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Mar 26, 2013 05:33 PM

Suggestions for 4 restaurants for quiet business dinners

I am not from Chicago and have only had an opportunity to visit a couple of times, always for work. As the person in the group who really loves food, though, I have been tasked with finding places to eat. The client is most interested in a relaxing and elegant atmosphere, and very good food. A boisterous setting would not work for these folks; they want to be able to have quiet conversations. They also love steak, but it isn't required. Price is not really important, but being able to get a reservation on short notice - for next week - is. We may also need to shift the reservation time if meetings run long during the day. So that said, I did some research and came up with Tesori, Primehouse and Naha as possibilities. The client also came up with a list from Zagat which included Rosebud Prime and the Palm. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Edited to add that they will be staying near the theater district. Proximity to that area would be great because they will be pretty tired from work and travel.

Thanks again!

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  1. Your choices are much better than your client's.
    Another possibility would be Shaw's Crab House.
    Or, closer to the theater district, Vivere.

    1 Reply
    1. re: camusman

      I agree that your choices are better than your client's. Also, since you will be doing four dinners, you'll want them to be different from each other (e.g. you don't want to go to four steakhouses in four nights).

      The city has many, many great steakhouses. I think David Burke's Primehouse is a great choice for your needs, not only because it has some of the best steaks in town, but also because it's not as boisterous and loud as some of the other steakhouses here.

      For Italian food in and near the Loop, tesori and Vivere are both excellent choices, with terrific food, and neither is overly loud (although both are lively). Both tesori and Vivere do a big business among theater- and symphony-goers, and both are nicely quiet with a 7:30 reservation. With an earlier reservation, you can be entertained by watching 90 percent of the diners walk out around 7:00 or so, almost in unison, to attend their performances. :) I'd also consider Piccolo Sogno Due, which is just across the river from the Loop where the theater district is, and is also conversation-friendly.

      For contemporary American food, Naha is an outstanding choice. The food is terrific, the service is excellent, and it's not overly loud. It's a couple blocks north of the river, an easy walk from the Loop. Another good contemporary American restaurant is Atwood Café. Naha's food is more creative and the atmosphere is more upscale, but Atwood is nice too and is probably closer to their hotel in the Loop. Go to Naha if you don't mind the slightly longer walk there.

      For a fourth restaurant that's not a steakhouse, Italian, or contemporary American, Shaw's is great for seafood, although it can be somewhat loud (but not oppressively so). Another option is Mercat a la Planxa for tapas, although it too can be rather loud (louder than any of these other places including Shaw's). Shaw's is just across the river; Mercat is at the southeast corner of the Loop.

      Depending on which Loop hotel they're in, all of these places should be within walking distance. And it should be relatively easy to get reservations (and, if necessary, change them at the last minute) at all of these places, all of which are on Opentable.

    2. These are such helpful responses. Thanks so much. I should also have mentioned that one person is highly allergic to seafood. As long as there is something else on the menu, all should be well, but I usually steer clear of sending them to restaurants that focus on seafood unless I know there are particular non-seafood items pn the menu that are recommended. I made reservations at Tesori, Naha and Primehouse. Hopefully they will be happy with the choices!

      2 Replies
      1. re: Olive123

        Then I would probably skip Shaw's. Shaw's does have some non-seafood items on the menu, but it's really all about the seafood.

        There's another possibility right in the Loop: Everest. Everest is a fine-dining restaurant featuring contemporary French/Alsatian cuisine. It's expensive (figure $200/pp including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, more if your clients enjoy their alcohol) and it's dressy (jackets required for gentlemen). The food is great and the service is great (in my experience). It has one of the best wine lists in the city (over 1,700 bottles) and a gorgeous view looking out over the city from the 40th floor of the Midwest Stock Exchange Building. It's conversation-friendly and you should be able to get a reservation.

        Or, you could choose another restaurant from the categories you're already covering (see above suggestions). Or go to Mercat a la Planxa, although it's not all that quiet. Another possibility is Park Grill, which is at the entrance to Millennium Park and very convenient to the Loop; the food is somewhat conventional American and is decent, although not likely to blow anyone away, and it's conversation-friendly. Also, Henri is a French bistro in the Loop, but I haven't been there so I can't comment on the noise level.

