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Oct 14, 2012 05:37 PM

Decadent Saturday Lunch

Chicago hounds, need your help picking a Saturday lunch spot. We've been to, and loved, Cafe Spiagia, the Purple Pig, Toplobampo, the Gage, and other places that don't do lunch (Alinea, Publican, etc.) We will be in the northern burbs, and have other plans with friends for other meals, but want somewhere we can go on Saturday for a decadent lunch with wine. We have a car and eat everything, except DH isn't crazy about sushi. Where would YOU go for a special lunch? TIA!

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  1. Publican does Saturday brunch now, BTW (used to be Sundays only):

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks, although we enjoyed Publican, we are looking for something new-to-us this time.

    2. Sixteen (in Trump Tower) would be a venue to consider. In the past several months they have brought in a lot of top notch talent and have been receiving rave reviews. They are one of Chicago's few fine dining venues that is open for lunch. I have not been there yet, but have reservations coming up soon and have had a couple of friends rave about their meals there.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Gonzo70

        I'm always a little leery about having breakfast or lunch at hotel restaurants with top notch talent, for fear that those meals may not represent the quality and creativity that the talent devotes to dinners there. Sometimes hotel restaurants are just open for breakfast and lunch because they have to do so for hotel guests, and those meals serve a more conventional menu. I'm not saying this is true of Sixteen - I've never had lunch there - but I would want to hear from someone who has already eaten those meals there, unless I were willing to be a guinea pig (which can be fun too). Of course, sometimes it works out fine and they're doing great things for those other meals as well - but not always.

        I too have upcoming reservations for dinner there, and am looking forward to checking out the food from their new team!

        1. re: nsxtasy

          Good point about hotel restaurants. I do not know anyone personally who has had lunch at Sixteen.

          When are you going there for dinner? I am heading on 11/13.

            1. re: nsxtasy

              Think i will wait until I read the reviews from y'all for Sixteen, but thanks!

              1. re: nsxtasy

                Last Saturday night, I had dinner at Sixteen. I thought it was quite good - not perfect, but worth checking out, for those who haven't been there since Chef Lents and Pastry Chef Fahy took over this past summer.

                The menus on their website at are the current ones we were presented with. There was a choice of a four-course prix fixe ($110), an eight-course tasting ($150), and a 16-course tasting ($210), and with almost-total overlap among them. The theme right now is "Fall in Chicago", with a fair amount of nostalgia mixed in; the theme was reflected not only in the dishes and ingredients, but also in the presentation, somewhat reminiscent of Next. Our party of four decided on the prix fixe. This was supplemented by four amuse bouche courses and two mignardise courses.

                I'm not going to give a detailed description of every course, so that I don't spoil the fun for those who haven't been there. Overall, I would say that the food was generally quite good, with a few dishes that were excellent (notably the kombucha soup) and a few that just didn't cut it (a popcorn amuse bouche). I found both desserts particularly disappointing, in taste as well as in portion size.

                The service was mostly good, with "armies" of staff who were generally attentive, but there were a few minor flaws in the pacing and in staff follow-up. The timing of the wine pairings was a major problem, as they were presented on a haphazard basis, including some when we were still drinking cocktails, rather than presenting them alongside the dishes they were supposed to be paired with.

                The room is unchanged from before. The main dining room has very high ceilings and huge floor-to-ceiling windows with a great view of the neighboring high-rises. I had sat in the main room in my previous visit a couple of years ago. This time we were in the smaller room to the side, which has a much lower ceiling but still has a great view out the windows. I think I enjoyed the smaller room more; there is a tendency in the main room for loud noise to carry from the waiting and bar areas, making the room seem very loud (even though the tables are spaced wide apart), whereas it didn't carry as much into our room.

                All in all, I thought our dinner was good, but not great. Anyone who enjoys trying the better, higher-end restaurants in Chicago should include it in their dining itinerary. Further characterization depends on what you want to compare Sixteen with. My impression from the media is that Sixteen aspires for multiple Michelin stars. It was awarded one for 2013, and based on my dinner I think that's about right, for both food and service. IMHO for multiple stars (especially for three), a restaurant needs to serve one superbly delicious dish after another after another, and dessert should not be a letdown; there should also be no discernible flaws in service in the entire meal. I ate at TRU earlier this year, and that description applies perfectly to TRU (which also received only one star for 2013, although I think it deserved three - it was great and flawless) as well as the amazing Alinea. But Sixteen needs significant development on its food and service if they want to reach a two or three star level in the future.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  Thanks for the detailed review, I was eagerly anticipating your impressions. I am heading there next week. Glad to hear that the savories for the most part were good quality; was surprised about the desserts considering the addition of Chef Fahy. I am leaning towards the eight course tasting menu, so will chime in with my perspective after my meal.

                  Totally agree that Tru deserves more than one star; I still am shocked that somehow Graham Elliot was elevated but not Tru.

