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Help Me Select My "High End Dinner ~$260"

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sirbybike Feb 18, 2013 07:09 PM

I will be in Chicago February 28 though March 3 traveling alone. I will be staying at the Inn of Chicago (rewards stay) located at 162 East Ohio Street. I am trying to sort through all the great places I'd like to dine tempered by my budget constraints. I'm trying to have a few meals in the $75-$100 range for lunch or dinner with one dinner around $250.
My tentative plans are:
Thursday Night - North Pond
Friday Lunch - Blackbird Prix Fixe
Friday Dinner - Boka
Saturday Lunch - NAHA
Saturday or Sunday Dinner - L20 or Acadia

I think I could eat at L2O if I have the prix fixe but I'm not sure if wine parings would put me above $260. I think Acadia has a tasting menu + wine pairings for $195. With tip and taxes that probably get up around $260. Any thoughts or suggestions? I think reservations are doable at all the restaurants with a little bit of juggling.

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    GourmetWednesday RE: sirbybike Feb 18, 2013 07:26 PM

    Great places but, in my opinion, not much diversity (with the possible exceptions of L20's seafood-driven menu, and the view at North Pond). I would have palate fatigue. Do you like any cuisines other than contemporary American? Italian? Japanese? Thai? Mexican? Spanish? Nose to Tail? Small plates with a good cocktail scene? Ever just want a really good sandwich for lunch? Not only do we have some unique, casual options, but eating cheaper at lunch would seemingly free up your budget for a blow-out dinner, unless you are on an expense account without those options.

    8 Replies
    1. re: GourmetWednesday
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      sirbybike RE: GourmetWednesday Feb 18, 2013 08:15 PM

      Actually I'm open to just about everything but Chinese. This trip is a last minute detour as I have wanted to visit Chicago but never been in the neighborhood. The detour is on my dime so I was going to fill in with local spots. I know there's great Mexican in Chicago so that's definitely on the list. I could go for some tapas or small plates of any persuasion. I'll save my sandwich cravings for New Orleans unless there is a great jewish deli convenient and I'm partial to thin crust pizza How about a good non-red sauce Italian restaurant? I thought I would email El ideas and see if there is any chance to slip in.

      1. re: sirbybike
        nsxtasy RE: sirbybike Feb 19, 2013 11:39 AM

        I agree with GourmetWednesday's comments. Every place you list is a great choice by itself, but there isn't much diversity there. It also sounds like you have more slots in your itinerary. You mention Saturday or Sunday dinner, so presumably there's another possible dinner there, as well as Sunday brunch. And one choice you will definitely need to change:

        >> Saturday Lunch - NAHA

        Naha is not open for lunch on Saturdays.

        >> I know there's great Mexican in Chicago so that's definitely on the list.

        Frontera Grill and Topolobampo are closed Sundays, and you won't be able to get reservations at this late date. Frontera would work for Saturday dinner if you are willing to eat early and arrive 20-30 minutes before they open the doors. Otherwise waits will be horrendous. You can also find terrific contemporary Mexican food at Mexique, Mundial Cocina Mestiza, Mixteco Grill, and Salpicon. All of these accept reservations and they're not difficult to get, and all are open Sundays as well as for Sunday brunch and, with the exception of Salpicon, Saturday brunch.

        >> I could go for some tapas or small plates of any persuasion.

        We have some terrific small plates places within walking distance of your hotel: Sable (contemporary American), GT Fish & Oyster (seafood), the Purple Pig (Mediterranean), and Mercat a la Planxa (tapas). All are a short walk from your hotel except Mercat, which is about a mile away. All are open for lunch as well as dinner. All accept reservations except the Purple Pig, which you should avoid at dinnertime (waits exceed two hours) but might work for lunch or a mid-afternoon or late-night snack.

        >> I'll save my sandwich cravings for New Orleans unless there is a great jewish deli convenient

        Manny's isn't that far away, but I'd skip it for your trip. Instead, you might consider Portillo's, which is a short walk from your hotel and has our local specialties of Italian beef sandwiches and Chicago-style hot dogs.

        >> I'm partial to thin crust pizza

        Have you ever had deep-dish pizza here in Chicago? Or are you basing your statement on the bready thick-crust pizza served elsewhere that has absolutely nothing in common with our delicious deep-dish?

        >> How about a good non-red sauce Italian restaurant?

        We have numerous ones. IMHO the very best is only a short walk from your hotel: Piccolo Sogno Due.

        Regarding the choice between L2O and Acadia, Acadia is outstanding; I haven't been to L2O under their current chef.

        And you haven't mentioned any of our terrific assortment of breakfast-focused restaurants, such as Jam, Bongo Room, or M. Henrietta, just to name a few of the best. I'd consider trying to include one in your itinerary.

        1. re: nsxtasy
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          sirbybike RE: nsxtasy Feb 19, 2013 12:14 PM

          Okay, I'm getting a lot deeper into it now. I'll skip the high end and spread the wealth. I am also from the Gulf Coast and I don't have any nice warm clothes!

          So far I have reservations for the North Pond on Thursday night, Blackbird for lunch on Friday, Takashi for dinner on Saturday and Nightweed for brunch on Sunday. I thought I would go to Purple Pig or Sable on Friday night. Portillo's or GT Fish sound like good bets for Saturday brunch\lunch. Maybe I'll cancel the Blackbird lunch and go to the Purple Pig and then dinner at one of your contemporary Mexican restaurants recs for dinner. All three sound great, do you have any particular favorite? Any thoughts on Yusho instead of Takashi?