        1. re: Olive123

          I'd vote for Mercat a la Planxa or Vivere as your fourth place. I don't see anything wrong with two Italian places on your itinerary (Tesori and Vivere).

        2. If you're at meetings in the Loop, Rosebud Prime is really nice. It's a top-notch Italian Steakhouse and part of the family owned chicago mini-chain.

          I second nsxtasy of Piccolo Sogno Due, its a great place for that business dinner.

          Another option that's a bit more "fun" but not too loud even though its very big, is Carnivale. It's fun but you can still get a big 8-top round table. Even if you're in the middle of the main dinning room you can have good conversation and not worry about too quiet a room where your neighbors overhear the conversation. Latin fusion where there are at least three steaks on the menu but also fishes and other fun latin/mostly mexican with a South American flair dishes.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jbontario

            I have to dissent on Piccolo Sogno Due—I had a business meeting there last week. It's not horrible or anything and still pretty popular with the downtown crowd, but the food and quality control is definitely a step below the original location. I have heard some rumbling in the industry that Due's original day-to-day head chef is gone and has been replaced by the main chef at the original location, but staff issues remain.

            I second Naha though—had a great business lunch there last week. Though I would say it has more of a North African/Mediterranean hint to the usual European fare.

            1. re: W42

              I've been to Piccolo Sogno Due as well as the original, each several times, and I thought Due has been thoroughly excellent - every bit as good as the first. So we'll just have to agree to disagree on that.

              As for the chef situation, it's no secret that Todd Stein, the original chef at Due (and formerly head of the Florentine and Cibo Matto) left in January to move to Atlanta. Gabriel Hernandez is now the chef de cuisine, under the watchful eye of Tony Priolo, owner and executive chef at both Piccolos. You can also run into partner/manager Ciro at both Piccolos, too; usually either he or Tony is on site at Due, watching over everything. In my visits, the food has been consistently excellent, and the waitstaff is outstanding, extremely knowledgeable and friendly.

              I'm not saying I would necessarily choose it over tesori or Vivere; all three are excellent, and tesori and Vivere are probably closer to the Loop hotel where everyone is staying. (So keep that reservation at tesori!) But Piccolo Sogno Due is very good indeed also. And Due is actually quite conversation-friendly; granted, it's not quiet, but the acoustics and noise level make it easy to hear each other, possibly because the tables are not all that close to each other.

            2. re: jbontario

              Assuming that you only want to eat at 1 Italian restaurant, I'd chose Tesori over Piccolo Sogne Due in terms of its comfort and conduciveness to business conversation. And, indeed, if I were going to add a 2d Italian Restaurant, I'd opt of Trattoria No. 10, over PSD as more conducive to quiet conversation and a source of good Italian food, as well as also being located in the heart of the Theater District (although it too is popular for pre-theater, so go after 7pm).

              Carnivale is fun and vibrant. I think it's too noisy and boisterous based on the criteria you've described. Also, it's in the West Loop, a bit away from the Theater District.

            3. I have the perfect place for quiet, with delicious food and fabulous wine selection. Fornetto Mei in the Whitehall Hotel (near the John Hancock) off of Magnificent Mile. The wait staff is attentive, and it's QUIET! I have never seen the place crowded at all. You will love it! Look it up.

              1. I also disagree with Piccolo Sogno Due. Although it's an excellent restaurant it's a bit lively for a business dinner.

                If you want really old-school steakhouse, and price is truly no object I'd say try the Chicago Chop House. It's definitely quiet, steaks are great but it is very expensive.

                MK is also good for a business meal--definitely quiet, especially if you're seated in the little loft-area upstairs.

                1 Reply
                1. re: yummymonkey

                  The acoustics at MK make it significantly *louder* than Piccolo Sogno Due. And that includes the little loft-area, where I've sat.

                  Piccolo Sogno Due is deceptive because it's lively and they do a good business, but it's not particularly noisy. I think this is due to a combination of fairly spacious spacing of the tables, and good acoustics. (It's also true of the original Piccolo Sogno.)