Dinner for 6 hounds from SF
I am travelling with 5 others from San Francisco and have one night for a great dinner in Chicago next week. We are staying near Water Tower Place and would love suggestions for somewhere we could get a great meal within walking distance (or a short cab ride). Something "uniquely Chicago" would be appreciated! Thanks for your help.
The Publican might work well you. I don't know if it's truly uniquely Chicago but the food is stellar and Paul Kahan is one of the best chefs in the city. You could try going for drinks before or after at Aviary -- Grant Achatz's cocktail lounge. Bars don't get much more unique than the Aviary (fwiw, I don't particularly enjoy drinking there but it's worth going to at least once).
I did cocktails and appetizers at Avec last weekend (a great 5 grain beer that I had never seen before) and the house made Mexican style chorizo stuffed Medjool dates wrapped in prosciutto. We wandered in about 4:00 P.M. and had no problem sitting immediately at the bar and loved the very filling appetizer. We walked to The Aviary where we had reservations for cocktails. This place was a hoot and everything was delicious but, seriously, this place is way too much. I am thrilled to have had the experience but my companion and I agreed that it is a "try it once kind of place". Dinner at Publican followed ( a short walk in keeping with our "just stroll and taste" plan. We loved our meal here. Beautiful oysters (the West Coasters were best), lovely soft shelled crabs, suckling pig was awesome (slightly too salty unless eaten with the accompaniments but perfect with) and a brown butter Financier cake/cookie dessert that really fit the bill. I thought Publican was terrific and have frequented Publican Quality Meats since it opened not only for the sausages, meats and other take home fare (Great house-made chorizo and yummy sandwiches, soups and salads) but will include Publican on my dinner rotation even though it is loud, has communal tables and other things that would ordinarily keep me away. The food was great, the ambiance was loudly fun and I can't wait to go back.
Uniquely Chicago and next week make it a little tricky. You also don't mention price point.
You might try either Rick Bayless' Topolobampo or Frontera Grill or Mexique, another restaurant that features upscale regional Mexican cuisine, but with a French twist. It might be hard to get reservations at Topo a week out, but worth a call. Frontera takes few reservations so you would want to get there by 5:30 if you don't have one.
Certainly there is Alinea, one of the two best restaurants in the United States. It is a rare treat and priced accordingly.
Naha, like Tru, is probably not "uniquely Chicago," but it is consistent, superb, and in your neighborhood.
Another option would be Spiaggia or Cafe Spiaggia, again depending on your price point. Chef Tony Matuano's restaurants are good representatives of slow food the authentic Italian way. They share a web site, a kitchen and location.
Similarly, Everest has excellent food with Alsatian roots. Ask for a table near the windows. The view is spectacular. Some of us have had service problems there, but the food is great.