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Sep 19, 2012 02:03 PM

Sofitel where to eat for my anniversary in December?

I am bringing my wife to Chicago for our 10th anniversary in Mid-December for a weekend. We'll be staying at the Sofitel Friday through Sunday. Any recommendations on restaurants?

I don't have many requirements: We'll probably want to keep most meals under $100 and we don't mind getting hot dogs or whatever as long as it's good eats. She will want to get a good breakfast one day as she absolutely loves breakfast. And she'll want to get a good cup of coffee everyday. We don't mind walking. We will not have a car there and would probably prefer to walk if we can help it.

We're probably going to see the Blue Man group and potentially do Second City as well. So if there's a great place to eat in those places, I'm open. After looking through the message board, here's some of my better ideas so far:
• Hot Dogs: Portillo's, Hot Doug's ?
• Sushi: ???
• Lunch: Fog De Chao Brazillian meat buffet
• Dinner: Frontera Grill

Seriously though, I have no strong opinions on anything yet. Any thoughts from the experts?

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  1. Wow, an entire weekend! Sure, we can come up with something. :)

    For authentic Chicago hot dogs, Portillo's on Ontario is close to your hotel and theirs are excellent. They also have our local specialty of Italian beef sandwiches. Hot Doug's is distant and inconvenient to get to, is known for specialty sausages rather than Chicago hot dogs, and the waits are horrendous (90+ minutes). It's the kind of place you go to if you've heard of it and you want to say you've been there. (Frankly, I wasn't impressed.)

    I would not go to Fogo de Chao. We have a lot of places with GREAT food; this is not one of them. And wouldn't you prefer to go to restaurants that are unique to Chicago, rather than a national chain?

    Frontera Grill is excellent - IF you have a reservation. (Without one, waits to be seated are dreadful unless you get there 15-20 minutes before they open the doors.) Call NOW to see if you can get one; they only take them over the phone. Topolobampo is another option; it's a dining room inside Frontera Grill. Topolobampo is more expensive for dinner, but not ridiculously so. For lunch, Topolobampo is priced similarly to Frontera Grill. Topolobampo accepts reservations on starting three months in advance, and they book up quickly. If you want to eat there, make your reservation NOW.

    Near Second City, I recommend Perennial Virant, which features small plates of contemporary American cuisine.

    The Sofitel is near Spiaggia and Cafe Spiaggia. Spiaggia is a high-end, formal (jackets required), expensive Italian restaurant which may be suitable for a splurge dinner for your anniversary. Cafe Spiaggia, next door, is casual and moderately priced, and also excellent, for lunch or dinner.

    And, of course, you shouldn't miss our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza. Pizano's is on State, right near the Sofitel.

    Other great places I recommend within walking distance of the Sofitel include Sable (contemporary American small plates, craft cocktails); Piccolo Sogno Due (Italian); GT Fish & Oyster (seafood small plates, craft cocktails); Quartino (Italian small plates); and David Burke's Primehouse (steakhouse).

    For Sunday brunch, I recommend North Pond. The setting in the middle of the park is exquisite, and the food from James Beard Award winner Chef Bruce Sherman is excellent. Another good choice for Sunday brunch is Cafe des Architectes, right inside the Sofitel. I like their "sampler" and I love the complimentary French breads and pastries.

    For breakfast any day, Cafe des Architectes is a good choice (see above). The best breakfast-focused restaurant near the Sofitel is the Original Pancake House on East Bellevue. If she is a true fan of breakfast, she won't mind traveling to some of our very best and most creative breakfast specialty restaurants, which are not within walking distance of the Sofitel. Bongo Room has three locations; the one on Milwaukee in Wicker Park is probably the closest to the Sofitel, although the one at Wabash and Roosevelt (12th) is almost as close and is easier to get to on public transportation. Bongo Room specializes in pancake dishes, such as pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce. Tip: The standard portion size consists of three gigantic pancakes, but you can get one-third and two-thirds portions at reduced prices, which lets you try multiple dishes. Other great breakfast restaurants include Jam, in Logan Square; Southport Grocery, in Lakeview; and M. Henry, in Andersonville, and M. Henrietta, in Edgewater. At all of our breakfast specialty restaurants, you can waits of 30+ minutes to be seated are common on Saturdays and Sundays between 9:30 and 12:30.

    You can check prices on the sample menus on the restaurants' websites. Most of these are moderately priced and will fit your stated $100 budget. Here are the exceptions. Spiaggia will definitely exceed that; figure $250-350 for dinner for two with moderate alcohol/tax/tip. If you go to North Pond for dinner rather than brunch, you'll probably spend $200, but it will be worth it; it's a very special experience, and suitable for an anniversary dinner. Dinner at Topolobampo will be around the same amount. All the other places will probably fit your budget. And remember, at places that are open for both lunch and dinner, lunch is usually significantly less expensive.

    Most of our restaurants accept reservations, with the exception of the pizza places and the breakfast specialty restaurants. I strongly recommend making reservations wherever you plan to go, and you can do so now, especially at places like Frontera/Topolobampo where they fill up well in advance. If your plans change, it's easy to cancel them. Most of our nicer restaurants accept reservations on as well as over the phone.

    An early congratulations on your anniversary, and I hope you enjoy your visit to Chicago. Feel free to ask more questions!

