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Montreal Hounds Doing Chicago

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My buddy and I (dudes, early 40's) from Montreal are huge foodies and will be headed to chicago for 72 hours of the city's finest. Rec's?

Unlimited budget, but atmosphere, variety and quality all count. From the finest white tablecloth to the do-not-miss hole in the wall, let's hear about 'em!

We're staying in NMA area, no car, so looking for spots within walking distance/public transit or 15 minute cab ride.

Merci!

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  1. NMA? Um, North Michigan Avenue, I think? By which you mean Magnificent Mile?

    When are you going to be in Chicago? What days of the week?

    Some of the upscale restaurants you might be interested are closed on Sundays, Mondays, and/or Tuesdays.

    Also at least two very popular restaurants (Girl and the Goat, Frontera Grill) book up many months in advance. Other restaurants only sell prepaid tickets for even numbered parties (Next, Alinea, Elizabeth, for example). How big is your group? Just two?

    How long would you be willing to wait for a table (or dine at 5 or 10pm)? A lot of the popular "foodie" destinations don't take reservations.

    Have you done any research already? What interests you?

    See also:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/879642
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/886038
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/841359
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/871076

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      >> NMA? Um, North Michigan Avenue, I think? By which you mean Magnificent Mile?

      Yeah, I had to figure that one out too!

      >> Also at least two very popular restaurants (Girl and the Goat, Frontera Grill) book up many months in advance.

      We do have some restaurants that book up many months in advance, including the dinner-only Girl & the Goat. The situation at Frontera Grill is a bit more complicated. There are three Rick Bayless restaurants at that location. Topolobampo is more upscale (more expensive for dinner, about the same for lunch) and occupies a dining room inside Frontera Grill. If you eat at the bar at Frontera Grill, you can order from either menu, Frontera's or Topolobampo's. XOCO is around the corner and a good place for a snack, but the food is more along the lines of street food, not as creative or unusual as Frontera Grill or Topolobampo, so I would recommend one of those rather than XOCO.

      Topolobampo takes reservations including on Opentable; dinner reservations book up shortly after they become available three months out, whereas lunch reservations continue to be available until 2-3 weeks beforehand. Frontera Grill takes only a limited number of reservations, only over the phone, and keeps most of the room available for walk-in traffic. Waiting times to be seated can be horrific, but you can avoid the worst by arriving 15-20 minutes before they open the doors. My advice: for lunch, make a reservation at Topolobampo; for dinner, if you can eat early, go to Frontera Grill before they open the doors, and otherwise, make a reservation at Mexique. Note, Frontera/Topo are closed Sundays and Mondays; Mexique is closed Mondays.

    2. For the best of the best, of Chicago and perhaps the US, consider Alinea. They sell "tickets" in advance via their website, www.alinearestaurant.com. I know people have had an issue purchasing tickets with foreign credit cards, and there is a solution, but I don't remember it, so perhaps someone else will post.

      Somehow I get the hunch you'd like El Ideas, www.elideas.com, for a wonderful tasting menu menu in a uniquely interactive and casual setting. It's BYOB, so head to a liquor store near your hotel, take a cab, and have fun.

      There are several other highly-rated, top-dollar places in town (eg, Tru, Everest, Naha, North Pond, Sixteen, Acadia, L2O, Moto, Topolobampo, Grace), and others will elaborate on them.

      I'd also strongly recommend spending some time in the West Loop, probably about 3km from your hotel. For restaurants, consider the Publican, Au Cheval, La Sirena Clandestina, Girl and the Goat, Little Goat, or Ing.

      You probably also don't get much Southern (U.S.) style cooking where you are, so if you don't travel to the States often, I recommend Carriage House (also good cocktails), or Table 52, owned by celebrity chef Art Smith; not the most happening place these days, but the complementary biscuits are amazing and the restaurant is a decent version of the genre. We also have some good barbeque, including Lillie's Q, and Chicago q (the latter would be a doable walk from Michigan Ave). There are other good places in town, but probably not worth the commute for you. On the other hand, if you are a frequent traveler to this country, stick to what Chicago does best, and forget about this paragraph!

