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Apr 3, 2013 12:35 PM

Visiting - July - One Specail Dinner

My partner and I will be visiting the city the week of July 4. We are looking for one "special occasion" dinner during our week stay. Grace and Elizabeth are both closed this week. Others on my list are: TRU, L2O, Sixteen (do they have a view of the fireworks on July 4th?) We are not sure if we want to take a chance on the ticket lottery for Aliena and Next. Schwa is also on the list. Any suggestions welcomed.

We have a reservation at Girl and The Goat for dinner and North Pond for brunch on Sunday.

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  1. looks like there are still some tickets available for Alinea for that week.

    Schwa is always a gamble

    Have you looked into goosefoot?

    4 Replies
    1. re: BSpar

      Goosefoot looks interesting. Where do I check to see what is available at Alinea? Coming from Philadelphia/NYC ... the lottery seems like a hassle.

        1. re: BRI328

 Click on reservations, then tickets. You'll have to sign in as a new user to get to the calendar of available tables. Looks like there are tables still available every night they are open in July.

          1. re: BRI328

            No lottery for Alinea; they sell tickets. So long as you are not planning on short notice it is not difficult to purchase tickets. Generally weekends sell out roughly 4-6 weeks in advance and weeknights on average about 2-3 weeks in advance. Only negatives are that tickets are non-refundable and cannot be changed to a different date in case of sickness, emergency, changes in travel plans etc (and they are quite expensive). However Alinea is considered by most to be among the best restaurants not just in the US, but in the world.

            Goosefoot is outstanding, but is actually far more difficult to get into than Alinea. Chef/Onwer Chris Nugent IMHO creates the best tasting food of any restaurant in Chicago. Not all the theatrics and whimsy of dining at Alinea, but excellent cuisine, extremely reasonable pricing, very friendly staff and comfortable, relaxed dining room. Only problems with Goosefoot are the extreme difficulty with scoring reservations (they are small and demand far exceeds supply) and the menu infrequently changes (not an issue for you since it would be your first time dining there). They may be booked via OpenTable, but rarely show any availability; at midnight each night (central time) they release the date 60 days into the future - so sometimes right at midnight you can snag a table. However they accept bookings beyond 60 days in-person at the restaurant, so often they are already fully booked by the time the reservation would be released to OpenTable.

        2. Are you sure that Grace and Elizabeth are closed that week - or is it possible they are just not open for reservations that far out? I know Elizabeth is only selling tickets through the very beginning of June for now and Grace is only accepting reservations through the end of May (at least via OpenTable).

          Sixteen is my favorite out of Tru, L2O and Sixteen - though it has been a year and a half since I dined at L2O. I would think that Sixteen has a view of the fireworks (at least they did for New Year's Eve), but you should double check with them.

          Grace I would rank even higher than Sixteen (assuming they are not closed, but simply not yet taking reservations). Alinea would be my very top choice (and as BSpar mentioned, tickets are currently on sale and readily available for July - the only problem is if you cancel your trip you would have to deal with selling your tickets as they are non-refundable).

          Schwa I would not recommend due to their propensity to cancel reservations on very short notice; as such IMHO it is not a good option for out-of-towners or for a special occasion. Also some recent reports have mentioned that Chef Carlson has been absent of late in the kitchen - which for many is a big draw of dining there. Schwa is a gamble; one of my meals there was one of my top ten meals ever, one was a disappointment and once I was cancelled on 1.5 hours before the meal was to start.

          One final suggestion would be Moto; similar to Alinea in terms of the modern techniques and whimsical experience, but no worry about tickets (they may be readily booked via Open Table). They certainly are not deemed to be of the same caliber as Alinea by most, but personally I love Moto nearly as much and have noticed huge improvement during the past year.

          1. Do Alinea. And buy your tickets NOW.

            2 Replies
              1. re: kathryn

                P.S. Here's what I didn't "get" about Alinea until I went there. I had heard about all the unusual presentation techniques, which I figured were merely gimmicks. What I didn't understand until I got there was that (a) the whole experience is delightful and fun, and (b) just about every dish - one after another after another - was amazingly delicious. Easily one of the two or three best food experiences in my entire life.

            1. Grace or Tru were the best restaurants in Chicago for me, even better than Alinea.

              1. Grace and Elizabeth are both closed the first week of July. I contacted the restaurants directly and Rebecca at Grace has been very helpful with suggestions. I made a reservation at Sixteen for July 4th night. I am not sure if I want to purchase tickets for Alinea, since my work schedule varies and we may not be in the city that week. If I can get reservation at Goosefoot that week, I am going to cancel Sixteen. If by chance when it gets closer to the date and Alinea has openings at the last minute, I will buy the tickets. How much are the wine parings at Alinea? Or can you just order by the glass or bottle?

                6 Replies
                1. re: BRI328

                  The pairings at Alinea are usually around 2/3 the price of the tasting menu. And yes, you can also order by the glass or bottle.

                  I wouldn't hope for much of a view of the fireworks from Sixteen. From the dining room, you look out on a bunch of buildings, but there's only a sliver of a view of the lakefront where the fireworks take place.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    Thanks. No, we do not need a view of the fireworks at Sixteen. Looking for good food and service.

                  2. re: BRI328

                    You may want to add El Ideas to your list of possible restaurants. You need to reserve about 60 days out and give them a credit card, but they do not actually charge the card until 7 days before the dinner. So, if your plans change, you can cancel so long as it's outside of that 7 day window.

                    Like Goosefoot and Schwa, El Ideas is a BYOB restaurant with very creative cooking in a somewhat off-the-beaten path location -- indeed, it is located in an even more incongruous neighborhood than either GF or Schwa. Unlike Schwa (and in my experience GF), you can easily get through on the phone to them and confer about reservation availability. Even if they are sold out, especially if you explain that you really want to eat there but are not a local, they will put you on their waiting list and you have a good chance of getting in.

                    We ate there last week, and really enjoyed it. Terrific food, comfortable and fun ambiance (but without the headbanging, conversationally challenging music of Schwa), and we enjoyed the opportunity to bring some special bottles from our cellar (perhaps less of a + if you are traveling and not checking bags, in which case you would have to buy wine here).

                    And I agree with Nsxtasy that, if a view of the fireworks is one of your main motivations for Sixteen, you will be disappointed.

                    1. re: masha

                      Thanks, I will look into El Ideas!

                    2. re: BRI328

                      The standard wine pairing at Alinea is $150; I believe the reserve is $250. They do have limited wines by-the-glass and a good sized amount of wines by the bottle available. They will also work with you to do a smaller pairing at a lower price point; last time I dined there I informed them how much I wanted to spend on wine and what types of wine I enjoy most and they did an excellent job doing a mini pairing for me at that price point.

                      1. re: BRI328

                        Also looks like Acadia is closed that week. Let's hope we can score a reservation at Goosefoot on Friday, July 5!