Help me plan a foodie weekend
So my husband and I just booked a three day trip to Chicago for fun and to eat. We live in New Orleans and my husband works in the wine industry. We will be there June 6 to 9 but we already started checking out the new restaurant scene. Last time there, we ate at Alinea, Spring and avec but its been several years. Would love ALL the advice you can give?
Thursday: arrive midway 740 pm. Looking for a casual but good place to eat as it may be 900 or 930 before we arrive. Something like Avec.
Friday: afternoon game at Wrigley. Any good lunch spots near Wrigley or on the way before the game?
Friday night: we want to try one of the new tasting menu places: Grace, goosefoot, el Ideas or schwa? I'm sure it's been debated before but what's the best bet? Grace looks much more expensive so more inclined to the others.
Saturday: Mexican brunch or lunch spot?
Saturday night: want fine dining restaurant but maybe not a tasting menu as doing that Friday night. Are tru and blackbird still great or are they considered old news?
We are adventurous eaters, love wine and are open to most ideas but do want to get some variety in for the weekend. Thanks and ill start studying the board to see what else I can find.
DRAFT Itinerary - suggestions welcome.
So, I've taken everyone's advice and here is what I have with one question.
Thursday night - arrive 740 Midway; Cab to The James hotel; 900 GT Fish and Oyster.
Friday - train to Wrigley. Eat at TAC Quick for Thai food at 1100 before 1 pm Cubs Game. Dinner at Schwa, Goosefoot or El Ideas based on what we get into. After a lot of research, understand it's nearly impossible to get into Schwa and Goosefoot.
Saturday - Considering a Rebecca Wheeler Argyle food tour. Can anyone comment on these? Worth doing for three hours? Assuming breakfast/lunch provided included in the food tour. If don't do tour, brunch at Mexique.
Saturday night: Dinner at Tru.
Sunday: Brunch at The Publican.
How did I do?
The stops on that food tour appear to be very well chosen, so I think you should give it a shot.
It's worth giving Schwa a try, but have a backup. Repeat dial for a Schwa reservation; don't be fazed if the eccentric owner answers "Burger King." Sometimes you can get in on a last second cancellation. But not an easy task, for sure.
If you like the concept of El Ideas, and you can get in, the food can be just as good as Schwa's.
>> Friday - train to Wrigley. Eat at TAC Quick for Thai food at 1100 before 1 pm Cubs
Assuming you are heading northbound on the Red Line, your best bet will be to exit one stop past Wrigley Field, at Sheridan. You can then walk the two or so blocks south to the ballpark after lunch rather than hopping on what will be a very crowded train. Also, TQ is BYOB, so keep that in mind if you want to pre-game.
I'd also recommend Girl & the Goat for Thursday evening. They close late and take reservations which I strongly recommend until 10:30ish or so.
For the tasting menu places, Goosefoot would also be my first choice. If you can't get in, Acadia in the South Loop and Senza in Lakeview close to the ballpark also have tasting menus. Senza also has a 3 or 4 course prix fixe while you can order at Acadia on a per dish basis.
Sepia in the west loop is also a classy fine dining restaurant with an excellent wine list. Not sure if this is considered fine dining, but I also enjoyed Ruxbin and The Lobby at the Peninsula(very EMPish). Ruxbin is more casual and doesn't take reservations except for Sunday night. So go there at your own risk and be prepared to wait in line.
>> Thursday: arrive midway 740 pm. Looking for a casual but good place to eat as it may be 900 or 930 before we arrive. Something like Avec.
I'd recommend one of our newer small plates places (yes, like Avec). These include Sable (contemporary American), GT Fish & Oyster, and Purple Pig (Mediterranean-ish). Sable and GT Fish accept reservations; Purple Pig doesn't, and waits to be seated are still horrendous even at 9, start diminishing after 10 or so. Sable and GT Fish both are also notable for their craft cocktails. Quartino is also fun and open late; the food is good, but IMHO not as creative as the first three.