      Other genres to seek out: Chicago specialties of deep dish or pan pizza, Italian beef sandwiches, and hot dogs. These might make better lunch than dinner choices for you. We also have very good Mexican food, from Michelin stars to mom-and-pop places where little English is spoken.

      Check out the threads on breakfast or brunch; you'll get excellent food and have time to explore the city before going out to dinner.

      For a tasty snack, go to Garrett's Popcorn, in the tourist zones or at O'Hare, especially for the "Chicago Mix" of cheese popcorn and caramel corn. At O'Hare I also like Vosges Haut-Chocolat, for airplane snacks or gifts for friends back home.

      Have a great trip!

      1. In addition to the info provided above, check out this discussion, which tells what foods and places are unique or specialties in Chicago, foods that Chicago is particularly good at:

        first time Chicago - www.chow.com/topics/693477

        If I had to name three "don't miss" items for a three-day visit to Chicago, they would be (a) a high-end dinner, preferably Alinea, with TRU my second choice; (b) a contemporary Mexican lunch or dinner, such as at Topolobampo/Frontera Grill or Mexique; and (c) deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati's or Pizano's. If Alinea ($300+/pp) or TRU ($200-250/pp) are too pricey and/or you don't like getting dressed up at a jackets-required place, I'd consider substituting North Pond, Naha, or Acadia (all $100-130/pp). If I were staying along the Mag Mile, I'd add in lunch or dinner at Sable, which has terrific food in a small plates format at bargain prices, as well as great craft cocktails.

        Transportation notes: From the Mag Mile, TRU, Topolo/Frontera, Naha, Malnati's at State and Rush, Pizano's on State, and Sable are all a short walk away. Alinea is a mile and a half northwest of the north end of the Mag Mile (I'd take a cab, although the CTA Red Line stop at North/Clybourn is close by). North Pond is two miles north (cab or CTA #151 bus). Acadia is three miles south (cab or #3 CTA bus down Michigan Avenue). Mexique is two miles west (#66 CTA bus runs along Chicago Avenue).

        2 Replies
        1. re: nsxtasy

          Since nsxtasy was giving you don't misses, make sure you pick up som Garrett's Chicago Mix Popcorn. When it's warm, nectar of god's. My cutoff on the wait (there are 4 stores in general downtown are) is about 20 minutes. The Mag Mile store can have 30 minute plus waits.

          1. re: jbontario

            Yes, Garrett's Popcorn is definitely a "don't miss", and a great recommendation by jbontario. They have caramel popcorn (with or without cashews or pecans), cheese popcorn, and the "Chicago mix" of caramel and cheese. Waits vary by time of day, day of the week, weather, etc.

            And in case you don't get a chance to stop at one of their stores downtown, they have stores in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 at O'Hare, where the popcorn is freshly made too and I have never seen any waits at all like at the ones downtown. The stores are inside security and in the terminal buildings, not the long concourses. Once you're through security in Terminals 1 through 3, you can walk between any of those terminals without going out of the secure area again. So, for example, if your flight home leaves from Terminal 2 on Air Canada, you could arrive and pass through security in either Terminal 1 or Terminal 3, pick up popcorn there, then walk to your departure gate in T2 without having to go out through security again. (Terminal 5 is some distance away and there is no way to do it without going through security twice, but T5 is mostly overseas flights and I don't think Canadian flights pass through there.) While you're there, T1 and T3 have more/better dining options than T2, such as Rick Bayless's Tortas Fronteras.

        2. And now that I read that you guys are in my general age range and apparent demographic, may I suggest dinner at Au Cheval. I am one of a couple on the board who recommend it and i can't say enough. I've been five times and would go more frequently if I didn't want to have to get a lipitor prescription. Not sure if this link will post correctly here, but their cheeseburger is to die for. Also really like the pork chop and the house-made fried bologna sandwiches melt in your mouth. Check out their FB page for some mouth watering pics.

          http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?...

          and of course, i wish chowhound would add a "like" button since nsxtasy is dead-on with the Garrett's detail.

