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Sep 14, 2012 08:49 PM

Chicago visit next month - a couple of questions

Hi Chicago 'hounds,

So I'm making an impromptu visit to your fair city next month, and I'd like some input on my dining plans. I generally come to Chicago once a year (usually in June) and am interested primarily in fine dining experiences (I have eaten at Alinea twice and would go back, but it happens that the 21st Century Limited is on during my visit and even if I could get tickets I've already eaten at EMP this year).

Right now I have dinner reservations booked at Topolobampo, Goosefoot, and Schwa. My questions are:

1. Should I keep the Topolo reservation, or look at something else? I'm strongly considering Bonsoiree as an alternative.

2. What about a backup plan for Schwa? I'm thinking maybe MK, but do you think it's possible to get reservations at Sixteen or L2O at the last minute? Or maybe Moto? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


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  1. 1. That's really up to you. I think Topolobampo is very good indeed. Bayless's cuisine also provides some variation from the other fine dining choices. I can't comment on Bonsoiree because I have only been there under the previous chef, and they recently changed (I wasn't impressed, either).

    2. It depends on the date and time, and how flexible you are in that regard. You can check to get an idea of availability. (You might be better off skipping Schwa entirely, for this very reason.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: nsxtasy

      i would move topolo to lunch and add l2o to your list of dinners. regarding schwa, i would book a backup just in case they cancel...maybe blackbird? i would skip is a cool place but the focus is on presentation rather than taste imo.

    2. You should add Tru and Nightwood to your list of top fine-dining places. Also, if you can get a group together, El Ideas is near the very top.

      1 Reply
      1. re: camusman

        I agree that TRU deserves consideration if you're interested in fine dining. So does Everest. These are two of our finest restaurants. I'd also throw North Pond and Naha into the mix. And I would keep your reservation at Goosefoot; they're doing a great job. Don't forget, they're BYO.

        Nightwood isn't really a fine-dining place. It's very good - a neighborhood bistro serving American food with contemporary and comfort-food influences. But it doesn't have the extensive tasting menus or huge waitstaffs (or high prices or formal-ish attire) that you typically find at the highest-quality, most creative fine dining restaurants.

      2. Thanks everyone. I am very strongly considering L2O. I will be back next spring so I can try some other places at that time. I had also considered Blackbird as a backup. The only reservation I seemed to be able to find for TRU on Open Table was at 10PM on Friday night which is a bit late for me (though I may try and call them and see if I can do better). I am also very keen to try El Ideas, and am on the waiting list (don't expect much there though - I will likely shoot for reservations when I come back in June).

        I think I'll keep the Schwa reservation because I dig the idea of the place and a couple of close friends who really live to eat recommended it highly. If I could get a group together I would have gotten Next tickets last night (the evening I wanted only had 4-tops available by the time I logged on).

        I'm really excited about Goosefoot - they were actually very accommodating in finding me a table given the typical long wait to get one.

        I think Everest, North Pond, Naha, and probably Sixteen and Curtis Duffy's new restaurant Grace will probably (along with El Ideas, hopefully) be on the radar for the next time I'm in town.

        Thanks again for your input.

        2 Replies
        1. re: gourmandish

          More power to ya rolling the dice with Schwa. When everything clicks there, it's one of the meals of a lifetime. Good luck.

          1. re: gourmandish

            Sounds great.

            Regarding TRU, keep in mind, sometimes restaurants that don't show availability for the time(s) you want on Opentable, may be able to give you those times if you phone them. So you might want to give that a try. You've got nothing to lose by calling, and it could land you a reservation at a time that's desirable for you.

            Have a great trip!

          2. Everyone has great recs...

            Sixteen I went 3 years ago, chef's have changed, but overall my experience was nice space, fine-dining expensive but food didn't move me as I had wanted especially for the price point. But the views are spectacular and service very good (wouldn't expect otherwise with Trump)

            Other considerations would be El Ideas and recently opened Elizabeth (ticketing system) which appear to be similar experiences in that the chef is interactive and the food is locally sourced and lots of passion in the cooking.

            Report back!

            3 Replies
            1. re: celstrial

              Thank you so much celstrial for suggesting Elizabeth. I was not familiar with it at all, but after doing some research it is exactly the type of restaurant I absolutely love. I emailed them and they are accommodating me for the Diamond menu as a solo diner. I will be sure to report!

              1. re: gourmandish

                So just got back today - thanks again for your input everyone. Detailed reports to follow. In short, Goosefoot and Elizabeth were truly excellent (I think I need to work out how to move to the Lincoln Square neighborhood). And Schwa... well, Schwa was completely on another level when compared to virtually every dining experience I have ever had.

                1. re: gourmandish

                  Looking forward to hearing what you thought! You've piqued my interest with the Schwa statement :)