>> Friday: afternoon game at Wrigley. Any good lunch spots near Wrigley or on the way before the game?
Here are two possibilities, both an 8-10 minute walk from the ballpark. Deleece on Southport is a neighborhood bistro type place with consistently excellent contemporary American food. Southport Grocery is a restaurant (yes they also have carry-out and some packaged goods, but it's a restaurant) that is primarily breakfast/brunch/lunch focused. Deleece accepts reservations; Southport doesn't, but you shouldn't have to worry about long waits there except on weekends, not on a Friday.
>> Friday night: we want to try one of the new tasting menu places: Grace, goosefoot, el Ideas or schwa? I'm sure it's been debated before but what's the best bet? Grace looks much more expensive so more inclined to the others.
Goosefoot is very good. I would avoid Schwa due to their frequent habit of cancelling reservations at the last minute. It's something you might put up with if you were local and it didn't matter if you had to change your plans, but not for a brief trip from out of town. I haven't been to Grace and El Ideas yet. And I wouldn't rule out TRU for this meal; see below.
>> Saturday: Mexican brunch or lunch spot?
Phone Frontera Grill and see if you can get a reservation. Without one, arrive 15-20 minutes before they open the doors at 10:30. Otherwise you're looking at waiting times of 90+ minutes, in which case Mexique, with its Michelin star, is a fine substitute (and they accept reservations).
>> Saturday night: want fine dining restaurant but maybe not a tasting menu as doing that Friday night. Are tru and blackbird still great or are they considered old news?
Well, first of all, I wouldn't eliminate any restaurant just because it's been around for a while! And if you've never been there, it's still new TO YOU.
I think TRU is outstanding right now, perhaps the best restaurant in Chicago whose name isn't Alinea. However, it's one of those fine-dining places focused on its tasting menus. So you might consider it for your Friday dinner.
Blackbird is still around, but there are some other places I'd choose for dinner instead. Blackbird is a good choice for a lunch, and their prix fixe menu is a decent bargain.
There are three fine dining restaurants that are doing an excellent job right now but don't emphasize tasting menus, and all are less expensive than the high-end places: Naha, North Pond, and Acadia. Dinners are typically in the $100-125/pp range including moderate wine/alcohol and tax/tip, compared with $200-300 for TRU, Grace, etc. All three of these are less formal (jackets not required). Naha and North Pond are both owned/run by chefs who won this region's James Beard Award for best chef. North Pond is also notable for its unique, exquisite setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond and the city skyline. Acadia is only one year old and has already gotten much praise; it's in a rather odd location in the South Loop, without a lot around it.
You don't mention Sunday morning or brunch. I don't know what time you're leaving, but Chicago has a vibrant segment of breakfast/brunch-focused restaurants. If I had to choose one place to go that really shows it off, I'd recommend Jam. If you imagine what a breakfast-focused restaurant would look like if it were opened by a truly creative chef with fine-dining aspirations, well, that's Jam. It's also conveniently located between downtown and O'Hare, a couple of blocks from the Logan Square stop on the CTA Blue Line to that airport.
www.rickbayless.com/restaurants (Frontera Grill)
Wow, great information. Thanks so much.
I like the idea of GT Oyster on Thursday night.
Upsetting info about Schwa and just odd that they would cancel so much. May go with Goosefoot instead for Friday night.
Jam looks good and think I need to add that to the itinerary.
May need to add Tru to the itinerary as well.
Is Mexique worth it if only their for 3 days? Maybe we should substitute something in its place.
>> Upsetting info about Schwa and just odd that they would cancel so much. May go with Goosefoot instead for Friday night.
If you're targetting Goosefoot, there are several things you should know. (1) It's not close to downtown, in case you were wondering. (2) It is BYOB, so if you want wine/alcohol with your dinner, you'll want to make plans to bring some along, perhaps buying here. (See www.chow.com/topics/798345 for suggestions on stores here with a nice wine selection.) (3) It has become very popular and very difficult to book. From a glance at Opentable, it appears they only accept reservations two months ahead, and they fill them immeidately. So you might want to give them a call to verify when you need to make your reservation, and mark your calendar. This is not a problem with the other places we're discussing here; there are only a handful of restaurants in Chicago that are tough to reserve, but Goosefoot is one of them.