          1. Thanks for all the replies so far folks. A couple of observations:
            -tickets for reservations? Really?
            -more importantly, either the food is infinitely better than the top resto's here in Montreal, or Chicgoans are getting ripped off. I recently paid $200 per person for a 10 course tasting menu with wine pairings at what was recently ranked as 9th best restaurant in the world. it was outstanding, and made all my previous 5 star dining experiences here pale in comparison--and that's no easy feat in this town! So to hear about $300+ per person in Chicago, well, is it really that much better?

            All this to say, I'd love to hear some rec's of great spots up to the $100-125 per person range. I know they may not be as incredible as the $300, but still curious as to what you recommend.

            thx

            7 Replies
            1. re: remdog99

              Where was your 10 course with wine pairings for 200$? It sounds interesting.

              1. re: causeimhungry

                at Europea in Montreal.

                1. re: remdog99

                  Ranked #9 on the "Travelers' favorite restaurants 2012" list from... TripAdvisor.

                  I love TA for hotel / condo recommendations, but it's not exactly a place populated by foodies. Particularly those that hit up multiple fine dining, tasting menu only restaurants. There's a lot of chain restaurants that score incredibly high on TA. For Chicago, they even ranked Girl and Goat above Alinea, which is absurd. I love GATG, but it's not in the same league.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    >> There's a lot of chain restaurants that score incredibly high on TA. For Chicago, they even ranked Girl and Goat above Alinea, which is absurd. I love GATG, but it's not in the same league.

                    Indeed, LOL! Their "five best restaurants in Chicago" also include Smoque, which is a perfectly good casual barbecue restaurant but again not in the same league as our fine dining places, and Capital Grille, a national steakhouse chain which most Chicagoans wouldn't even consider among the city's best steakhouses.

              2. re: remdog99

                >> -tickets for reservations? Really?

                In Chicago, this was started by Next, the restaurant from Grant Achatz (whose Alinea really has been called the best in the country). It was expanded to Alinea, and a similar system is used by Elizabeth, another restaurant offering only lengthy tasting menus. Those are the only three restaurants with a ticketing system in Chicago, AFAIK. And at least in the case of the two Achatz restaurants, it's a way of managing the high level of demand, which exceeds the supply of space by many times.

                >> -more importantly, either the food is infinitely better than the top resto's here in Montreal, or Chicgoans are getting ripped off. I recently paid $200 per person for a 10 course tasting menu with wine pairings at what was recently ranked as 9th best restaurant in the world.

                Sounds like you were ripped off by whoever claimed that ranking - LOL! The most widely respected list of world restaurants is the one done by Restaurant magazine and San Pellegrino, and there isn't a single Canadian restaurant in their top 100. www.theworlds50best.com/awards/1-50-w...

                >> it was outstanding, and made all my previous 5 star dining experiences here pale in comparison--and that's no easy feat in this town! So to hear about $300+ per person in Chicago, well, is it really that much better?

                Alinea is the only $300+/pp restaurant here. It is also the only restaurant here to receive three stars from the Michelin Guide this year. Is it really that much better? Yes, absolutely. Alinea - which features a tasting menu of 17-22 courses - is not just a dinner. It is a once-in-a-lifetime entertainment experience, which includes unusual presentation techniques along with unusual ingredients and preparations. It is a huge amount of fun, and all the courses are amazingly delicious. It is *nothing* like any other restaurant in Chicago (and it is nothing like the top restaurants elsewhere around the country). Whether it is worth it, depends on your budget and how much you care about food and how much you would enjoy such an experience. Some people would, particularly those here on Chowhound; many others wouldn't, or can't afford such meals.

                The top restaurants in Chicago - including not only Alinea, but also TRU, Everest, Spiaggia, etc (which are a bit less, figure $200-250/pp) - distinguish themselves from less expensive places in many ways, including their decor and attire, their prices, their service (typically seeming armies of waitstaff at your beck and call), their lengthy tasting menus, their famous chefs, etc. All of which make the difference between a $200+/pp dinner and a $100/pp dinner. You can certainly get great food in Chicago without spending that much, but it won't be the same kind of experience.

                Incidentally, Alinea's pricing is similar to that of its competitors elsewhere around the U.S. for "best in the world", such as Per Se and Le Bernardin in New York and the French Laundry in California.

