Please help me with my anniversary trip
We were in Chicago 4 years ago and I made the ultimate mistake of canceling our Alinea's reservation due to insomnia, nerves and stomach upset. I am still kicking myself for that and always pack my sleeping pill!! We ended up going to L2O and it was pretty good, but was not Alinea. We also went to Topo, Blackbird, Coco Pazzo, gage(my husband's choice). We also had some tasty sandwiches from the Pastoral.This time we are coming from 9/2-9/5 and as of now staying at the Sofitel.
I need your help with the following:
This year our anniversary falls on tue, the day after the labor day. Since Alinea is not open on tue and the new ticketing system that is out. I also noticed their price has really gone up. After reading your board and a few blogs, I made reservation for tru. The more I look at the new menu and pictures on Yelp, the less I want to go there. Chicken, halibut poached and vanilla parfait does not scream excitement. Also we love desserts and from what I have read their desserts are just fine. I have been looking around for weeks now and I even considered Everest even it is more classic cooking than I like, but they will be close on that day. I am on the waiting list for the Goosefoot. I considered Schwa, but the loud music and their cancelation craziness is not ideal for our dinner. I even considered El Idea, but the location and their dinner service timing will not work for us. I know there is a couple of great places opening up soon(Boarding house, Grace, Elizabeth), but not soon enough for us. So I am thinking of going for the Sixteen restaurant. I know it is suppose to be better and greater in the fall, but I need a great place now and we will not be coming back to Chicago any time soon. The menu looks much better than Tru and the pictures look great. The setting of the restaurant is nicer with great view. The dessert is going to be better and their tasting menu is priced right at $115 and you get a few desserts not just the vanilla parfait. We stayed at the Trump last time and their service was great.
Dinner the first night
Right now I have reservation for the Publican, but I am thinking of taking a chance and going for Acadia. If we go to the Publican probably getting the suckling pig and one of their seafood dishes with maybe a veggie dish and a pork starter.Are their seafood dishes any good? most reviews covers the pork dishes and oyster. I love lobster and Acadia signature dish is their lobster. I also considered Wood.
Labor day lunch and dinner
Labor day is always a problem for us if that day falls on our trip. I looked and searched and called a lot of places and it seems only the Purple Pig and Avec are open that day. I wanted to go to the PP any ways and I was very happy that they will be open on that day. Any idea for dinner? Avec opens early, but by dinner time say around six, I am sure they will have long lines. We like creative food that is not too heavy. I checked open table several times and I didn't see anything exciting. Any help will be appreciated.
Breakfast or lunch on 9/4 before our anniversary dinner
I have been researching a lot for this one and I came up with Bongo room, Longman and eagle for a late breakfast. I also considered M Henry, but it is a long track for breakfast. I also looked at Xoco.
Lunch on last day 9/5
I was considering Naha, but places like that are in every city. I think I am going to go for Frontera. I considered Mexique also, but their lunch menu is very short. Frontera lunch menu ia amazingly long. Our lunch at Topo last time was fine, but not that exciting. I am sure Frontera has more to offer.
Farmer's mkt, bakery and gelato
It looks like Green City Market is the place to go on our last day. I am interested in Bennison's Bakery and Floriole Bakery.We love a good bread and I always bring back great breads home like from Tartine in SF and even from Paris!! Flora Confections also looks good and I enjoyed her film, Kings of Pastry. I didn't know she produced that film and I didn't know that Sandra worked at Tartine. I was thinking of taking the Highlights by Bus: Robie House tour on our last day, but that would take all day until one PM and farmer's mkt and Frontera will win over that tour!! Is the Publican meats worth a stop? Is their bread as good as Bennison's? I just called them to see if they are open on the Lobor day and they will have an answer within one hour.
Is Toni worth a try? How about D'amato's? They don't have a website.
As far as gelato I only came up with black dog gelato. Is it worth a track? It seems like every place with the public transit is about 30 minutes away from our hotel.
I know this is a long post and thank you for reading.
