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New York hound coming to Chicago

Here is my itinerary.
Day 1
Lunch: ?
Dinner: L20

Day 2
Lunch: RL Restaurant
Dinner: Alinea

Day 3
Lunch: Purple Pig?
Dinner: Graham Elliot

My first question is, how is RL Restaurant?
I am also looking for a lunch place on Day 1.
Any suggestions? Price not an issue. I am looking for upscale, fine dining type of a restaurant but I guess most of them are open only for dinner in Chicago. Brunch at North Pond won't fit in, because I will not be in Chicago on a Sunday. FYI, I've already done TRU, Everest, Moto, Black Bird, Sixteen, and Naha. (I especially loved TRU and I was even thinking about going back this time instead of trying a new place)

Any recommendation of decadent breakfast place (preferably at a hotel) would be greatly appreciated too!

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  1. How about Topolobampo for lunch?

    2 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      I was thinking about either Topolobampo or Mexique too.

      1. re: agaaga

        Both are excellent. At dinner, Topolobampo is *much* more expensive, but it's not all that bad at lunchtime. They open their reservation book three months out, and dinner reservations fill quickly thereafter, but lunch reservations (Tue-Fri) are usually available up to 2-3 weeks in advance. Mexique is pretty easy to get reservations for. (Both are on Opentable.) Mexique is a bit more casual in style, attire, etc. Topolobampo is in River North, convenient to the downtown hotels; Mexique is in West Town, a couple miles west of the Mag Mile. The easiest way to get to Mexique via public transit is with the #66 CTA bus that runs along Chicago Avenue.

    2. Not a big fan of RL. I know others are. Given the rest of your itinerary, you choose well. Not that big a fan of North Pond either. It's a lovely location, but I found the brunch to be a little ... ordinary.

      I love Kathryn's suggestion of Topo. I don't know your other plans, but you might want to consider Tony Mantuano's Terzo Piano. The added plus is it gets you in the Art Institute. At the North end of Michigan Avenue is Mantuano's Spiaggia, which I notice that you haven't mentioned and which has a gorgeous lunch.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chicgail

        >> At the North end of Michigan Avenue is Mantuano's Spiaggia, which I notice that you haven't mentioned and which has a gorgeous lunch.

        Spiaggia, the high-end Italian restaurant, is not open for lunch. However Cafe Spiaggia, its moderately-priced sister restaurant next door, is open for lunch.

        1. re: chicgail

          I also considered Terzo Piano, liked the ambience although it seemed a bit casual. How is the food?

          I also wanted to experience Spiaggia that everyone is talking about, but as nsxtasy said, it is not open for lunch. (weep)

          1. re: agaaga

            I had lunch at Terzo Piano a couple of weeks ago. Terrific ambiance, informal yet elegant.
            I had a tasty plate of mussels; one of them had a tiny bit of grit, which is not at all a bad average in my experience. My friend's margherita flatbread had a nice light char on the bottom that reminded me of authentic Neapolitan pizza. Very good service.

        2. I can't comment on RL because I haven't been there.

          One thing to consider: your itinerary is heavy on upscale contemporary American restaurants. There's nothing wrong with that, if that's your preference. But you might want to consider including something else, to add some variety to your itinerary. For example, I think kathryn's suggestion of Topolobampo for lunch is an excellent one, for that very reason, because contemporary Mexican cuisine will add some variety. Similarly, we have excellent Italian (Piccolo Sogno Due, tesori, Vivere) and French (La Sardine) and tapas (Mercat a la Planxa, Cafe Iberico), all open for lunch. And every ethnic cuisine imaginable. There are also our local specialties of deep-dish pizza (Lou Malnati's, Pizano's) and Italian beef sandwiches (Portillo's).

          If you still want to stick to upscale contemporary American for the additional lunch, though, you can do that. Perhaps our two "finest" such places open for lunch are Blackbird and Naha, both of which you've done. You could also go with one of our small plates places; you've got Purple Pig (Mediterranean small plates) but there's also GT Fish & Oyster (seafood small plates), Sable (contemporary American small plates), Mercat a la Planxa (tapas), and Quartino (Italian small plates).

          1 Reply
          1. re: nsxtasy

            I guess I really love contemporary American cuisine, ha..
            I have seen Sable but I have never heard of GT Fish & Oyster. I checked their menu and it looks all nice! Thanks for the tip!

          2. >> Any recommendation of decadent breakfast place (preferably at a hotel) would be greatly appreciated too!

            We have different forms of decadent for breakfast, such as:

            Cafe des Architectes is in the Sofitel. It's a contemporary American restaurant with French accents. I've eaten there for brunch and I love the complimentary basket of French breads and pastries they serve.

            LB Bistro is in the Sheraton. It's a coffee shop run by a two-time world champion pastry chef. They have an all-you-can-eat buffet with some interesting and creative items.

            Other restaurants that serve breakfast in high-end luxury hotels include the Lobby (in the Peninsula Hotel), Sixteen (in the Trump), and NoMI Kitchen (in the Park Hyatt).