>> Is Mexique worth it if only their for 3 days? Maybe we should substitute something in its place.
I think it's excellent and worth a stop on a short visit here, for several reasons. One consideration is that, other than your Mexican lunch/brunch, your entire itinerary consists of places featuring contemporary American cuisine. Which may be fine, but you can add some variety, and our unique contemporary Mexican restaurants are one way of accomplishing that. You might want to take a look at the sample menus on the restaurant websites to get a better idea of what the cuisine is like. They really are something special, and something you won't find in most cities this side of the border with Mexico. If you want to include one of our contemporary Mexican restaurants, I think the best are Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Mexique, Mixteco Grill, and Salpicon. Topolobampo and Salpicon do not serve brunch/lunch on Saturdays, the time slot you have targetted. Mundial and Mixteco are rather far from downtown.
Needless to say, you're welcome to do something entirely different with this spot in your itinerary. If you're looking for other ideas, one thing you might do for lunch is have one of our local specialties, such as deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati's or Pizano's, or Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs at Portillo's. You could also go with one of our breakfast/brunch-focused restaurants such as Jam and Southport Grocery, which have already been mentioned. And of course we have lots more restaurants, including other "mainstream" cuisines (Italian, French, tapas, etc), ethnic restaurants of every possible kind, etc. The challenge to dining in Chicago is always one of too many great choices from which to choose. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and we'll try to help!
Further to Nsxtasy's comments about Goosefoot, you need to plan very strategically to get a reservation there. From what I can tell, Opentable opens reservations for them exactly 60 days in advance (to the hour) and if you don't book almost exactly when that slot opens, it will be gone within hours (if not minutes) - at least for Friday and Saturday nights,. And, good luck getting them on the phone. I tried to reach them a few months ago to inquire whether they keep a waiting list, and no one answered despite my several efforts over a number of days.
By contrast, El Ideas (similar to GF in that it's BYOB, in an off-the-beaten-track location, and serving cutting edge food) is just a delight to deal with in terms of communications. They respond to emails and voice mails within 24 hours and often answer the phone when you ring. We are reserved there for next month so I cannot yet comment on the food. And, they do take people off their waiting list (we were offered a slot a few months ago but ended up not taking it, and another poster on this board got in from the waiting list last week.)
The food is delicious at Mexique, and that's what matters. And there is no "high cost"; Mexique is priced similarly to the others mentioned above (with the exception of the more-expensive Topolobampo). The others are good too, but Mexique is just as good (slightly better than Mixteco and Salpicon IMHO), NOT any more expensive, closer to downtown than Mixteco and Mundial, and open for Saturday brunch/lunch (unlike Topolobampo and Salpicon).
