Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chicago Area >
Oct 13, 2011 07:19 PM

25th anniversary weekend recommendations

We're a fun couple coming to Chicago from DTW for special weekend. We're both foodies and looking forward to great cocktails and some fine dining. No clubbing but love a vibrant atmosphere for drinks. Please share your best recommendations for late thurs through monday stay on magnificant mile. Will have a car. Price is not neccessarily a factor as it's a memory making weekend. Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are approximately a million threads on this (give or take.)

    If you're 2 months away from the trip, book Alinea. If you're not, book L2o. If something more "classic" is your style then Everest is a great choice.

    For cocktails in a "vibrant" atmosphere Aviary or Violet Hour.

    Otherwise it'd be pretty useful to know your likes and dislikes.

    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

    Violet Hour
    1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    1. You don't mention where you're staying, which is a big factor in choosing places. I assume you'll be staying in the areas collectively known as "downtown"? If so, you may be better off not using your car, and getting around by walking, cab, public transit, etc. If not, let us know where and we can help with recommendations nearby. Also you may find that the map on the right of this page is helpful.

      Also, do you enjoy high-end restaurants? These typically feature high prices (typically $200-300 per person including moderate wine/alcohol, tax, and tip), lengthy tasting menus, formal attire (jackets required for gentlemen), extensive serving staffs, etc. If so, then Alinea is the best of the best; it's often rated as the best restaurant in the country. Reservations fill up quickly. They are currently accepting reservations for December, so you should call NOW; the January book opens on November 1. Beyond Alinea, our very best consist of TRU, Everest, and Spiaggia; choose one of these.

      There are many restaurants serving excellent food but in a more casual atmosphere than the high-end places, and at lower prices ($100/pp inclusive or less). Grouped by types of food, the best of these include contemporary American (Sable, North Pond, Perennial Virant, Boka, Naha, Graham Elliot, Atwood Cafe), contemporary Mexican (Topolobampo/Frontera Grill, Mexique, Mundial Cocina Mestiza), contemporary Italian (Piccolo Sogno, the Florentine), tapas (Mercat a la Planxa), Latin fusion (Carnivale, Nacional 27), steakhouses (David Burke's Primehouse, Chicago Cut Steakhouse), seafood (Shaw's Crab House), and French bistro (La Sardine). Chicago also has our famous deep-dish pizza, the best of which is at various locations of Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, and the original Uno/Due. Keep in mind that you can plan your itinerary with some of these places for lunch or weekend brunch as well as dinner. And there are lots more places here - places that specialize in breakfast, ethnic neighborhood restaurants of just about every type, etc.

      Are you looking for cocktails in a separate place from dinner, or the same place? Violet Hour has unusual craft cocktails but no food. Sable has unusual craft cocktails along with great food; their format of small plates and half portions enables you to have anything from a drink to a dinner.

      Feel free to ask more questions, and have a happy anniversary!

      1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

      1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

      La Sardine
      111 N Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60607

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

      Frontera Grill
      445 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60654

      Tru Restaurant
      676 North Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

      North Pond
      2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

      Nacional 27
      325 W. Huron, Chicago, IL 60610

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

      445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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

      Perennial Virant
      1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

      Atwood Cafe
      1 West Washington St., Chicago, IL 60602

      1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

      Shaw's Crab House
      21 East Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60611

      Piccolo Sogno
      464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

      980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

      500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

      Violet Hour
      1247 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

      702 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661

      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

      Chicago Cut Steakhouse
      300 N LaSalle St, Chicago, IL 60654

      14 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        This list omits the only other 3 Star Michelin Restaurant in Chicago (and one of only 10 in the entire USA) L2o.

        It additionally neglects Charlie Trotter's - perhaps the most famous and well regarded restaurant in Chicago outside Alinea.

        1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

        1. re: uhockey

          I was not at all impressed with my dinner at L2O. Additional reviews here have been decidedly mixed, with some people loving it, others not.

          As for Charlie Trotter's, I haven't been there in a while. Reviews here of Trotter's have also been decidedly mixed lately.

          Reports of visits (including my own) to TRU, Everest, and Spiaggia have, overall, been very favorable towards the food, although a few have expressed issues about the service. Based on my own experience as well as other reports here, I consider them more reliable places to recommend than L2O or Trotter's.