Well due to some bad reviews, I cancelled my Publican reservation and booked Cafe Spiaggia for sun dinner. Now I have to figure out what to eat there. Their desserts and gelati looked pretty good, hopefully it taste as good.
Is there a creative, moderate French place?
Publican is wonderful, but it is boisterous and fun and not necessarily romantic. Cafe Spiaggia is nearly its polar opposite for that. They're both faves of mine. If you can fit it in, you might want to consider The Publican for brunch. It's one of the best in the city.
Le Sardine in the West Loop is very authentic and moderate French place with really very good food. So is it's tiny sister restaurant, Le Bouchon in Bucktown. Creative? Maybe. There's also Kiki's Bistro which is more creative, but probably not as good.Everest is very creative, but not at all moderate. It's a dilemma. I like Bistro Campagne a lot but it's a bit of a distance (about 7 miles) from the central tourist area you will be staying in.
You have listed some great venues. The one restaurant I feel that would be worthy of a special occasion dinner not yet listed on this thread is Boka. No views there like at Sixteen, Everest or North Pond - but nice ambiance and a bit more of a casual, modern vibe. They offer a somewhat customized tasting menu option; they have a draft of the courses but your server will alert the chef to any preferences/requests/modifications you might want and (at least in my experience) they do an awesome job listening and customizing the tasting menu. Great service and drinks at Boka as well. It is in the Lincoln Park neighborhood a stone's throw from Alinea.
As for Tru, I agree that the tasting menu sounds rather underwhelming, but I would not rule out ordering a la carte. They do have some interesting dishes on the a la carte menu and the service and overall experience of dining there is wonderful and certainly worthy of a special occasion. They also offer quite a few extras in addition to the three courses that you order when electing a la carte, so you will end up with about as many different dishes as you might receive at a typical venue's tasting menu. They also have a wonderful cheese cart that you can take on as a fourth official course and they offer a dessert tasting menu for a supplement if you wanted several desserts.
Sixteen is definitely a viable option though and they have really added a lot of talent. I have not been there yet, but have a couple different friends who ate there recently and loved it. While they may not yet be at their peak, they certainly seem to be heading in the right direction and to already be very, very good.
If you are going to be in town in time for brunch on Sunday, North Pond offers IMHO the best brunch in the city (more of a lunch than breakfast fare), but is only available on Sundays. Perennial Virant is another place to consider for brunch.
I had a rather mediocre experience at Acadia, but most people who dine there rave about it. I have had a couple of friends also who were less than impressed - so it does seem they are not yet consistent.
Have a great anniversary celebration!
Those are really good, insightful comments from Gonzo.
I like Boka a lot. It's a place where I felt that the whole experience came together extremely well, with the outstanding service and the food reinforcing each other to make it a great experience overall. I thought that the food was extremely good, except the desserts were just okay (not awful, but not as exceptional as the rest of the food). I'm not sure it meets the "worthy of a special occasion" criteria as well as Everest, TRU, or even North Pond or Naha, but it's worth considering in your itinerary.
I ate dinner at TRU a couple of months ago and ordered a la carte, and everything is indeed as Gonzo describes above. Although it doesn't have a view, the food and service are both exceptional. I don't think the menu descriptions do justice to the creativity and quality of the food. It's definitely a high-end experience and deserves the praise it receives.
One other possibility for Saturday/Sunday brunch is Cafe des Architectes, right inside your hotel. They now have Greg Biggers running the kitchen, and he's keeping up their fine reputation. Brunch comes with a wonderful basket of French breads and pastries.
Thank you Gonzo70. I might cosider Boka for sunday's dinner. Unfortunately we get to chicago around 3PM and once again we will miss out on all the wonderful brunch places of Chicago. Tru's a la carte menu looks OK since I don't care for beats or salmon and that leaves me with skate for the first course and loup de mer or veal for the main. Maybe by that time they change their menu. Thank you for your kindness.