    3 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Wonderful nsxtasy. Thanks so much for the recommendations!

      My wife isn't big on deep dish pizza, though she loves authentic Neapolitan pizza. It looks like the closest certified place is called Spacca Napoli. But it's quite a drive by Sheridan Park. Not sure if there's something like that downtown.

      North Pond looks sweet, I'll have to chew on this. I hadn't through about Brunch at all, but it looks amazing!

      Portillo's sounds like a good bet, much more our style. Assuming we/she wants to grab a dog.

      I'm going to have to review the restaurants that you mentioned. Figure out what would be a good fit for 1 or two dinners (or maybe a lunch). And you are dead on with Fogo De Chao, local Chicago places are all my wife would want to visit.

      I was also thinking about as a later treat to do something like Chocolate at The Pen. Any experience with this? Sounds like it could be either amazing or way unnecessary given the desert options at most of these restaurants.

      Thanks again!

      1. re: mitchulskus

        >> My wife isn't big on deep dish pizza, though she loves authentic Neapolitan pizza. It looks like the closest certified place is called Spacca Napoli. But it's quite a drive by Sheridan Park. Not sure if there's something like that downtown.

        I don't think there is.

        >> I was also thinking about as a later treat to do something like Chocolate at The Pen. Any experience with this? Sounds like it could be either amazing or way unnecessary given the desert options at most of these restaurants.

        I've been there several times, so I'll describe it and leave it up to you whether or not to go there. First of all, it's Friday and Saturday nights. I think they officially start the chocolate buffet at 8:00, although I wouldn't be surprised if it's available slightly earlier. It's served in the Lobby (that's the name of the restaurant in the Peninsula, just off the hotel area with that name). It's not inexpensive (around $35, I believe). I've eaten dinner at the Lobby and then the Chocolate Bar, although dinner is not required to partake of the latter, and I've found the dinner food was excellent too. They serve about forty different chocolate desserts, all in small portions so you can try a lot of them without wasting food or filling up. I generally find that some of them are just okay and uninspiring, but I always find a few that put me in rapture. I can understand how you could consider it amazing or unnecessary, depending; you put it very well.

        Another great dessert experience is at TRU, one of our best, fanciest, and most expensive restaurants. They offer a dessert tasting, consisting of something like five desserts for $25. (I'm not sure of the specifics; I ate their a few months ago but didn't do the dessert tasting.) Note, the dining room attire is formal (jackets required) but you can get the dessert tasting in the lounge with less formal attire (no jackets).

        Hope that helps!

        1. re: mitchulskus

          Regarding pizza, there's Coalfire, in West Town. It's not certified Neapolitan but it's certainly Neapolitan in spirit. Very thin, yet airy crust. Easy on the toppings. Absolutely tasty.

          A little farther north, it might be worth going to Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana. They're new (so who knows if certification is still to come, etc.) but the pizza maker/owner really knows her stuff. In fact, she was the first pizza maker at Spacca Napoli (though I wouldn't know if the certification came while she was there -- or to what extent she can claim credit at all). Still, absolutely authentic to what you find in Naples and all together delicious. Still not downtown, on either account, but much closer than Spacca Napoli if you really do want Neapolitan-style pizza while you're here.

          1321 W. Grand Ave.

          Pizzeria da Nella Cucina Napoletana
          1443 W. Fullerton Ave.

      2. I will start by saying, that I am a Los Angeles chow hounder that has been in Chicago this week. I'm sure the locals will have the best recs, but I have been staying at the Sofitel, so thought I would chime in.
        If you can upgrade, the Sofitel junior suites are well worth it. Hermes amenities and a nice sitting area. Let the hotel know it is a special occasion. Maybe they will bump you up.
        Also, the Sofitel serves great croissants/pastries and french press coffee in their lobby restaurant, if you are looking for a lighter breakfast one morning. Definitely superior to most hotel breakfast options.
        If you are feeling lazy one night and want to be close to the hotel, Bistronomic on Wabash is a 1 minute walk. Quaint little french bistro that was excellent the evening we dined there, although reviews are mixed.
        Tavernita is a fabulous small plate/tapas style restaurant. Very cool interior space and pork belly sliders! I enjoyed it more than Frontera, and I am a big fan of Mr. Bayless.
        Have Fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: jeffandnat

          FWIW, Bistronomic is owned/run by the chef, Martial Noguier, who was formerly executive chef for the Sofitel and its restaurant, Cafe des Architectes.

        2. Just a final update post Anniversary. Here's what we did:
          Friday night: GT Fish and Oyster
          Saturday breakfast: South Side Bongo Room
          Saturday: Portillo's hot dogs
          Saturday night: Sable Kitchen
          Sunday: just grabbed a bagel on the way out.

          GT Fish was, by far our best meal. I never thought I'd enjoy an oyster, but it was really great and my wife enjoyed it as well.

          Bongo Room was amazing also. Worth $10 cab ride to get there. Just a great inspiring menu.

          Portillo's was a classic great chicago dog. Simple and delicious.

          Sable Kitchen was less than amazing. We tried 5-6 dishes and they just didn't taste that great. It was ok, the service was very good though.

          We did stop by the Cafe des Architectes for desserts one night. Wow, it was amazing!

          Thanks again everyone for your insightful advice. Very, very helpful!