          Michelin assigns stars, and like any ratings (including Forbes/Mobil, Zagat, Yelp, etc), those familiar with places will sometimes agree, sometimes disagree.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Nsxtasy, when was the last time you have been to L2O and how many times have you been? I understand your wanting to omit it from a list of fine Chicago but I really think is among Chicago's finest.

            Trotter's is indeed one of Chicago's most famous. The food is always excellent but I just didn't seem to enjoy the experience last time I was there. Though, I would include it on a list of Chicago's top restaurants. I just don't think its in the top 3 or 4.

            I totally agree about Michelin stars and other ratings. How Trotter's got two Michelin stars and Tru didn't get any is absolutely beyond me and that's just the beginning of my issues with their and others ratings.

            2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

              1. re: uhockey

                I should have said, originally Trotter's got two....

              2. re: HoosierFoodie

                In the 2011 Michelin guide, TRU was awarded 1 star.

                1. re: Bdav1818

                  If you'd like to see the list of star winners this past year, and the reactions of one critic at that time, go to

                  As stated there, his biggest surprises of restaurants which were on the list were Longman & Eagle and Bonsoiree, and his biggest surprises of restaurants omitted were Les Nomades, North Pond, and Arun’s.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    North Pond trumps L&E for sure, but neither warrant a star. It seems L&E picks up cred from the same group who loves Breslin and Spotted Pig in NYC.

                    Bonsoiree's cooking is every bit deserving of the 1 Star, but in that case Schwa should get 2.


                    2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

                    North Pond
                    2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

                    1. re: nsxtasy

                      I originally posted the wrong link in the previous post, and I don't know whether I can get it corrected. The link I described there, and intended to include, is this one:


                      I've been to most but not all of the 23 restaurants. Aside from qualms about numbers of stars, most are reasonable choices, there are a few that I think don't belong at all, and a few more where I had disappointing experiences but I can still understand why they were starred. I could easily name another thirty more restaurants deserving of stars that were not named; North Pond certainly deserves it but is hardly the only oversight, and as Mr. Ruby aptly noted, "the list looked a little skimpy". Also note that one restaurant named, Avenues, has since closed; one, NoMI, has re-concepted; several have had major chef changes; etc. Other than the size of the list, I don't think it's terrible, just an okay list that's mostly about what anyone would expect, along with a handful of surprises that seem like lapses in judgment for the sake of their "shock value".

                      Their "Bib Gourmand" list is shown at I actually rather like this list; again, there are a few choices that are questionable (e.g. La Creperie) and a few glaring omissions, but overall, it's very interesting and has some great choices some of which don't get much attention in the media (Han 202, Mexique, M. Henry).

                      And, for those who enjoy hearing other lists and honors... The current Forbes (Mobil) Travel Guide gives restaurants five stars (Alinea, Charlie Trotter's) and four stars (Avenues, Everest, L2O, Les Nomades, Seasons, Sixteen, Tru). This year's James Beard Award finalists for the Best Chef - Great Lakes included Schwa, Avenues, North Pond, and Vie (although previous winners were not eligible, and there are national categories too). And Phil Vettel of the Tribune has given four stars to only ten restaurants in the past ten years: Ria, TRU, Courtright's, Alinea, Everest, Spiaggia, L2O, Avenues, Charlie Trotter's, and Les Nomades. Argue away! :)

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Thanks for the well wishes and reply. We are staying on East Ohio Ave.

              1. re: indy

                A restaurant that we've enjoyed, that does not seem to get much mention in this Board, but which fits your description of vibrant, good food & cocktails, and no dress code is Blue 13. It's in River North, due west of where you are staying. Here is the link:

                Blue 13
                416 W. Ontario Street, Chicago, IL 60610

              2. re: nsxtasy

                Not into dressing for dinner, so high end would not work for us. For the sake of variety, we may do cocktails before a late dinner elsewhere.

                1. re: indy

                  >> Not into dressing for dinner, so high end would not work for us.

                  Then you will want to avoid the following restaurants: Alinea, Everest, Charlie Trotter's, Everest, Spiaggia, Les Nomades, Carlos, L2O, TRU. I believe this is a complete list of all public restaurants in the Chicago area which require/prefer a jacket for gentlemen. Anywhere else, you'll be appropriate in "business casual" attire.

                  Note that you *may* be able to eat from the regular menu in the lounge at some of these places without business attire (L2O and TRU, I believe), but if you're interested in doing so, it would be best to check with the restaurant in advance to confirm this.

                  1. re: indy

                    Would recommend BonSoiree. No Dress Code. BYO. Excellent food.