                  1. re: Gonzo70

                    The money is absolutely in the 16 course - it is an experience rivaled only by my 3 meals at Alinea in Chicago and 1 at L2o under Gras. The service needs work, but what Lents is putting out is beautiful, delicious, and entirely unique. For me the meal topped EL Ideas and Elizabeth. I'll have my full thoughts up by next week. If you can afford it, do the 16.

                    While I agree the desserts were not as good as the savory courses, I felt the cider donut was excellent. If desserts are allowed to bring a meal down, then Elizabeth will need to be demoted to biggest disappointment of 2012 as opposed to a really good meal with godawful desserts.


                    1. re: uhockey

                      Thanks for the feedback; glad you enjoyed Sixteen and hope you had a fun trip back to Chicago. The 16 course would be fun to do, but I am dining with my wife who is somewhat of a picky eater so tasting menus can be a challenge. The listed 8 course menu seemed pretty good to her and she will only need some minor modifications - but I am afraid the 16 course might be a bit too challenging for her, unless the service at Sixteen is like at EMP where they very carefully discuss any aversions and do a great job modifying the menu based on the discussion. Did you glean any perspective on how readily and efficiently they adjust the tasting menu?

                      1. re: Gonzo70

                        I did not, unfortunately - and with that said, everything on the 8 is from the 16. I just feel that the way he is setting the menu up is VERY dialogue driven and by doing anything less than the 16 you are not hearing his full story. I do know they can make it veg because I saw a table next to us do the 8 course purely veg.

                        I'm personally VERY curious to see how the restaurant evolves - clearly being in the hotel will make it difficult for him to go ALL 16-course tasting like Alinea or EL Ideas - they have to keep an ALC option, but the beauty/brilliance/balance they showed us over 16 courses and nearly 4 hours was every bit on par with the higher Michelin 2-Stars (Corton, Manresa) and IMO as good as some of the 3-stars. Service isn't quite as polished as it needs to be, but give it time.


          1. Saturday lunch is a weird time for restaurants. Many restaurants are closed for lunch on Saturdays, a VERY small number do a Saturday brunch (other than the breakfast-focused restaurants which don't have wine), some places have a lunch menu, and some places have the same menu at lunchtime as dinner.

            My top pick for a decadent Saturday lunch in the northern suburbs is Moderno, the new Italian restaurant in Highland Park from the John Des Rosiers of Inovasi in Lake Bluff. I've been there for lunch (weekday) and for dinner, and it's absolutely top notch.

            Otherwise, you could go to one of the steakhouses (Wildfire in Glenview and in Lincolnshire are both open for lunch on Saturdays - ). Maggiano's, although it's a chain, can be pretty decadent as well.

            Of course, it depends on your definition of "decadent". If you enjoy sweet dishes and don't care about whether they have wine, there may be nothing more decadent than going to Walker Brothers and having their huge, puffy, cinnamony, apple pancake. :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: nsxtasy

              We realize that Saturday lunch is not optimal timing, but it's what we have to work with. Moderno sounds intriuging and the menu looks promising; it's on the short list! Decadent to me means a glass or two of good wine, excellent food, and maybe sharing a dessert with DH, but neither of us focus on sweets.

            2. Given your prior pleasures, my top choice would be Davanti Enoteca, a wine bar and restaurant in Little Italy. I had a delicious lunch of their grilled deconstructed Caesar salad and pasta carbonara, and of course wine. To my surprise, as they did not previously accept reservations, they are on Open Table.

              Farmhouse might be another good option. I haven't been, but a colleague was recently raving after several visits. They are more beer- than wine-focused, however, so perhaps not what you want that day. It came to mind since you liked the Gage, which to be honest, although I think the food is tasty, in the end both trips I found it overpriced, as in, "Did that seem like a $100 meal to you?"

              New, and getting mostly good reviews for food but mixed press for unrelated behavior and the involved personality, is GEB, Graham Elliot Bistro, the more casual and open-for-lunch sibling of Graham Elliot's flagship.

              Finally, you might consider Bistronomic, a French bistro give or take in the Gold Coast.

              None of these would be fine dining a la Spiaggia, Alinea, Topo, but I believe would offer a fun and decadent experience. All offer reservations on Open Table.

              Davanti Enoteca
              1349 W Taylor St

              228 W Chicago Ave

              840 N Wabash Ave

              841 W Randolph St

              1 Reply
              1. re: GourmetWednesday

                Thanks; they all sound really interesting; I will check them out and of course report back after we choose and dine!

              2. Our decadent Saturday lunch morphed into a semi-decadent early dinner at Burt's Place with friends. The deep dish pizza (sausage, mushroom, black olives, spinach) was great and the generic wine was, ummm, consumed at any rate. We also did dinner Friday at Pete Millers; very good. We shared the Pete Miller classic rib steak and a huge baked potato, ordered a side of the pecan green beans which were delish, and got the world's largest piece of chocolate cake to go for dessert.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Niki in Dayton

                  Glad you made it to Burt's. You picked a good time to go.