          1. re: sirbybike
            chicgail RE: sirbybike Feb 19, 2013 12:25 PM

            A few thoughts:
            Stick with Takashi. I had an astonishingly great meal there recently. The space is intimate and comfortable, the chef charming and friendly and the food is extraordinary.

            I don't know that I would go to Portillos if I were thinking brunch - they do have good quick Chicago dogs or Italian beef sandwiches, both unique to Chicago. If it were brunch on my mind, I'd head to Publican, which IMO is the best, funnest brunch in town. The advantage to being a singlet there is the communal tables which give you the opportunity to meet and chat with other diners. Some people complain about the noise level on this board, but it's never been a problem for me. Maybe I'm already going deaf. LOL!

            I can't speak to the brunch at GT Oyster.

            North Pond is a very lovely, even romantic setting. I don't know that it would be my first choice on my own. The food is good; the chef is award-winning, but I've had mixed experiences there food-wise. It might be a better idea, if you can (and I admit I haven't read through the whole thread thoroughly) to see if you can get a rez at Naha for that dinner. It, too, is one of those never-fail locations for me.

            Sable is a great bar with fun, sometimes very good, creative bar food+. Also some misses, but very creative drinks with a HUGE drink menu in a comfortable setting. I don't ordinarily recommend it, but it might be perfect for you, given your itinerary and going on your own.

            1. re: sirbybike
              nsxtasy RE: sirbybike Feb 19, 2013 12:27 PM

              >> So far I have reservations for the North Pond on Thursday night, Blackbird for lunch on Friday, Takashi for dinner on Saturday and Nightweed for brunch on Sunday.

              Nightwood. :)

              >> I thought I would go to Purple Pig or Sable on Friday night.

              Of the two, do Sable, and make a reservation. I would strongly discourage you from going to Purple Pig for dinner, because waiting times are awful and they don't take reservations. It's not quite as bad at lunchtime, although you may still have to wait a bit.

              >> Portillo's or GT Fish sound like good bets for Saturday brunch\lunch. Maybe I'll cancel the Blackbird lunch and go to the Purple Pig and then dinner at one of your contemporary Mexican restaurants recs for dinner.

              That will work.

              >> All three sound great, do you have any particular favorite?

              The food is excellent at all of them; if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Mundial first, and then Mexique. It's also worth noting that Mundial and Mixteco Grill are some distance from downtown, although both are convenient to the el (Pink Line and Brown Line, respectively); you would need to change trains from the Red Line which stops at Grand/State near your hotel. Mexique and Salpicon are close by; you can take the #66 CTA bus two miles on Chicago Avenue to Mexique, and Salpicon is about a mile, with lots of bus service on all the north-south arteries. If you decide on Frontera Grill, it's only a few blocks from your hotel. So taking the food and location into account, I'd probably choose Frontera if you're willing to go early, otherwise make a res at Mexique.

              Also, just so you know, some of the places you're considering are in neighborhoods that are not right downtown: Mexique in West Town (2 miles west), Takashi in Bucktown (4 miles northwest), North Pond and Boka in Lincoln Park (3 miles north), Nightwood in Pilsen (4 miles southwest), Acadia in the South Loop (3 miles south). I assume you'll be taking public transit ( www.transitchicago.com ) or cabs. Either one is do-able, but you may be waiting or walking outside for either. You have a warm winter coat, at least, right?

              >> Any thoughts on Yusho instead of Takashi?

              I haven't been to Yusho, was not impressed by Takashi, so I can't help you there.

              1. re: nsxtasy
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                sirbybike RE: nsxtasy Feb 19, 2013 01:23 PM

                Thanks for all the comments. I'll take Nsxtasy advice and try to stay within walking distance of the majority of my selections and convert my $20-$30 cab fare to calories.

                I found out that wine pairings at L2O for the prix-fixe and tasting menu are $90 and $140, respectively. Oh well, I can dream.

                1. re: sirbybike
                  nsxtasy RE: sirbybike Feb 19, 2013 01:51 PM

                  >> I'll take Nsxtasy advice and try to stay within walking distance of the majority of my selections and convert my $20-$30 cab fare to calories.

                  Just note, I wasn't telling you to stay within walking distance; I was just noting the distances so you could be aware of where everything is. Also, that $20-30 cab fare would be $5 round trip via public transit, which is always do-able, and easy for some places, not as easy for others.

                  You can use websites like Google Maps ( http://maps.google.com ) to see where things are and also to get public transit directions.

                  In case you still want to keep it within walking distance, feel free to ask more questions, including what's nearby. High-end places within walking distance include TRU (IMHO the best restaurant in Chicago not named Alinea - expensive and dressy) and Naha (also excellent while not as expensive or dressy as TRU). And, as mentioned above, the small plates places are close by too.

            2. re: nsxtasy
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              ferret RE: nsxtasy Feb 19, 2013 01:50 PM

              Portillo's and GT Fish are decidedly different experiences. Portillo's is a glorified hot dog stand (albeit a very nice one). GT Fish is oysters (duh), small plates and craft cocktails (more on the level of Sable). Just so you can get some context.

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