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Mar 28, 2012 08:53 PM

Week is Chicago! Restaurant Suggestions Please?

My wife and I will be spending a week in Chicago third week in August. We are looking for the best restaurants Chicago has to offer. All cuisines, atmosphere's, and prices are ok. If we can get in we are already planning on "next" and Alinea. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks!!

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  1. Since you are planning so far in advance, you have plenty of time to book Girl and the Goat (starts booking 6 months ahead via phone but only 3 on OpenTable), as well as Frontera Grill or Topolobampo.

    1. If you really want "best," then you should try to get in at Schwa, even though last-second cancelations are a risk.
      El Ideas is an unothodox approach to fine dining but is getting rave reviews.

      1. My favorites are Alinea, Next, goosefoot, Tru, Schwa and El Ideas. Schwa I do not recommend for out of towners though as they cancel so frequently on little to no notice. I also really liked Topolobampo, MK, and Girl & The Goat, but not quite up there with these others I mentioned.

        By August it is quite possible that Curtis Duffy's new venue, Grace will be open - so that might be very worth considering. There is also an underground dining venue, One Sister Inc. that is worth looking into (have my first meal coming up there soon, but have heard amazing things).

        For brunch my favorite is North Pond but many find Publican to be the best brunch option. M Henry is another excellent choice for brunch. Purple Pig is a great lunch option as is Blackbird (weekdays only).

        The Aviary is my favorite cocktail lounge.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Gonzo70

          I vote for Perennial Virant over North Pond these days, unless being in the park is important - and it may be lovely in August.

          Agree with most of the above, but put GATG and Topo way above MK which I think is a bit overrated. Also worth considering Graham Elliott and Naha.

        2. Thanks for the great suggestions!!!! Below is the dream list if we can get in. Let me know if we are missing something great. My only worry is that all of these options are similar, am I wrong?

          Girl and the goat
          El ideas
          Grace if open
          One sister inc

          One question about schwa, I have never heard of a restaurant canceling dinner? Why??? Any back up options that except walk-ins just I case they cancel?

          Thanks again

          3 Replies
          1. re: snowbordinglife

            There is some variety in your dream list; some venues are similar (i.e. El Ideas and Schwa) and most have tasting menus as the only option (Alinea, Next, El Ideas, One Sister and Schwa) and are fairly modern - but that said they all have very distinct personalities, ambiance and cuisine. If you want to sub something in that is less modern and more about a fine dining experience than a whimsical experience you may want to consider Tru or Everest.

            As for Schwa, Chef Carlson is no doubt one of the most talented chefs and Schwa is an amazing experience, but it is a bit dysfunctional. Rumor has it they often cancel on people last minutes if a VIP wants a table and they do frequently just decide not to open the restaurant on any given night (often proffering an excuse about plumbing issues). In reality I think Schwa is such an intense atmosphere and the chefs all seem to party really hard that some days they likely just do not have the energy to give 100% - and on those days they decide to close. My first reservation for Schwa they cancelled on me a little more than an hour before my reservation. However once I finally made it there, it was one of my best meals I have had.

            As for a back up plan, if you decide to book Schwa shoot for a weeknight so you will have more restaurants with same day availability. Tru often has same day slots. Open Table will be a good resource if you need to find something on short notice as many great restaurants are listed on Open Table in Chicago.

            1. re: Gonzo70

              "Rumor has it," indeed. To be fair, the only public evidence that they cancelled on someone due to a VIP was when Patton Oswalt dined at the restaurant, posted about his meal on Twitter, and someone on LTHForum pointed out that Schwa had cancelled on him that very night that Oswalt was there. It could just be an isolated incident (bumping one person's reservation for a VIP). There really isn't any solid evidence of people getting bumped for VIPs, repeatedly.

              Other times they have closed suddenly, people have walked past the restaurant, and indeed found Schwa locked up entirely.

              Whether it was due to plumbing or a sick cook or just not wanting to open that night, they DO have a reputation of sudden, last minute cancellations, hours before your meal. Which they will offer to reschedule for you in the future.

              BUT as an out of towner, it seems very risky to rely on eating there.

              This is all assuming you actually GET a reservation at Schwa in the first place!

            2. re: snowbordinglife

              No Frontera Grill or Topolobampo?

              If you want some variety, maybe substitute The Publican (or a different Kahan restaurant) for Blackbird?

            3. Thanks for all the great suggestions! I seem to be a little light on lunch options any ideas? Street Food? Trucks? Sausage?Anything that is a must in Chicago? I have the following if I am lucky enough to get in.

              Girl and the Goat
              El Ideas
              Grace/ One Sister Inc.

              Purple Pig
              Frontera Grill
              The Publican / North Pond.
              Anything good to eat around US Cellular Park?

              Thanks again for all your help

              1 Reply
              1. re: snowbordinglife

                Unfortunately Chicago is not a very food truck friendly city (IIRC no cooking, cutting, or prepping is allowed inside a truck at all).

                Note that Blackbird only does weekday lunch, and Publican serves weekend brunch and dinner every day, but not weekday lunch.

                What about hitting up a pizza joint for lunch? Or hot dogs?

                I love the gourmet sausages at Hot Doug's but it's a trek, a long line, and has odd hours/vacations.

                We have had some good weekday brunches at Longman & Eagle, Jam, Southport Grocery, and Bleeding Heart Bakery. Big Jones, Lula Cafe, and m.henry are also on my list to try for weekday brunch/lunch.

                We also have enjoyed Do-Rite Donuts and Xoco for a quick breakfast bite,

                Assuming you're staying near the Loop, Chinatown is on the way to or from US Cellular Field. Sun Wah has a lot of fans on here. As does Lao Szechuan (assuming you like spicy food, LZC is very good).

                Do NOT miss the Aviary if you enjoy cocktails at all. One of the most innovative places in the country right now and up for a James Beard award.

                BTW, Next is only open Wednesday through Sunday, as is Alinea. I think El Ideas is only Wednesday through Saturday. And Schwa is Tuesday through Saturday. You may have to do some tetris to get all the upscale meals in, good luck!