                >> All this to say, I'd love to hear some rec's of great spots up to the $100-125 per person range. I know they may not be as incredible as the $300, but still curious as to what you recommend.

                I intentionally included references to prices among the restaurants I mentioned above, just because some people say things like "the city's finest" and "Unlimited budget" without knowing how much such meals typically cost. I also included lower-priced restaurants in my recommendations above. (Perhaps you did not bother reading the previous replies to your post?) In particular, I mentioned Naha, North Pond, and Acadia among my recommendations. I've paid in the $100-125/pp range per person at all three of these. So let me tell you a bit more about these three, as I consider them the best restaurants in Chicago in that price range.

                Naha has a ground-floor location in River North, and has contemporary décor (both of which are also true of the more-expensive TRU). It is owned by chef Carrie Nahabedian, who won the James Beard Award for best chef in this region in 2008. (The James Beard Awards are the most respected chef awards in the United States.) It is also the recipient of a star in the latest Michelin Guide. The cuisine is contemporary American and thoroughly outstanding. Attire is business casual (i.e. not casual, but jackets NOT required for gentlemen). Their menu is a la carte and I don't believe they have a tasting menu, but I'm sure they could put something together along those lines upon request. It's one of the few high-end restaurants in Chicago that serve lunch as well as dinner, and lunch is *somewhat* less expensive (although not by that much, and I believe theirs is the most expensive lunch in Chicago).

                North Pond stands out for its exquisite setting as well as its delicious food. It is located three miles north of the Loop in Lincoln Park - the park itself, rather than the adjacent neighborhood of the same name. It faces its namesake pond, with the city skyline looming over the opposite shore. The renovated Art Deco building was once used as a warming shelter for skaters on the pond. Like Naha, owner-chef Bruce Sherman won the James Beard Award for best chef in this region in 2012. They offer a la carte menus as well as a tasting menu. The cuisine is contemporary American with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients, and it too is outstanding. Attire is business casual. They are not open for lunch during the week (they have been in the past, summers only, but I don't think they were this past summer). In addition to dinner, they are open for brunch on Sundays, which is a more moderately-priced way of experiencing the lovely location and Chef Sherman's cuisine.

                Acadia has only been open a year, but truly deserves mention among this esteemed company. It is located in a commercial part of the South Loop neighborhood a couple miles south of the Loop. There is no outside signage, and there isn't much activity at night around there. The décor is contemporary, the level of service superb. It is also the recipient of a star in the latest Michelin Guide. The cuisine from Chef Ryan McCaskey is contemporary American. Their menu is a la carte and I don't believe they have a tasting menu, but I'm sure they could put something together along those lines upon request. Attire is business casual. Dinner only, Wednesday through Sunday.

                We also have plenty of great restaurants which don't even cost as much as $100-125/pp. I think any visitor from Canada would be remiss if you didn't have at least one meal from one of our delicious creative contemporary Mexican restaurants, since that's a cuisine you don't experience much at home. Rick Bayless, the famous chef, runs Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in River North; note that you need to reserve well in advance, and waiting times to be seated without a reservation are typically horrendous (90-120 minutes or more). Three other excellent restaurants in this category are Mexique, in West Town; Mixteco Grill, in Lakeview; and Mundial Cocina Mestiza, in Pilsen.

                We have some terrific moderately-priced restaurants serving great food in a small plates format. These include Sable (contemporary American in River North), GT Fish & Oyster (seafood in River North), the Purple Pig (Mediterranean on the Magnificent Mile; no reservations, dinner waiting times are 120+ minutes), and Mercat a la Planxa (tapas in the Loop).

                And, as I mentioned above, don't miss our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati's or Pizano's.

                I highly recommend making reservations as far in advance as possible. Most of our nicer restaurants accept reservations for free on Opentable.com as well as over the phone.

                You can review sample menus on the restaurants' websites, most of which show prices:

                www.alinearestaurant.com
                www.naha-chicago.com
                www.northpondrestaurant.com
                www.acadiachicago.com
                www.rickbayless.com/restaurants (Frontera Grill and Topolobampo)
                www.mexiquechicago.com
                www.mixtecogrill.com
                www.mundialcocinamestiza.com
                www.sablechicago.com
                www.gtoyster.com
                www.thepurplepigchicago.com
                www.mercatchicago.com
                www.loumalnatis.com
                www.pizanos.com

                1. re: remdog99

                  -tickets for reservations? Really?

