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Dec 15, 2011 12:02 AM

HELP! Chicago Birthday Dinner idea something unique with fun atmosphere and GREAT food

Coming in from out of town...looking for a great dinner somewhere we can get dressed up but not too formal. I'm a foodie so tired of same ol' steakhouse...dont mind spending $$

Ideally I would have loved to try girl and goat, but they are booked, put my name on a canellation list though.

We're both around 30 years old...

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  1. I assume, since you're coming from out of town and you mention Girl and the Goat, that you're staying somewhere in or around downtown Chicago. There are various ways of defining "fun atmosphere", and of course we wouldn't recommend food that isn't great, right?

    Here are some ideas of places that might fit what you're looking for.

    Alinea has been named the best restaurant in the United States. You need to book 2-3 months ahead of time; on January 1 (or Jan 2) they will start taking reservations for March, and they fill up fast. Fun? Yes! Great food? Yes! But if you're coming before March, you probably won't be able to get a reservation.

    North Pond is in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park itself), facing its namesake pond with the city skyline over the opposite shore. The food is excellent and the setting makes it unique.

    Our provincial Mexican restaurants offer unique cuisine with a festive atmosphere. If you can't get a reservation for Topolobampo (they, too, book three months out), consider Mexique, with its lively bistro vibe.

    Mercat a la Planxa is a tapas restaurant in the southeast corner of the Loop. The food is unique (very different from other kinds of food) and the large room has a fun spirit.

    Carnivale and Nacional 27 are both Latin fusion restaurants with unusual food and a festive vibe.

    Everest is a high-end French restaurant with great food, and a great view looking out over the city. It's more formal (dressy) which many might consider fun, although others might not. Our French bistros are more casual with traditional French bistro fare; La Sardine and Kiki's are among our best.

    If you can take satisfaction from a restaurant with terrific food and service, and a fun atmosphere, but may not be all that unique, there are several others I'd throw out there: GT Fish (seafood small plates), Piccolo Sogno (contemporary Italian), Sable (contemporary American small plates and craft cocktails), and Boka (contemporary Italian).

    Have a happy birthday!

    1723 N Halsted St, Chicago, IL 60614

    1729 North Halsted, Chicago, IL 60614

    Kiki's Bistro
    900 N. Franklin St., Chicago, IL 60610

    La Sardine
    111 N Carpenter St, Chicago, IL 60607

    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

    1529 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622

    Piccolo Sogno
    464 N Halsted, Chicago, IL 60622

    702 West Fulton Market, Chicago, IL 60661

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

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

    5 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Yes staying downtown. Thanks for all the ideas!! I've already tried a few if these places and theyre all booked up. I'm coming Jan 7, which is a sat, so that doesn't help...

      1. re: BruceJH

        >> theyre all booked up.

        Not really. Of the 14 places I recommended above, 11 of them (all except the first three) show reservations available for January 7 on Opentable (or, for La Sardine, on their own website). Times are limited (early or late) at Piccolo Sogno or GT Fish; at the other 9 places, availability is wide open.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          We have to be somewhere at 11, so trying to get the right time around 7-730 is hard. I still need to call a few more places. Someone else recommended MK or tango sur/folklore, thoughts?

      2. re: nsxtasy

        Throughout researching Chicago restaurants I noticed a lot do the pre-fixed or "tasting" menu...any reason for this?

        1. re: BruceJH

          It's primarily only the handful of expensive high-end restaurants that only offer tasting menus, as do similar restaurants in other cities around the country. The only such places mentioned above are Alinea and Everest, although there are a few others around town. Just about anywhere else, you have a wide range of choices and can order a la carte.

      3. nsxtasy offers some great choices. I especially second Mercat. I would also toss Graham Elliot's and Moto into the mix especially Moto if Chris Jones wins/won Top Chef.