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One dinner in Chicago?

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Hello! I live in DC (I guess I'm technically a "dc hound", but that feels like a weird term), and my husband and I will be in Chicago on Saturday night and will just have time for one dinner. He is a chef (formerly in SF, now in DC) and is an ultimate foody. I love good food, but you won't catch me ordering off of an offal menu. I've been perusing your board and you all have some great reviews of some really great restaurants. Do you mind if I solicit recommendations for just one dinner from you?

Here are some details on what we're looking for:
*We are staying at the Hotel Allegro. I believe this is in the West Loop (I don't know your city well though), but we are totally willing to travel via cab or public transit.
*We are considering Frontera Grill (no reservations, right?), because we spent a good bit of time in Oaxaca and do love Rick Bayless -- but if we only have one dinner -- is this the best?
*We're looking for something not on the price level of Alinea (oh, how I can dream), but are open to most price points below that!
*We love all food and all cuisines. We are looking for innovative, and most of all, DELICIOUS food. Would love something that we will be talking about for quite some time ('remember that great meal we had in Chicago?')

Thanks in advance!

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  1. >> *We are staying at the Hotel Allegro. I believe this is in the West Loop (I don't know your city well though), but we are totally willing to travel via cab or public transit.

    The Hotel Allegro is in the Loop, not the West Loop. The Loop is the area south of the Chicago River and east of the Chicago River's south branch. The West Loop is on the other side of the Chicago River's south branch.

    >> *We are considering Frontera Grill (no reservations, right?), because we spent a good bit of time in Oaxaca and do love Rick Bayless

    Frontera Grill accepts only a handful of reservations, and keeps most of the dining room available for walk-in traffic. Waits to be seated are typically lengthy, often 90 minutes or more. You can avoid them by arriving 15-30 minutes before they open the doors. Topolobampo, the more upscale restaurant, occupies one dining room there, and fills with reservations shortly after they open the book three months ahead of time. If you eat at the bar at Frontera Grill, it won't shorten your wait to be seated, but you can order from either menu, Frontera's or Topolobampo's.

    >> -- but if we only have one dinner -- is this the best?

    I don't think you can compare, say, a provincial Mexican dinner, against a contemporary American dinner, against a steak dinner, against a French bistro dinner, etc. Each is good but it depends on what you like. I think Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are among our best places for provincial Mexican cuisine; I also like Mexique, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, and Mixteco Grill.

    >> *We're looking for something not on the price level of Alinea (oh, how I can dream), but are open to most price points below that!
    *We love all food and all cuisines. We are looking for innovative, and most of all, DELICIOUS food. Would love something that we will be talking about for quite some time ('remember that great meal we had in Chicago?')

    We have some terrific contemporary American restaurants. For a combination of innovative and delicious, I'd consider Graham Elliot as top pick; additional choices would include Naha and Perennial Virant. If you wanted to consider contemporary Italian cuisine, my top pick would be Piccolo Sogno.

    Most of these places accept reservations including on Opentable.com However, if you need a reservation for this coming Saturday evening, your options may be limited. Sometimes you can find a table if you're willing to eat early (6:00 or earlier) or later (9:00 or later), sometimes they're booked solid.

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

    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

    Perennial Virant
    1800 N Lincoln, Chicago, IL 60614

    Mexique
    1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    Piccolo Sogno
    464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

    Naha
    500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks so much for your insight (and proper neighborhood orientation!). I think we're between Naha and sitting at the bar at Frontera Grill.

      (on a sidenote, I noticed that Naha is having a "bake sale" and a culinary tool sale from 8am-2pm on Saturday, and wanted to pass the word along to anyone interested)

      1. re: hppyheather

        Either of your choices will be great - enjoy!