                  From Alinea's FAQs page:

                  Why tickets instead of reservations?

                  Alinea has 3 people answering phones six days per week answering hundreds more phone calls than we have reservations available. It is a disappointing and frustrating process for our customers and staff alike.

                  The NoMad Rooftop in NYC also uses a ticket system (a reskinned version of Alinea's). Welcome to the future, I guess.

                  -more importantly, either the food is infinitely better than the top resto's here in Montreal, or Chicgoans are getting ripped off. I recently paid $200 per person for a 10 course tasting menu with wine pairings at what was recently ranked as 9th best restaurant in the world.

                  Hmmm... I've eaten at 4 of the top 10 on the San Pellegrino list, as well as the el Bulli menu at Next... And I think Alinea is the best. Even compared to Arzak and Mugaritz!

                  - All this to say, I'd love to hear some rec's of great spots up to the $100-125 per person range.

                  Is the $125pp before tax/tip/wine? You can easily do Publican, Purple Pig, Girl and the Goat, Big Jones, Yusho, Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Longman & Eagle, and many others for that amount. And some, like El Ideas ($135-145pp) and Goosefoot ($115pp), are BYOB which can keep costs down.

                  You still haven't posted when you're visiting Chicago or what days of the week... this is important so that you're not unpleasantly surprised if a place is fully committed already or closed on that day of the week.

                  1. re: kathryn

                    >> Is the $125pp before tax/tip/wine?

                    Note, all the numbers I have posted as typical prices in my replies above are including tax/tip and moderate wine/alcohol. Granted, there are variables involved, particularly for quality/quantity of wine/alcohol, but that's what I've actually paid and should help provide an idea of how much a restaurant costs. And, as noted above, you can always check the sample menus (and wine list) on their website for a good idea of pricing.

                    >> And some, like El Ideas ($135-145pp) and Goosefoot ($115pp), are BYOB which can keep costs down.

                    Yes, BYOB can keep costs down. But when comparing prices for a BYOB restaurant to one with a full service license to serve alcohol, you still need to make it an "apples to apples" comparison (grapes to grapes?). For example, Goosefoot's $115 becomes $145-150 with tax/tip, and that doesn't include any beverages at all, not even coffee. And you still need to add the cost of any alcohol you bring with you to that, even though that same bottle might cost the usual 2.5-3.0 times as much on a restaurant wine list. So a realistic *inclusive* estimate for Goosefoot is probably more like $170-180/pp when you include coffee service and half a bottle of decent wine, bought in a liquor store.

                2. Thanks for all the detailed responses, I truly appreciate it. keep em coming!

                  Dates of visit: feb 7-10. yes, right in time for restaurant week!

                  18 Replies
                  1. re: remdog99

                    That's only two weeks away! Yikes! I wouldn't be surprised if many of the restaurants listed so far are already fully committed. Especially for that Fri and Sat night.

                    Topo doesn't have any availability on OpenTable for dinner. Frontera takes very limited numbers of reservations and is also likely fully committed already. You'd need to walk in and try the bar if you want dinner.

                    Topolo has exactly ONE lunch slot remaining on OT, it's that Friday at 1:30pm for two. I'd grab it ASAP.

                    Goosefoot on OpenTable is fully committed. El Ideas' site implies that they don't have any availability during their dates (though they do one day before you arrive -- 2/6).

                    Girl and the Goat doesn't have any availability on OpenTable -- you'd need to try for a walk in table or the bar or the lounge tables.

                    Naha looks fully booked for dinner during your dates, but has lots of lunch availability.

                    Sable for dinner looks pretty booked up -- only early and late tables left. Same for GT Fish & Oyster, only early and late left.

                    Acadia has a fair amount of availability during your dates, for dinner. As does Publican, Yusho, and Mercat a la Planxa.

                    North Pond has a fair number of tables left as well, but not that many.

                    1. re: kathryn

                      Well, that's not all that bad, especially if you're flexible about when you dine. But I would make those reservations RIGHT AWAY.