Furthermore, while Mexique claims that it has a strong French influence (and Chef has some French cuisine training in his background), the food really isn't particularly "French" compared to menus with other contemporary Mexican menus around town. Check out these entrees on their dinner menus and you'll have a hard time picking out which one is supposed to have a French influence:
MENU RESTAURANT 1:
Carnes Y Aves
Roasted poblano pepper stuffed with pork in adobo, pine nuts, yucca, pineapple, and sweet peppers with a jackfruit-fried plantain salad, and yellow plum Reduction…20
Pan seared chicken breast with green beans, baby carrots, scallions, asparagus, roasted red potatoes, gandules, and Jamaican style curry…19
Costillas de Cordero
New Zealand rack of lamb, fried green tomatoes, dried figs, baby carrots, fresh corn arepa and mole Amarillo…24
Chamorro de Cerdo
Pork shank braised in red wine-chipotle infusion with grilled poblano polenta cake, fried okra, and crispy malanga strings…21
Angus outerskirt steak with sauté corn, black beans, potatoes, and poblano strips, grilled tomato, knob onions, enchilada de mole Sinaloense and salsa Azteca…21
Mariscos Y Pescados
Pescado del Dia
Today’s catch of the day
(Please ask server for details)
Pan seared scallops, corn lobster puree, scallions, with green apples, jicama-avocado salad and citrus whole grain mustard sauce…22
Grilled shrimp with romeritos, shallots, asparagus, roasted red peppers, and bacon Swiss chard fried rice…22
Layers of huitlacoche, squash blossom, wild mushrooms, baby spinach, black beans, nopales, fresh corn, Oaxaca cheese, crispy tortilla and artichoke molcajete sauce baked to order…17
Ravioli de Espinacas
Spinach ravioli, acorn squash, portabello caps, asparagus and parmigiano-regiano tossed in vodka roasted red pepper béchamel…17
Tamal de Frijol
Black bean tamal with baby carrots, celery root, yellow squash, crème fraiche, pico de gallo, and queso fresco smothered in green mole verde queretano…17 add shrimp…22
MENU RESTAURANT 2:
chiles doña queta - 20
a poblano chile stuffed with huitlacoche (earthy corn mushrooms), fresh corn and zucchini, served in a roasted poblano cream sauce and an ancho chile filled with potatoes, Chihuahua and cotija cheese with a sweet-spiced roasted tomato sauce
camarones al mojo de ajo - 23
grilled tiger shrimp in a sweet garlic and olive oil sauce with avocado chunks and guajillo chiles; served with white rice
pescado al carbón - 20
fresh fillet of seasonal fish, charcoal-grilled and served with salsa fresca (fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro and serrano chiles); white rice
*pollo en mole poblano - 20
Miller's Farm free-range chicken breasts charcoal-grilled and topped with a classic Pueblan mole; Mexican rice
chuleta de puerco en manchamanteles - 23
grilled Maple Creek Farms double-cut pork chop in an earthy Oaxacan chile ancho mole garnished with grilled pineapple, sweet potato and plantains; served with white rice
tinga poblana - 20
grilled Maple Creek Farms pork tenderloin atop a roasted tomato-chipotle sauce with chorizo and potatoes; surrounded by a cool avocado-tomatillo sauce
chuletas de borrego con salsa de chile pasilla - 37
a trio of Colorado lamb loin chops charcoal-grilled and served in a garlicky pasilla chile sauce; accompanied by a tamal filled with spinach, poblano chiles, tomato and drizzled with Mexican crema
filete de res en salsa de moritas con hongos - 30
grilled Certified Angus Beef® tenderloin topped with Chihuahua cheese, served in a spicy tomatillo-morita sauce with shiitakes; Mexican rice
MENU RESTAURANT 3:
Grilled Flank Steak, Spinach, Asparagus, Roasted Red Peppers, Fingerling Potatoes, Goat Cheese Fondue
MAR Y TIERRA 24.95
Hibiscus Braised Pork Belly, Seared Scallops, Braised Red Cabbage, Potato Gallette
PUERCO CON MOLE 22.95
Pickled Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Pumpkin Seed Pesto, Sweet Potato Puree, Mole Teloloapan, Roasted Cocoa Nibs
CHILE RELLENO 17.95
Chile Poblano, Zucchini Sofrito, Asadero Cheese, Spaghetti Squash, Tomato/Basil Fondue, Balsamic Reduction
SKATE WING 23.95
