March 2013 Trip Report: G&TG, Next, Alinea, Aviary, Publican
Just returned to SF from a long weekend dining and drinking around Chicago. Thanks to everyone who helped with our trip planning, especially nsxtascy!
GIRL & THE GOAT: Loved the confit goat belly, the green beans, and the miso-butterscotch budino; thought the pig face, wood fired oysters, and crudo were okay. Several dishes were overly salty -- we wish we ordered bread. Service was surprisingly good for a restaurant with such a boozy young vibe; we'd definitely revisit to try more items, especially on the goat menu as we rarely get goat outside of Jamaican restaurants.
HOT DOUGS: I thought this would be a "one time visit" but the dogs and toppings were really delicious!! Four of us finished 8 varieties of dogs. Favorites: foie gras, bridget bardot, paul frank. Wouldn't order again: rabbit, duck fat fries & the cheese fries (the fries were limp; you can get better duck fat fries in Vegas). At 1pm on a Friday, the line was not too bad; we only had to wait about 15 minutes. I would definitely return.
SABLE: We stopped by for pre-dinner drinks. Very impressive cocktail menu and drinks, and the food looked and smelled delicious as it went by. Next visit we'll try to visit for dinner.
NEXT: The whole reason for our trip was to go to Next! The food had its ups (mushroom consomme) and downs (veggie charcuterie on birch bark, squab) but as far as concept and entertainment, it was worth the money. However the service was very disappointing -- I'd classify many of the servers as "socially awkward", and about half the time our drink glasses were empty. Also we were distinctly unimpressed with both the nonalcoholic pairing and the reserve wine pairing -- next time we'd likely just stick with the free water.
BARRELHOUSE FLATS: Post-Next we took a taxi to Barrelhouse Flats for drinks since it was open past 2am. Also a very extensive cocktail menu and good drinks, but we didn't like it as much as Sable, perhaps since half our party was too tired.
GIORDANOS: We dropped by for Saturday lunch with a largish group including a couple of kids. If you arrive before noon there was no wait, but afterwards it filled up. We ordered the Chicago Classic and Meat & More Meat stuffed pizzas, as well as a Harvest Salad. The stuffed pizzas didn't seem as unique / different as the deep dish pizza did at Gino's East, and I didn't enjoy them.
ALINEA: We were able to snag a same day table at Alinea, and they were even so gracious as to add one more person to our table at the last minute so we had a 5-top instead of a 4-top. The menu was considerably condensed from when we last visited 3 years ago, which was disappointing as the price was the same, but the food and service was stellar as always. Wine pairings here were also much better than at Next. Alinea is one of our favorite restaurants and after this visit, will continue to be.
AVIARY: Since our dinner at Alinea ended in 3.5 hours instead of the 5 hour meal like last time, we swung by Aviary to see if they would still let us in as we had a reservation earlier in the night. It was surprisingly not that busy, and six of us ordered 3 Kitchen Table menus for sharing. Most of the portion sizes for the KT menu were about 1/3 the size of normal drinks, so it would be very doable to finish. In fact we ordered two more drinks at the end to try. We loved the experience but it was pretty pricey, to say the least. Don't come here on a full stomach as we couldn't finish all the bites, though they were tiny.
Favorites were the hot chocolate, the chocolate brioche bite, and the wagyu bite.
MR BEEF: We wanted to sample Italian beef and this place wasn't too far from our hotel. The beef was nice and meaty, and the bread not overly soggy. The spicy peppers gave a nice kick but I wish there were more, and the sweet pepper was negligent. Overall a tasty sandwich, and I'm looking forward to trying other renditions next time.
PUBLICAN: Our last meal in the Windy City was dinner at Publican, which was probably (other than Giordanos) the most disappointing meal of our trip. We really wanted to love the restaurant as the style and vibe were so interesting, but the food was just so-so. The best were the crudo, the pork lion, and the fries under the roast chicken. While the chicken itself was perfectly cooked, the flavor wasn't anything to write home about; the cheese powder on the pork rinds was too heavy; and the shaved brussel sprouts were way over dressed.
Overall, though, a terrific weekend in Chicago and we can't wait to go back!