                      For higher-end finer dining, Acadia and North Pond are both outstanding, no problem there.

                      For contemporary Mexican, if that lunch at Topo doesn't work for you and you can't arrive early at Frontera before they open the doors, consider making a reservation at Mexique. If you find that they don't have availability, then consider Salpicon or Mixteco Grill (on Opentable) or Mundial Cocina Mestiza (accepts reservations over the phone but not on Opentable). Salpicon is in Old Town close to downtown; the other two are a bit further away. Mixteco is near the Montrose stop on the CTA Brown Line, and Mundial is near the 18th Street stop on the CTA Pink Line.

                      1. re: nsxtasy

                        Snagged the lunch spot at Topolo!

                        If we were to do a happy hour type of pre-dinner each night, somewhere with a good vibe to get a few drinks and some above-average bar snacks, any rec's? Also, any good happy hour oyster bars around?

                        1. re: remdog99

                          The oyster bar at Shaw's Crab House is fun.
                          Sable is also a good spot for pre-dinner drinks.

                          1. re: remdog99

                            Baume & Brix, Publican, Nellcote, Sable or La Sirena Clandestina are all good options for predinner cocktails and some really tasty food. Little Goat (diner affiliated with Girl & the Goat) might be an option too, but beverage menu is more limited. All these are in neighborhoods not too far from where you are staying (short cab ride).

                            1. re: remdog99

                              To save you some (potential) disappointment, you won't find any happy hour specials for drinks in Chicago -- they're not allowed. Some places may offer all-day drink specials and/or happy hour specials on food, though they're not as common as they once were.

                              I think the Publican could work well for a drink or two with some snacks (they also have a killer oyster menu). If you get there on the early side, you will probably find it to be less crowded and (potentially) more enjoyable. This is their 'afternoon' menu (dinner service starts at 5pm, I believe): http://thepublicanrestaurant.com/uplo...

                              1. re: remdog99

                                I would also recommend Sable for pre-dinner cocktails and snacks.

                                GT Fish and Oyster has 1/2 price oysters AFTER 10pm if you sit at the bar or at the horseshoe-shaped table near the bar.

                                1. re: remdog99

                                  >> If we were to do a happy hour type of pre-dinner each night, somewhere with a good vibe to get a few drinks and some above-average bar snacks, any rec's?

                                  You've got some good recommendations already.

                                  If you'd like to mention which hotel you're staying at (or a nearby street intersection), we can tell you which of these places is close by, or possibly recommend others that are. Similarly, if you'd like to mention which restaurants you've decided to dine at for dinner, we can tell you which of these places is close by, in case you'd like to go directly from drinks to dinner (or go directly after dinner for drinks).

                                  1. re: nsxtasy

                                    Staying at the hotel felix on W. Huron.

                                    how about some post-dinner spots? any good jazz/wine bars?

                                    Also, how about some rec's for Italian?

                                    1. re: remdog99

                                      >> how about some post-dinner spots? any good jazz/wine bars?

                                      Within a short walk from your hotel, you'll find:

                                      Andy's Jazz Club - www.andysjazzclub.com
                                      Pops for Champagne - www.popsforchampagne.com
                                      Bin 36 - www.bin36.com

                                      >> Also, how about some rec's for Italian?

                                      We have a lot of terrific Italian restaurants. Three excellent ones are within a ten-minute walk of your hotel:

                                      Piccolo Sogno Due - www.piccolosognodue.com
                                      Coco Pazzo - www.cocopazzochicago.com
                                      Cafe Spiaggia - www.cafespiaggia.com (click on "CAFE")

                                      Piccolo is my favorite of this group, but they're all great, no bad choices here.

                                      More excellent ones are south of the river in the Loop, about a mile away:

                                      tesori - www.tesorichicago.com
                                      Vivere - www.vivere-chicago.com
                                      The Florentine - www.the-florentine.net
                                      Terzo Piano - www.terzopianochicago.com

                                      All of the above are open for lunch and dinner throughout the week, with the exception of Vivere, which is closed Sundays, and Terzo Piano, which is inside the Art Institute and only serves dinner only on Thursdays, the only evening the museum is open. All accept reservations on Opentable.com as well as over the phone.