            We also have some very creative standalone breakfast-focused restaurants, but they are not in the downtown hotel district, so you'll need to travel a bit. Jam (in the Logan Square neighborhood) is one of our best, and strikes me as a high-end restaurant from a creative chef, but with a focus on breakfast. Bongo Room has three locations (South Loop, Wicker Park, Andersonville) and specializes in creative pancakes, such as their pretzel pancakes with white chocolate caramel sauce; it's a good choice for those who love sweeter dishes for breakfast. M. Henry (Andersonville) and M. Henrietta (Edgewater) have a varied menu (savory and sweet).

            2 Replies
            1. re: nsxtasy

              Jam sounds exciting and I don't mind traveling a bit for good food. Thanks for the recommendation!

              1. re: agaaga

                >> Jam sounds exciting and I don't mind traveling a bit for good food.

                By public transit, Jam is located about a three-minute walk from the Logan Square station on the CTA Blue Line. If you're staying in the Magnificent Mile hotel district, the easiest way to get there is to catch the CTA Red Line at Chicago/State, Grand/State, or State/Lake, take the train southbound to Jackson, go DOWN the stairs from the platform to the tunnel that connects with the CTA Blue Line, and catch a train towards O'Hare.

                I just noticed that Jam has a 28 rating from Zagat, which is pretty darn amazing for a breakfast-focused restaurant that isn't even open for dinner!

            2. It looks like for your dinners you have chosen all of our two and three starred venues (not sure if that is a coincidence or not). One bit of advice I would throw out there is to consider swapping out Graham Elliot (many where shocked when they were awarded the second star). I had a nice meal there, but nowhere near as good as several other venues in Chicago. It certainly is a very good restaurant, but despite the second Michelin star I think there is a lot of consensus that it is not one of Chicago's top three restaurants. Grace recently opened and IMHO is already one of our city's best. While weekend reservations can be tough, you may very well be able to score a reservation on a week night (they are on Open Table). You mentioned really enjoying Tru and Grace is far more similar to Tru than is Graham Elliot. Grace should be receiving at least two stars this fall.

              Another idea to throw out there is to consider one of Chicago's small, casual, unique venues that have extremely high end, interesting cuisine in cozy venues with open kitchens. This would include El Ideas and Elizabeth. Both feature tasting menus and have kind of a dinner party like atmosphere. The chefs serve and present the food and you can hang out and observe the chefs in the kitchen between courses. Service is friendly and attentive, but far less refined than the likes of Tru, Alinea etc. - so it is an extremely different experience, but I find it to be extremely fun and love the food these chefs are putting out. El Ideas is BYOB and Elizabeth has a wine program (they recently hired a sommelier who had been working at Alinea). Neither of these venues is on Open Table, so you would have to contact the restaurant if interested in trying to secure a reservation.

              Another of my favorite venues is Chris Nugent's Goosefoot; also a BYOB tasting menu serving high end cuisine. It is more of a traditional dining experience than El Ideas and Elizabeth, but more casual than Alinea, L20, Tru etc. Only problem is reservations book out far in advance, so if your trip is coming up soon it would not be an option (but something to keep in mind for your next trip here). Boka would be my other favorite that is outstanding food, but more relaxed than than the likes of Alinea and L20. Boka is far more easy to score a reservation.

              I agree with Nsxtasy about considering one of our breakfast focused venues for at least one breakfast even if it means leaving the downtown area. Jam is my personal favorite of these, but lots of good choices out there.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Gonzo70

                I agree with most of what Gonzo has posted, as I usually do. I haven't been to a few of the places he mentions, so I can't comment on those. (And I agree with you that TRU is among our best, and I congratulate you on getting tickets for Alinea, a wonderful experience.) I thought my dinner at Goosefoot was very good indeed, but I wouldn't put it among our top five restaurants. One that I *would* consider a top 5 pick is Acadia, which is one year old and doing great things in the South Loop. Highly recommended, and although this probably isn't an important criterion, it's not as expensive as our other high-end places.

                Among our more casual "finer dining" type restaurants, I like Boka a lot, but I'm not sure I would put it among my favorites in that category, either. We have so many such places; my favorites include Sable (contemporary American small plates), Piccolo Sogno Due (Italian/seafood), tesori (Italian), Mexique (contemporary Mexican, although if you're doing Topolobampo this category would be covered), Nightwood (contemporary American), and Deleece (contemporary American), just to name a few.

                Again, though, I would note that adding a more casual contemporary American restaurant to your itinerary still leaves it overwhelmingly contemporary American in style. Not that all such places are identical; they're not. But there are other cuisines that would add more variety to your itinerary.

                1. re: nsxtasy

                  I have checked Acadia before and it looked really interesting, except only three dinners will be available for me this time.

                  Chicago has so many great places! :)

                2. re: Gonzo70

                  I guess it's just a coincidence, ha.

                  I have checked El Ideas and Goosefoot already, but Grace??? I have never heard of that place. I looked it up, and it was 'love at first sight'! I have now replaced Graham Elliot with Grace. Thank you so much Gonzo70!!!

                  1. re: agaaga

                    Grace is the new restaurant (only open a couple of months, I think) from Chef Curtis Duffy, who previously ran Avenues (in the Peninsula) to great acclaim. As Gonzo notes, there are high expectations for it; like Sixteen, it was clear from the start that they aspire to multiple Michelin stars. I haven't been there yet, but will be going in a couple of months.