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Mid week brunch and other suggestions.

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I am traveling to Chicago with buddy for a midweek culinary extravaganza in the week between Christmas and New Years and need advice about our culinary tour.

We are both foodies and appreciate a good meal (and will pay for It) and we eat anything you put in front of us. My buddy will be on leave from someplace warm and sandy and I want to take him to some great places to eat so that he can recall a few great meals over his next cold MRE.

So we are visiting mid week Tues-Thursday and I was wondering if there is a place that offers a great brunch like something akin to the Publican on a Sunday…except mid week. I know this might be a stretch.

As far as our dinner selections I was thinking go big and magnificent one or two nights. Here is my short list. (Assume we do the tasting menu where offered):

L20
Graham Elliot (been here before but would go again)
Avec
Blackbird

….of course we would love to go to Alinea, but have been on wait list at least a dozen times and have pretty much given up….ditto with getting "tickets" at Next.

Next assignment -- eat something interesting (something I can't get in Metro Detroit). Great ethnic food would be great….authentic mexican also good. Considering TOPOLOBAMPO, but open for suggestions.

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Alinea
1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

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

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

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  1. >> So we are visiting mid week Tues-Thursday and I was wondering if there is a place that offers a great brunch like something akin to the Publican on a Sunday…except mid week. I know this might be a stretch.

    No, not at all! Chicago has dozens of restaurants that specialize in breakfast/brunch. Some of them are just your conventional places with pancakes and eggs, but others have really unusual menus and specialty dishes. Here is how I would rank the best ones around Chicagoland, starting with the very best:

    1. Walker Brothers (six locations in the north and northwest suburbs)
    2. M. Henry (Chicago/Andersonville) and M. Henrietta (Chicago/Edgewater)
    3. Bongo Room (Chicago/Wicker Park and Chicago/South Loop)
    4. Jam (Chicago/Logan Square)
    5. Marmalade (Chicago/Lakeview)
    6. Southport Grocery (Chicago/Lakeview)

    I strongly advise checking out the menus on their websites to get an idea of what each has to offer. In a few words, though, Walker Brothers takes a very good national chain and elevates it to an even higher level of quality, decor, etc; M. Henry / M. Henrietta and Marmalade offer creative dishes, both sweet and savory; Bongo Room specializes in unusual versions of pancakes topped with sweet sauces; Jam is like a breakfast version of an upscale contemporary American bistro; and Southport Grocery has a whimsical, humorous menu with very good quality.

    >> As far as our dinner selections I was thinking go big and magnificent one or two nights. Here is my short list. (Assume we do the tasting menu where offered):

    Avec is not at all "big and magnificent". Quite the opposite, in fact, with its communal seating, long waits and no-reservations policy, uncomfortable seats, etc.

    If you really want "big and magnificent", it's probably too late to snag a reservation at Alinea, so I'd consider TRU, Everest, or Spiaggia, if you enjoy formal high-end dining. For the next tier down, along with Graham Elliot and Blackbird, I'd be considering Naha, North Pond, and Boka in the contemporary American genre, and Piccolo Sogno for contemporary Italian.

    I would also consider one of our upscale provincial Mexican restaurants. These are unlike your conventional Mexican places (no slam against Detroit, you can't find such places in most U.S. cities), and may even belong in your "big and magnificent" category rather than "mere" ethnic food. Topolobampo is a good choice, but you would need to reserve RIGHT NOW and it may already be too late for dinner, since they start to fill up when they open the book three months in advance. You can probably still get a lunch reservation there though. Mexique is another excellent choice.