Pan Seared Skate Wing, Cauliflower, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Serrano Peppers, Grapes, Blood Orange Buerre Blanc
Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb, Coffee Braised Shoulder of Lamb, Corn Sope, Sweet & Spicy Eggplant, Sheep's Milk Feta,
Roasted Garlic/Chile Mulato Sauce
PATO AL TAMARINDO 30.95
Duck Leg Confit, Duck Breast, Swiss Chard, Freshly Ground Corn Tamal, Cranberries, Chipotle/Tamarind Glaze
MENU RESTAURANT 4:
Carne Asada en Mole Negro: wood-roasted 28-day-aged prime ribeye in classic Oaxacan black mole (chilhuacle chiles & 28 other ingredients), corn husk-steamed chipil tamal, black beans, smoky green beans. $49.00
Costilla Corta al Tamarindo con Datiles: tamarind-glazed, thirty-hour braised shortrib, three chile-date salsa, fall puree (parsnip, potato, celery root, marrow), charred Brussels sprouts. $35.00
Borrego y Birria de Chivo: roasted Crawford Farm lamb & Jaliscan slow-cooked Kilgus goat birria, roasted porcini, fall chilaquiles (parsnip, carrot, rutabaga, tortilla), classic fresh garnishes. $35.00
Pollito en Pozole Rojo : Pan-roasted Gunthorp rock hen, the essence of red-chile pozole, poached egg, traditional crunchy garnishes, wafer tostada. $34.00
Pavo, Mole de Pinon: smoked Gunthorp free-range turkey, rustic turkey-quince-pork belly "sausage," spiced pine nut mole, chard nuggets, crispy rice, braised radishes. $37.00
Chayote en Pipián Verde: Acorn squash-braised chayote, herby green pumpkinseed pipián, creamy polenta-style tamal, yogurt-infused chayote pearls. $35.00
Lobina y Langosta, Pipian Verde de Ajonjoli: pan-roasted Long Island striped bass, Maine lobster "torchon," green pipian of toasted sesame & 3 herbs (hoja santa, cilantro, epazote), Snug Haven spinach, roasted white sweet potato, braised black sesame. $39.00
Berengena Oscura: Silky eggplant, smoky black bean sauce, Iroquois white corn polenta infused with inky huitlacoche, roasted wild mushrooms (porcini, maitake, chanterelle). $25.00
MENU RESTAURANT 5:
Cochinita Pibil – Slow Roasted Pork marinated with achiote and sour orange juice, served with black beans topped with cheese, pickled red onions and habanero salsa. 18.50
Pollo en pipian verde – Wood Grilled chicken breast in tradiccional Sinaloa green pipian, served with chile ancho red rice and asparagus. 18.00
Camarones a la Diabla-Wood grilled black tiger shrimp in spicy 3 chiles tomatillo sauce, served with white rice, tomatoes, onions, poblano peppers and chopped cilantro. 19.00
Borrego en Mole Negro – Wood Grilled Rack of Lamb served in Oaxacan Black Mole with garlic-mashed potatoes. 21.00
Salmón en Chileatole – Wood Grilled Salmon in a Veracruz chileatole sauce (tomatillos, corn, hoja santa, serrano and poblano chiles) served with white rice and sautéed vegetables. 18.00
Carne Asada – Wood Grilled Ribeye Steak served with guacamole, black beans topped with cheese, and a side of salsa roja. 22.00
Chuleta en Mole de chichilo– Wood Grilled Pork Chop in (Oaxaca sesame seeds mole), served with mashed potatoes, chochoyotes and crispy bacon as garnish. 19.00
Budin de elote y vegetales – Corn budding and grilled vegetables
(roasted red peppers, mushrooms and stuffed with black beans, sweet chard) served in tomato chipotle sauce, grilled zucchini. and crispy onion. 16.50
Chile Relleno Vegetariano – One eggbeater Poblano Chiles filled with mushrooms, zucchini, corn, roasted red peppers and spinach, serve with lentil sauce and chile ancho red rice, topped with queso fresco. 17.00
Enchiladas en Mole Negro – Tortillas filled with Chicken, doused in a complex Black Mole, garnished with onion, cilantro and radishes, served with black beans topped with cheese. 17.50
Thanks everyone for all the good advice. I'm going to calendar it and try to get into goosefoot for Friday night. If it doesn't work then we can try and fall back on el ideas. Leaning towards Tru for night number 2. Going to start at he GT fish and oyster house on Thursday night.
So my nights are hopefully done. Now working on my lunch/brunch places. No one has mentioned Publican? Is it better than Jam or some of the others mentioned?
