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One dinner and one lunch?

Katiecat Aug 2, 2012 10:13 AM

Hey all -

My husband and I will be in Chicago next weekend (Aug 9-12) for a family event - most of our time will be taken up with family stuff, but we're going to sneak away for one dinner out Thursday night for just the two of us. I would love some recommendations from the experts. We're basically looking for someplace with some romantic ambiance, where we won't be out of place if we dress up a bit, and great food to swoon over. We've been to Chicago only once before, a couple of years ago - we ate at MK on that trip and really liked it (another current favorite is Restaurant August in New Orleans, if that helps at all with suggestions). Budget and location aren't huge issues - we'll be taking a cab wherever we end up going.

I've been reading posts on this board for the past couple of weeks to get some ideas, and just did an Opentable search for Thurs night. There was availability at so many of the restaurants I've read about here, I was frankly a little overwhelmed - there was availability at Naha, Acadia, Blackbird, Sixteen, Spiaggia, L20 and several others. If anybody has suggestions to help narrow down my choices, I'd really appreciate it!

Also, we're going to the Art Institute on Friday afternoon (staying at the Dana), and would love a recommendation for lunch on Friday that's somewhere in the vicinity of those two. That will be our only other opportunity of the weekend to try another "foodie" spot. Thanks again for your help!

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  1. b
    BSpar RE: Katiecat Aug 2, 2012 01:17 PM

    I cant speak to L20, but both Acadia and Blackbird would fit the "romantic" slightly dressed up vibe. Neither of the places scream romance, they scream "modern" but both have great food and service. As for lunch, The Gage is pretty close

    1. Gonzo70 RE: Katiecat Aug 2, 2012 01:56 PM

      North Pond is a very romantic restaurant (set in the heart of Lincoln Park with views of the pond and skyline); food is great and one can definitely dress up there - but service at times is a bit off. I recently had an outstanding dinner at Boka; somewhat romantic vibe there, modern feel, outstanding food, service and cocktails. Tru is also a nice option if you are seeking a more traditional fine dining experience, but still some modern decor and techniques so it does not feel old fashioned or stuffy. This is the dressiest of the venues (jacket required for men if I recall correctly). Tru also has outstanding service and food. Only knock on Tru is their menu rarely changes, but not an issue for an out-of-towner. Sixteen has been receiving a lot of accolades of late (and has brought in some great talent) but I have not made it there yet (I do have reservations though). I was underwhelmed by my meals at Naha and Acadia, but have only been to them once each and it may have been off nights. I enjoyed Blackbird, but not as much as Boka, Tru and North Pond.

      1. chicgail RE: Katiecat Aug 2, 2012 05:48 PM


        Have lunch on Friday at Piano Terza at the Art Institute. It's lovely, romantic, and the food is excellent. I was just there last week and was delighted with everything.

        3 Replies
        1. re: chicgail
          ferret RE: chicgail Aug 3, 2012 06:57 AM

          (It's "Terzo Piano," "which means "third floor." And it's located on ... the third floor.)

          1. re: ferret
            chicgail RE: ferret Aug 3, 2012 08:06 AM

            Thank you. I keep transposing the name.

            1. re: chicgail
              danimalarkey RE: chicgail Aug 3, 2012 08:41 AM

              And just to confuse matters, there's Piano Terra now, too!

        2. nsxtasy RE: Katiecat Aug 3, 2012 04:34 PM

          First, I'm not sure from your post whether you want to go "high end" or not. You say that you don't want to feel out of place if you dress up a bit. There are some places where jackets are required or customary for gentlemen, and I'm not sure whether or not this is what you're looking for; if so, the list consists of Alinea, Everest, TRU, Charlie Trotter's (closing this month), Spiaggia, L2O, and Les Nomades. There are plenty of other places where a few people may get dressed up but business casual attire predominates; these include MK (where you've been) as well as Blackbird, North Pond, and Naha.

          I agree with the recommendation above for North Pond. I think it's one of the two most romantic restaurants in Chicago. And both the food and service have been consistently excellent in my experience. As noted above, business casual attire predominates.

          The other restaurant I consider exceedingly romantic is Everest. It's a high-end restaurant serving contemporary French/Alsatian cuisine. Business attire (jackets for gentlemen). A spectacular view of the city looking out from the 40th floor of Midwest Stock Exchange Building. An amazing wine list (1700 bottles!) with the best selection of Alsatian wines in the country. The best service I've ever encountered in a restaurant anywhere (although a few others have experienced glitches).

          Naha and TRU are also excellent, in my experience, but don't necessarily have anything unusually romantic about them; both are on the ground floor of downtown high-rise buildings, with expansive contemporary decor imparting a feeling of spaciousness, but neither has the exquisite setting of North Pond or Everest.