First of all, you have clearly done thorough research, as you have an excellent idea of the places you are considering and their pros and cons.
>> Anniversary dinner
I think you have stated the pros and cons of each place very well. Sixteen is clearly in transition right now, and the new chefs have high objectives for the future. The room location and decor are not changing (I verified this when chatting with their new pastry chef last week); it is very spacious with huge windows; the view is pleasant although it's mostly nearby buildings with only a sliver of lake. TRU is thoroughly excellent but since the website menu at Sixteen sounds more appealing to you, I think that's where you should go (Sixteen).
Just to mention two other alternatives, have you considered North Pond or Naha? Both have James Beard Award winning chefs. North Pond also has its exquisite setting in the middle of the park. Both are slightly more casual than L2O/Everest/etc but they are still among the very best in the city.
>> Dinner the first night
>> If we go to the Publican probably getting the suckling pig and one of their seafood dishes with maybe a veggie dish and a pork starter.Are their seafood dishes any good?
The seafood dishes at Publican are very good indeed. Unfortunately, in my experience, their other dishes range from just okay (appetizers) to dreadful (desserts). And it's VERY VERY LOUD. I have not been to Acadia but have heard only good things.
>> Labor day lunch and dinner
>> Labor day is always a problem for us if that day falls on our trip. I looked and searched and called a lot of places and it seems only the Purple Pig and Avec are open that day. I wanted to go to the PP any ways and I was very happy that they will be open on that day.
The Purple Pig sounds like a good idea for lunch.
>> Any idea for dinner? Avec opens early, but by dinner time say around six, I am sure they will have long lines. We like creative food that is not too heavy. I checked open table several times and I didn't see anything exciting. Any help will be appreciated.
The following interesting restaurants are open that evening and show availability on Opentable: Mercat a la Planxa (for tapas), NoMI Kitchen (which offers its nice view looking over the park), and Sixteen (which you could switch with your anniversary the following evening).
>> Breakfast or lunch on 9/4 before our anniversary dinner
>> I have been researching a lot for this one and I came up with Bongo room, Longman and eagle for a late breakfast. I also considered M Henry, but it is a long track for breakfast. I also looked at Xoco.
Those are good choices for breakfast/brunch-ish options. I would also add Jam and Southport Grocery to the mix. If you want something more along the lines of a traditional lunch rather than breakfast-oriented places, that opens up a whole lot of additional options - basically, all the places that are open for lunch and dinner, everything from upscale restaurants to bistros to ethnic dining and just about anything.
>> Lunch on last day 9/5
>> I was considering Naha, but places like that are in every city. I think I am going to go for Frontera. I considered Mexique also, but their lunch menu is very short. Frontera lunch menu ia amazingly long. Our lunch at Topo last time was fine, but not that exciting. I am sure Frontera has more to offer.
Well, you can see the menus for yourself, to help you decide. A couple of notes/tips... Frontera only accepts a small number of reservations, and if you don't get there before they open the doors, you could have a lengthy wait (whereas Topo takes reservations on Opentable). Oh, and if you go to Frontera and sit at the bar, you can order from either menu, Frontera's or Topolobampo's, so that gives you even more menu choices.
>> Farmer's mkt, bakery and gelato
By all means, go to Green City Market! It's great. I'm also a big fan of Floriole, for French/European-style breads. Although I'm an extremely frequent customer of Bennison's, I'm not all that wild about their breads. (There are only a few things they make that are unusually good, IMHO, and none of them are breads.) If you want the very best American-style breads in the city, go to Fox & Obel, which was named one of the ten best bread bakeries in the country by Bon Appetit*. They do a rustic fruit-nut bread that is amazing, I love their brioche loaf, their cinnamon swirl rolls are terrific, and they do a lot of other great things in their bakery department.
>> Is Toni worth a try?
Toni Patisserie offers French/European breads and pastries, and is conveniently located in the Loop. I think they are very good indeed, one of the top ten bakeries in the Chicago area. But if you're looking for great AND unusual breads, I'd still go to F&O first.
