had some service issues reported here recently. So that leaves TRU and Spiaggia.

      If you'd like a more casual experience, there is a next tier of "casual fine dining" restaurants, where jackets aren't required, prices are lower, menus are mostly a la carte, etc. For a special occasion, the ones I would be looking at include Topolobampo (however they start accepting reservations three months in advance, and they fill quickly), North Pond (notable for its exquisite location in the middle of the park), and Perennial Virant, all of which are upscale and nice and suitable for a special occasion. Beware Frontera Grill, where wait times to be seated without a reservation can exceed 90 minutes.

      Incidentally, I don't have a lot of respect for the Michelin ratings. Based on my own experience, some of their restaurants deserve it, but others don't.

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      Alinea
      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

      Tru Restaurant
      676 North Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

      North Pond
      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

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

      Topolobampo
      445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

      Perennial Virant
      1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

      Spiaggia
      980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      9 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thank you for such a detailed response! North Pond seems to be what I'm looking for.

        1. re: Evgeniya

          North Pond is a lovely restaurant. The food, from James Beard Award finalist Chef Bruce Sherman, is excellent and very creative. When making a reservation, you may want to request seating in the front room with its full-length windows looking out on the pond and the city skyline. The rear room with the open kitchen is also fun, but the view from the front room is perfect for that special occasion.

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          North Pond
          2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

          1. re: Evgeniya

            The food at North Pond is quite mediocre, though the setting is nice.

            At your price point definitely consider Topolobampo, NAHA, Blackbird or perhaps Bonsoiree for something with a very approachable upscale feel (and BYO wine.)

            L2o and TRU are both lovely, but likely out of price range.

            http://endoedibles.com

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            Bonsoiree
            2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

            North Pond
            2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

            Topolobampo
            445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

            1. re: uhockey

              TRU is not necessarily out of your price range; here are the best estimates to help you make your decision. You mention Alinea's $200 before tax/tip and drinks as being too much. TRU offers a three-course prix fixe for $98. They also have tasting menus which are somewhat more than that, but still not as much as Alinea. However, TRU is certainly more expensive than North Pond, where three a la carte courses are typically in the low sixties, and the five-course tasting menu is $85.

              Regarding North Pond, I must disagree with our friend from Ohio. I think the food there is excellent. And Chef Sherman's style enables you to try a lot of things; for example, a typical dish may have 3-6 different items on the plate, and you're likely to just love at least a few of them. Plus the setting is indeed exquisite, and uniquely Chicago. I think it's the perfect place for a celebration dinner. (So are TRU, Everest, and Spiaggia, but they are more expensive than North Pond.)

              1. re: nsxtasy

                North Pond has the exact sort of ambiance I would want for a 5th anniversary dinner. The building and location are excellent. I enjoyed the food well enough, but I can understand uhockey's statement as well. I wanted the food to be a little more consistent with the theme of the restaurant; it felt like they were trying too hard to be "fancy" while losing their supposed core values. The flavors were good but nothing extraordinary. They seem a bit over the top with their usage of cannelle shapes. Still, it wasn't what I would call "mediocre" food, but certainly I wished it were better still. Though I prefer the food at topolobampo, it is not what I would call a romantic, peaceful setting.

                So, North Pond wouldn't be bad. It's too bad Alinea is out of your price range; that would be a perfect fit. Calm, romantic, fun, memorable, delicious.

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                Alinea
                1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

                North Pond
                2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                1. re: TAsunder

                  For some of us really great food is as romantic as soft music and candlelight.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    Bingo.

                    Having a buffet style plate - potatoes here, corn there, beef here - to me isn't well conceptualized nor sexy.

                    And if I wanted soft music and candles I'd go to Everest, TRU, or Naha first.

                    All that said - I'd really lean towards Bonsoiree all things being equal.

                    http://endoedibles.com

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                    Bonsoiree
                    2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

                    Naha
                    500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

                    1. re: uhockey

                      I have no problem with Everest, TRU or Naha - foodwise or ambiance-wise (well, I'd had service issues at Everest, but it is a lovely setting and the food is superb.

                      I also love Bonsoiree. And Topolobampo. Spiaggia is quite expensive, but Cafe Spiaggia is lovely, has wonderful food and is significantly more reasonably priced.

                      Charlie Trotters was a total bust the last time we were there so I wouldn't even consider it.

                      And Mr. CG and I are going to try MK for our anniversary. It'll be the first time we've been there in a few years. We'll let you know what we think, of course.

                      North Pond is very good, but what recommends it first and foremost is the environment. I've had hits and misses with food there.

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                      Bonsoiree
                      2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

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

                      North Pond
                      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                      Cafe Spiaggia
                      980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                      Topolobampo
                      445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

                      Spiaggia
                      980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

                      Naha
                      500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610