          The announcements of the new chef and pastry chef at Sixteen over the past few weeks are very promising, and most of us expect it to be one of the top places in the city once they take over and totally revamp the menu. But that will probably take 2-3 months. Until then, it's a restaurant in transition, and I don't think you'll be getting the full experience that it will eventually become. (The room is lovely, though.)

          Here are a bunch of recommendations for your Friday lunch, all close to your hotel and all excellent. Sable specializes in small plates of contemporary American cuisine, and artisanal cocktails. GT Fish offers small plates specializing in seafood. Quartino serves small plates of Italian food. The Purple Pig offers small plates leaning towards charcuterie, pork, and Mediterranean cuisine. For places close to the museum, you could get deep-dish pizza at Pizano's on Madison. And the previously-recommended Terzo Piano is very good indeed as well.

          All of the above except the Purple Pig and Pizano's accept reservations over the phone and, except for Alinea, on Opentable. Waits at the Purple Pig aren't too bad for lunch (horrendous for dinner though), and if you're going to Pizano's you can phone ahead with your pizza order to avoid waiting 30-45 minutes while seated for it to bake.

          Enjoy your visit!

          1. k
            Katiecat RE: Katiecat Aug 5, 2012 07:55 PM

            Thanks so much everyone for all your suggestions, and thanks especially to nsxtasy for your thoughtful response!

            So, in the couple of days since I posted my question, plans have changed a bit. My husband's brother and sister-in-law will now be joining us for dinner, so the emphasis is now just more on amazing food and less on romance. : ) After looking at dfferent menus and reading more reviews, I think we've narrowed our choices to either Naha or Acadia. Any thoughts to distinguish the two? Your choice if you were deciding between these two?

            As for lunch on Friday, we're looking at Sable, and also considering Blackbird, since that was one of the places we'd been considering for dinner Friday night. Would Blackbird be inconveniently located from the Dana and the Art Institute (if we're taking cabs)? Thanks all!

            4 Replies
            1. re: Katiecat
              kathryn RE: Katiecat Aug 5, 2012 08:03 PM

              Blackbird is only a ten minute ride from the Loop or River North.

              1. re: Katiecat
                chicgail RE: Katiecat Aug 6, 2012 04:30 AM

                Blackbird is also a great deal at lunch. But for both convenience and a lovely meal, don't discount Terzo Piano at the Art institute Itself.

                1. re: Katiecat
                  camusman RE: Katiecat Aug 6, 2012 06:55 AM

                  Naha and Acadia are both great, and I have found them to be a notch above both Blackbird and Terzo Piano, although I doubt that any of these would disappoint you.

                  1. re: Katiecat
                    nsxtasy RE: Katiecat Aug 6, 2012 07:11 AM

                    >> After looking at dfferent menus and reading more reviews, I think we've narrowed our choices to either Naha or Acadia. Any thoughts to distinguish the two? Your choice if you were deciding between these two?

                    I've eaten dinner at Naha within the past year, and I thought it was excellent. I haven't been to Acadia, though, so I can't make any comparison.

                    >> As for lunch on Friday, we're looking at Sable, and also considering Blackbird, since that was one of the places we'd been considering for dinner Friday night. Would Blackbird be inconveniently located from the Dana and the Art Institute (if we're taking cabs)? Thanks all!

                    Just to provide a bit more orientation... The Loop is Chicago's historic commercial city center, and is roughly a 3/4 mile square. The Art Institute is on the east edge of the Loop. The Dana Hotel is in River North, about 1/4 mile north of the river that defines the north edge of the Loop. Blackbird is in the West Loop, about 1/4 mile west of the west edge of the Loop. Sable is in River North, right near the Dana Hotel. And, of course, Terzo Piano is right inside the Art Institute.

                    Walking distances per Google Maps:

                    Dana to Art Institute/Terzo Piano: 1.2 miles
                    Art Institute/Terzo Piano to Blackbird: 1.4 miles
                    Dana to Blackbird: 1.4 miles
                    Art Institute/Terzo Piano to Sable: 1.0 mile
                    Dana to Sable: 0.2 mile

                    So it all depends on your preference for convenience, as well as for one restaurant over another. They're all good choices, so you're not missing anything if you choose Terzo Piano or Sable for their proximity to the Art Institute or the Dana, respectively. But if you really want to go to Blackbird, it's indeed a ten-minute cab ride through the Loop. Perhaps checking out the menus on their websites will help you make your decision:


                    Don't agonize too much over your decision; as usual, the problem with Chicago dining is too many great choices from which to choose. :)

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