    And there are also our "small plates" restaurants like Sable (contemporary American), Quartino (Italian), and Mercat a la Planxa (tapas). Other restaurants serving upscale ethnic food include Carnivale (Latin fusion), Le Colonial (Vietnamese), Shanghai Terrace (Chinese), and Heaven on Seven (cajun/creole). We also have the usual steakhouses (David Burke's Primehouse, Chicago Cut Steakhouse) and seafood places (GT Fish & Oyster, Shaw's Crab House). As for casual ethnic restaurants such as are often found in neighborhood storefronts, we have many such places for almost any nationality/ethnicity you can name, many of them in neighborhoods filled with residents from the associated locations. It's just a matter of what you enjoy most - Indian/Pakistani, Ethiopian, Thai, Polish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and on and on and on. Just let us know what kind of food you prefer, and we can make recommendations.

    The only thing that I would avoid here are our Jewish delis - not because there's anything wrong with them (some of them are very good), but because the ones you have at home in Metro Detroit are as good as anywhere on the planet.

    Incidentally, it's pretty easy to get a reservation at Alinea, as long as you understand their reservation policy and you can plan three months ahead of time. They start accepting reservations for an entire month on the first day (business day, I think) of the month 2-3 months in advance. So if you had called on the morning of October 1 or thereabouts, when they opened the book for December reservations, you probably would have gotten any day and time you wanted.

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    Alinea
    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

    Boka
    1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

    Bongo Room
    1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60642

    Bongo Room
    1152 S Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60605

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

    Tru Restaurant
    676 North Saint Clair, Chicago, IL 60611

    North Pond
    2610 North Cannon Drive, Chicago, IL 60614

    Quartino
    626 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654

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

    Shanghai Terrace
    108 E Superior, Chicago, IL 60611

    Topolobampo
    445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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

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

    Le Colonial
    937 Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611

    Heaven on Seven
    600 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

    Mexique
    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

    Spiaggia
    980 North Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

    Naha
    500 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610

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

    Carnivale
    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

    Marmalade
    1969 West Montrose Avenue, Chicago, IL 60613

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

    M. Henrietta
    1133 West Granville, Chicago, IL 60660

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

    GT Fish and Oyster
    531 N. Wells St., Chicago, IL

    9 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Thanks nsxtasy…Jam sounds the most exciting. Have your heard anything about Schwa good or bad?

      1. re: fburks

        I assume you know that Schwa is not a breakfast restaurant. It's very difficult to get them on the phone to make a reservation; like you with Alinea, I've tried, and eventually gave up. What's worse, they have frequently cancelled reservations at the very last minute (just a few hours before dinner), giving excuses that sometimes turn out to be untrue.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          I was wondering about dinner…that doesn't sound encouraging at all.

          1. re: fburks

            I looked at the menu for Schwa….do they not serve alcohol?

            1. re: fburks

              It's BYOB.

              And it's common to share with their staff...

              1. re: nsxtasy

                What do you mean? Like you crack open a bottle and they encourage you to pass it around the restaurant (sips for the busboy)?

                1. re: fburks

                  Basically, yes. But it's a very small staff.

        2. re: fburks

          Jam for breakfast is great, my report here (poached eggs with fennel hollandaise!):
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8051...

          1. re: kathryn

            More reviews of Jam by...

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

      2. Maybe "big and magnificent" is a little much…I guess we would be most interested in a great culinary experience….something that is few and far between in Detroit.

        4 Replies
        1. re: fburks

          Yes, I wasn't sure whether you were referring to "fine dining" or something else. I've named an assortment of "best in class" restaurants above where you can get a great culinary experience. Avec, not so much, IMHO, for the food as well as the user-unfriendly experience described above, although some other people like it.

          1. re: nsxtasy

            Its a great list! Thanks for the suggestions.

          2. re: fburks

            You might consider Bonsoiree over Schwa...excellent food, and a pleasant experience, (no danger of having your reservation cancelled). It is BYOB.

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            Bonsoiree
            2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647

            1. re: dulcie54

              I've had my reservation cancelled last minute by Bonsoiree, but definitely this is not nearly as commonplace as with Schwa.

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              Bonsoiree
              2728 W Armitage, Chicago, IL 60647