                                      All of these are moderately priced, places where you'll spend $60-80/pp for dinner including moderate alcohol and tax/tip. If you want to splurge, Spiaggia is one of the very best high-end fine dining restaurants in the city, and the only one of those for Italian cuisine. You'll need to dress up, and expect to pay $200+/pp. www.spiaggiarestaurant.com

                                2. re: nsxtasy

                                  OK, here's how we're shaping up...

                                  Thursday late dinner: Sable

                                  Friday lunch: Topolobampo
                                  Friday pre-dinner: pops for champagne
                                  Friday Dinner: open

                                  Saturday lunch: open
                                  Saturday pre-dinner: open
                                  Saturday late dinner: publican

                                  As you can see, we are covering the spectrum of higher-end to mid-range, so anything goes as long as we leave with a great dining experience. We also really enjoy siting at a bar where we can watch the food masters doing their thing in the open kitchen--any suggestions?

                                  1. re: remdog99

                                    You've already gotten a lot of recommendations in the posts above. I'd suggest re-reading them and checking the restaurant websites to see what sounds best to you that you haven't already scheduled. You might also check the Restaurant Week menus for the recommended places that are participating; if they don't show the RW menus on their own websites, you can check the RW website at www.eatitupchicago.com

                                    I think deep-dish pizza is the biggest omission from your intinerary. It's our most well-known local food specialty, it's totally different from pizza elsewhere, and I think it's totally delicious. It would be perfect for Saturday lunch. Another unique option for Saturday lunch is one of our breakfast-specialty restaurants, like Jam, M. Henrietta, etc. Note, they don't accept reservations and they're not downtown.

                                    I'd also again recommend North Pond (re-read the detailed description above). The front dining room has the view of the pond and the skyline, while the rear dining room has an open kitchen. It would be great for Friday dinner or - if your schedule allows - Sunday brunch.

                                    Another place where you can watch the open kitchen is Sable, your choice for late Thursday, where Chef Terhune and her staff are easily visible from much of the main dining room.

                                    tesori, the Loop's Italian restaurant I mentioned above, has a bar counter facing the open kitchen, in addition to the bar that's in a separate room at the entrance. So maybe that's an option for Friday dinner also. I didn't say much about it above, but I posted a detailed report after my recent terrific dinner there; you can read it at www.chow.com/topics/873519#7836347

                                    North Pond and tesori are both still showing availability for dinner Friday Feb 8 on Opentable.com

                                    1. re: remdog99

                                      For Saturday pre-dinner, there are a number of places, some previously mentioned by myself and others, within a few blocks of Publican, including: La Sirena Clandestina, Au Cheval, Little Goat Diner, RM Champagne Salon (possibly a bit too similar to Pops for a short trip), Nellcote, Ing, and The Aviary. They are all relatively new (none open more than a few years, and some only a few months), which would be a nice balance to legends like Topolobampo and deep-dish pizza. All of these offer well-made drinks. They vary greatly in emphasis on and styles of food. In terms of decor, they range from casual, fun, modern diner (Au Cheval, Little Goat) to swanky (RM and Aviary, although I lack swank and have been comfortable at Aviary, and you will see jeans there). Some don't take reservations, which for avoiding sellouts due to Restaurant Week might be a good thing. For Aviary, e-mail them in advance for a reservation, or arrive when they open and line up, but know you might get placed at a standing-only table. If you are looking for a more specific style or location, or have looked at the websites for any of these places and have questions, please let us know.

                                      1. re: remdog99

                                        Update:
                                        OK, here's how we're shaping up...

                                        Thursday pre-dinner: Yusho
                                        Thursday late dinner: Sable

                                        Friday lunch: Topolobampo
                                        Friday pre-dinner: pops for champagne
                                        Friday Dinner: Boka

                                        Saturday Breakfast: Bongo
                                        Saturday lunch: Lou Malnati's or Pizano's.or Burt's Place
                                        Saturday pre-dinner: Bigstar
                                        Saturday late dinner: publican

                                        good?