>> How about D'amato's? They don't have a website.
D'Amato's is a traditional Italian bakery. They have very good Italian bread, including one of the very best whole wheat breads you'll find anywhere. But they don't offer much variety; it's pretty much only Italian breads.
HTH - Feel free to ask more questions!
Shhhh nsxtasy stop telling people about the whole grain wheat at D'Amato's. It's alread hard enough to get. I really like their roman style pizza (more like square foccacia with stuff on it) and their cannoli's are great.
Have you ever tried their prepared foods in the cooler? I have not and was curious.
If you live in/near the northern suburbs, D'Amato's whole wheat bread is also available at Marketplace on Oakton in Skokie (they get it in fresh every morning, and it's often sold out by mid-afternoon) and at Produce World (I've seen it at their locations in Morton Grove and Skokie, haven't been to the one in Norridge).
Haven't tried the prepared foods...
Thank you nsxtasy.As far as brunch/lunch on our anniversary day, I was thinking of eating late morning and heading to the Art Institute. We prefer Italian, Greek, French or creative food of any kind. For mon dinner I am looking for something more casual, since the following night is our anniversary dinner. As far as bakery, I am looking for more than bread. We love pastries and can you tell me what you like from Bennison's, Floriole and Toni and D'Amato's? We went to Fox and Obel last time and their pastries back then were good, but not great. I am looking for more of healthy bread like whole grain. How about Publican meats bread?
>> As far as brunch/lunch on our anniversary day, I was thinking of eating late morning and heading to the Art Institute. We prefer Italian, Greek, French or creative food of any kind.
Then I'd suggest having lunch in Terzo Piano. It's an Italian restaurant in the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute; you don't have to pay for admission to the AI to eat there, but if you're there anyway, it's convenient. It was started by Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia fame.
Another possibility nearby is Mercat a la Planxa, the tapas restaurant a few blocks south of the AI, which is open for lunch. Although...
>> For mon dinner I am looking for something more casual, since the following night is our anniversary dinner.
In addition to my previous suggestions, there's always deep-dish pizza, at Lou Malnati's, Pizano's, Uno/Due, etc.
>> As far as bakery, I am looking for more than bread. We love pastries and can you tell me what you like from Bennison's, Floriole and Toni and D'Amato's? We went to Fox and Obel last time and their pastries back then were good, but not great. I am looking for more of healthy bread like whole grain.
Some of the pastries at Fox & Obel are very good, but many others are just okay. But their breads are the best in the city, IMHO. Particularly the ones I mentioned above. That rustic fruit and nut bread is amazing.
If you're just looking for a great whole wheat bread, go to D'Amato's. It's Italian style (round shape) with a nicely crunchy crust.
Bennison's is in Evanston, just north of the city, and it's a very conventional bakery. Many of their items are "pretty good" - slices of cake, donuts, etc - but there's very little that really excels. For example, their almond-based pastries are particularly lacking in almond flavor (as compared, say, with those at Swedish Bakery). Sometimes they have sugared brioche rolls that are pretty good, but the brioche loaf at F&O is way better. They have pretty good palmiers, but I wouldn't go out of my way for them. I go there primarily due to convenience, because I'm frequently in downtown Evanston. I know they go to Green City Market but I don't know what they offer there. At the farmer's market in Evanston their selection is quite limited; they don't have anything requiring refrigeration and they don't have many other items like palmiers or French macaroons.
I posted extensively on the best Chicagoland bakeries for pastry in the topic at www.chow.com/topics/542316 IMO the very best ones for pastry within the city limits are Vanille Patisserie, Floriole, and Swedish Bakery; two runners-up are Alliance Bakery and Toni Patisserie. Vanille and Floriole are about six blocks apart on the near north side so it's easy to hit both on the same trip. Vanille also has a stall at the French Market just west of the Loop. Swedish Bakery is further north in Andersonville.
>> How about Publican meats bread?
I haven't been there.