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Jan 26, 2012 09:21 AM

NYC visiting CHI - need recommendations for food/drink

I'm from NYC and visiting Chicago soon. I'm big on food and drinks and I really want to explore in all to expensive.

I'm looking for food suggestions:
- fine dining (moto, blackbird, girl & the goat...any other suggestions)
- causal
- must eats in general (deep dish at lous/unos/etc, hot dogs at wiener circle/hot doug, etc)
- any food shops chicago-specific?

Also looking for bar/nightlife suggestions:
- heard Violet hour is nice (similar bar suggestions?)
- don't want college-y type bars
- prefer quality over quantity when it comes to drinks
- any good rooftop bars with a nice view of Chicago?


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  1. There are a number of rooftop bars, but they're not really accessible in January.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      Sorry by coming soon, I meant in May...hah

    2. The Aviary (West Loop neighborhood) is my favorite cocktail lounge. No rooftop setting there, but amazing, innovative, high quality cocktails with a sophisticated and chic ambiance and awesome staff and service. Grant Achatz (chef/owner of Alinea) is a co-owner of The Aviary. Definitely not a college type bar!

      For fine dining, do you have a preference in terms of style of food, price range and neighborhood? There are lots of good choices in Chicago so would help if you can provide a bit more information as to what your preferences would be.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Gonzo70

        In terms of fine dining, I love new american/contemp american/ to price and neighborhood, as long as it's reachable via the CTA....was that enough info?

        Thanks for the rec. on Aviary, I've heard good things and probably will check that out!

        1. re: ashleylau

          One of my favorite restaurants that would fit that bill would be goosefoot. It is a fairly new venue (opened this past December), but the chef/owner is very experienced from his prior gig (Les Nomades) and my dinner there was one of my best meals I have had. It is in the Lincoln Square neighborhood accessibly by the CTA brown line. If you are looking for a good brunch spot strongly consider North Pond (in Lincoln Park); the brunch is only available Sunday though. Both of these venues accept reservations on Open Table.

          1. re: ashleylau

            The Aviary is great if you like creative cocktails. Note that it's $45 for a three drink prix fixe or $15-28 for a la carte drinks. I'd definitely make a reservation in advance, especially for a weekend night. They only take them via email. I think two weeks in advance (their policy recently changed).

        2. The Trump Sixteen has a great rooftop bar. Also so does the Wit. Make your reservations now for GATG. The Violet Hour is great and I would combine it with some Big Star tacos (pork belly...... mmm.......) right across the street. I like Pizano's or Malanti's for pizza. I love Hot Dougs but not for normal hot dogs.

          9 Replies
          1. re: lbs

            ahh i love big star, my friend took me once. Thanks for all the suggestions, I already made note of them =)

            1. re: ashleylau

              The Violet Hour and Big Star make for a dangerous (or delightful!) combination -- I've found it can work well to wait at Big Star until you get a call from The Violet Hour about a table, but some times it seems harder to get in at Big Star.

              1. re: ashleylau

                Girl and the Goat is not really fine dining--it's pretty loud inside and casual. They take reservations SIX months in advance over the phone (only three over OpenTable) so definitely make reservations ASAP.

                Violet Hour is excellent but kind of like a bigger version of Milk & Honey / Death & Co in NYC. Speakeasy style cocktail bar.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Thanks, I might pass on the girl and the goat..looking into blackbird.

                  I love milk & honey, so i'm definitely hitting up violet hour!

                  1. re: ashleylau

                    Girl & the Goat is excellent, creative, and delicious food, for a great value. I think it would be a mistake to pass on Girl and the Goat.

                      1. re: kathryn

                        I agree. It's hard to get a reservation - and there's a good reason why.

                      2. re: ashleylau

                        Just so you know, Violet Hour has the same kind of "false door" like Milk & Honey in NYC. It looks like graffiti or a mural or just some scaffolding dependent upon when you go -- they are always changing the artwork on the outside.

                        They don't take reservations so get there early. They have a menu but are equally adept at going off menu and making a drink to your specifications.

                        Girl & the Goat is one of our favorite restaurants in Chicago. In fact, my husband now raises a fuss if we're in town and we don't go! We love their fried shishito peppers with parmesan, sesame, and miso, as well as the wood fired pig's face with tamarind sauce, fries, and a sunny side up egg, and also the confit goat belly with bourbon butter and lobster.

                        1. re: kathryn

                          how is violet hour on a thursday? still as busy as a fri/sat?
                          most of the speakeasies in nyc are fairly empty on week nights. Just wondering if it's the same for VH

                2. Another bar worth seeking out is The Whistler, in the city's Logan Square neighborhood. Drinks every bit as good as Violet Hour, Sable, etc. but in a much more casual setting. While the bartender who opened the bar is leaving soon, I have high hopes that they will continue making some of the best cocktails in the city. No food and cash only, they also have live music pretty frequently. I'd check out their website for more information before heading out there in case it's not something you like (or think you'd like).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: danimalarkey

                    The whistler looks awesome, seems like a low key place with great drinks...which is perfect!! thanks, you guys are all so great. it's my first time using chowhound and i've gotten so many great recs already!

                    1. re: ashleylau

                      Also in Logan Square, I'd take a look at Lula Cafe (farm-to-table, new American -- solid brunch option); Longman & Eagle (similar to Lula's but more fussy/bold, not necessarily a negativem though); and Yusho (relatively new yakitori-esque restaurant run by a 14 year vet of Charlie Trotters -- part of the same downscale movement we've been seeing here for a while now).

                      Similar to Lula's is Nightwood. Fewer options in the mid-teens but still very affordable given the quality of ingredients and overall execution.

                      I'd give a hard look to The Publican, as well. European-ish beer hall meets local, farm-to-table -- same group as Big Star and Violet Hour. The room can get loud, but your YMMV when it comes to it being too loud. They have one of the best brunches in the city, too, focusing on many, many savory options rather than sweeter plates like you may find more often.

                        1. re: ashleylau

                          Great choice. It's also a wonderful brunch

                  2. Look into a Rick Bayless restaurant, like Frontera Grill or Topolobampo. Nothing really like it in NYC.

                    Second the Publican recommendation. Especially if you like pork, raw bars, local produce, or beer. They have an excellent charcuterie program.

                    3 Replies
                      1. re: ashleylau

                        Xoco is good but it's more of a quick service/take out place. Don't get me wrong, the sandwiches are good at Xoco, as is the hot chocolate/churros, but the sit down experience of a Rick Bayless restaurant is one that is much more unique to Chicago.

                        1. re: ashleylau

                          Rather than Xoco, why not get reservations at the top of Rick Bayless's empire: Topolobambo? They're as hard to get as Girl and the Goat.