Also going to research more on frontera, mexique and the other ones recommended and then decide on one for lunch/brunch.
Thanks again. Y'all have been so helpful!
For Goosefoot you will almost certainly need to book far in advance to score a weekend - it is literally the hardest reservation in Chicago (with Next being the only possible exception). Try e-mailing them, give it 10 days or so and if you do not hear back try calling until you reach someone. Weekend reservations are generally booked four months out, so well before they are released to Opentable. Do not bother leaving a voice mail if you call, you will need to reach someone and you ned to start now - they may even already be booked. Despite the hassle of scoring reservations the meal is absolutely amazing.
Publican and Jam are both great, but different. I prefer Jam and find the food tastier and service nicer as well as better ambiance. Publican can be quite loud, but has a more exotic menu if you like nose-to-tail cuisine and more seafood options as well more variety of adult beverages.
>> No one has mentioned Publican? Is it better than Jam or some of the others mentioned?
I agree with the comparisons by Gonzo and kathryn. Here are some additional thoughts.
The Publican is a dinner-focused gastropub that is also open for lunch, whereas Jam is a creative breakfast-focused restaurant that is not open for dinner. I find Jam a bit more unusual and unique, just for what it is. Their style is reflected in their menus, which you can (and should) view on their websites. The Publican has specific menus for Saturday brunch and Sunday brunch (as kathryn noted) and they consist of a combination of items from their dinner menu along with others that are brunch-oriented.
Jam does not accept reservations, and there is only a small waiting area. On weekends you can expect to wait to be seated; at most of our brunch-focused places, waits generally occur between 9:30 and 1:00 and may be anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes. I was there this past Sunday and waits were minimal, probably because it was raining.
The Publican accepts reservations including through Opentable. About half the seating at the Publican consists of a couple of loooooong communal tables; if you have a preference for the communal seating or for your own table (they have two-, four-, and six-tops), you can mention it or include it in the comments when reserving and they will try to accommodate it if they can.
The Publican is in the West Loop, a little over a mile from the hotels off the Mag Mile. Jam is in Logan Square, four miles northwest of the hotels and convenient to the CTA Blue Line. On weekends, Publican opens at 10; Jam opens at 7 every day.
Bottom line - I would suggest checking out their website menus and seeing if you find one particularly compelling. And if you find both compelling, you could shuffle things around so you could include both in your itinerary.
Quick comment about Tru; they may have very recently (as in within the past couple of days) shifted to tasting menu only - per their website they are now listing a 7 and 13 course tasting tour but have no separate section a la carte. Not sure if the website is being updated, or if is tasting menu only now. Am heading their in a few days, so will find out.
That's interesting, because they had an a la carte menu along with the tasting menus when I ate there this past year. If that's a concern, they may be able to offer a la carte pricing upon request, or perhaps if you're eating in the lounge. (They're well known for offering a dessert tasting menu in the lounge.)
Their 7-course tasting menu has the same price ($115) as the 9-course tasting menu at Goosefoot. But of course you'll save a lot on wine/alcohol at Goosefoot, thanks to its BYO policy.
It is a very casual sit-down restaurant. The chalkboard specials are worth a look. The website has a Secret Menu link with the most authentic Thai dishes.
It's a half mile north of Wrigley. Take the Red Line train to the Sheridan stop. The restaurant is right next to the station.
If you love Thai, I would instead recommend Andy's Thai Kitchen, which is also close to Wrigley (15 minutes walk, slightly over half a mile) and also a very casual sit-down restaurant. It was recently opened by a former chef-partner of TAC Quick. It's at the Wellington station on the CTA Brown Line. (The Brown Line and Red Line run along the same tracks in that area, but the Brown Line trains stop at Wellington and the Red Line trains don't.) www.andysthaikitchen.com
I haven't been all that impressed with TAC Quick. It's decent, but I wouldn't go there on a three-day visit to Chicago. Whereas I would for Deleece or Southport Grocery.