                                        1. re: remdog99

                                          The restaurant choices look great. I think it's an ambitious agenda with a lot of movement around town. With the exception of Burt's, nothing is terribly far, but none of your back-to-back (eg, pre-dinner and late dinner) choices are walking distance from each other. Unless you don't want to do anything in town except eat, drink, and travel to and from those, I'd make some adjustments.

                                          1. re: remdog99

                                            Agreed with GourmetWeds, you're doing a lot of running around, specifically on Saturday.

                                            I would consider swapping out Bigstar. This is really an outside hangout neighborhood bar. I am a chowhounder but equally a drinkhounder and I would not have you spend time here unless it was June. I like everything Paul Kahan does, but this is just not worth it unless you can sit outside for some serious day-drinking or walk there from home. Might I suggest making a reservation at Aviary before your dinner at Publican as they are two blocks apart. Its a different experience but one that is great. Another option if you're staying on Mag Mile or in River North is Untitled which has a great whiskey selection. If you were looking for tequila I would hit Zocalo.

                                            I would also consider that Pops for Champagne (to me) is girls going out, not two dudes (unless you wear scarves inside) before dinner. I would suggest The Boarding House if you're looking for grape-derived drinks or if its a clear night, being touristy and going up to the top of the Hancock and having a drink at the Signature room.

                                            I also pick Lou Malnati's over all other chicago deep dish as its always great and not a pain to get to and from like Burt's.

                                            1. re: jbontario

                                              Good advice from jbontario. I also STRONGLY agree with this part:

                                              >> I also pick Lou Malnati's over all other chicago deep dish as its always great and not a pain to get to and from like Burt's.

                                              I agree 100 percent. Burt's has some other "pains" also, such as the need to order in advance before going there or risk not getting served. Their location is actually fairly convenient for me, but I never go there, and most frequently go to Lou Malnati's.

                                              Oh, and just in case you're still not convinced, Burt's Place is not open for lunch on Saturdays, so it's not even a contender.

                                              Lou Malnati's is consistent and their deep-dish is as good a any in town. Pizano's is also a good choice if you're staying downtown.

                                              Lou Malnati's has three locations downtown (Gold Coast at State/Rush, River North on Wells, South Loop at 8th/State). Pizano's is on State north of Chicago (Gold Coast/Mag Mile) with a satellite for carryout nearby on Dearborn, and on Madison in the Loop.

                                              1. re: jbontario

                                                I feel I need to explain my attraction to Pops:
                                                1) I love oysters, and they have $1 happy hour oysters
                                                2) I love bubbles. Nuf said.
                                                3) Now that you mention this is really the go-to place for the ladies, well, that's reason #3 :-)

                                    2. Just a couple fo days to go before our arrival. So, who's got a rsvp they'd like to give up to a couple of Montrealers who promise to spread the good word about El Ideas or Schwa? Friday or Saturday night. Pretty please!!

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: remdog99

                                        Have you called or emailed El Ideas and asked to be put on the waiting list? They are very good at responding to inquiries, and may be able to accomodate you at the last minute.

                                        1. re: masha

                                          I will try that, thanks!

                                      2. Trip report so far:
                                        Last night's dinner at Sable was excellent. In addition to sampling a variety of dishes, we were thrilled to be seated in full view of the open kitchen (by request in advance), as well as their very extensive drink menu, where we sampled new whiskies and beers.

                                        Today's lunch at Topobolampo was outstanding. As good as the starters and mains were, the cocktails and desserts were even more spectularly excellent, not to mention the mezcal dessert coffee. Wows all around!

                                        And great news--we snagged a last minute cancellation for El Ideas tomorrow night--can't wait!

                                        Off to Boka for dinner!

                                        Chow, hounds!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: remdog99

                                          Glad your trip got off to a great start. Thanks for reporting back. How was the rest of the trip?

                                          1. re: camusman

                                            It was really great. Never made it to Pops, after that massive lunch at Tompo. El Ideas was really awesome! The pizza at Lou's was very good, but really is not on the same food level as the other resto's we dined at, it was more of a Chicago experience than anything else. Boka was also excellent and very unique from the food to the decor. Overall, a great time was had by all. Thanks again so much to all the Chicago hounds!