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Great Chicago Meal for One

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So... I've looked around Chowhound fairly significantly, and I'm coming up short on suggestions for precisely what I'm looking for. What I'm looking for is the best restaurant in Chicago for one person. I'm heading to Chicago in August, and my wife won't be able to join me the first night. I'll be flying in Friday, and she joins me on Saturday morning. That means I'm on my own for Friday night, and I'll need something to do.

Obviously that means different things for different people, so let me set out a few "conditions" to explain what I'm looking for:

1. Ideally I'm looking for a place with a great bar scene. I prefer NOT a club scene, but a good bar with quality cocktails and good food would be appreciated. I usually feel more comfortable by myself sitting at a bar, but I would consider a good restaurant if you have a strong suggestion.
2. I'm staying at the Intercontinental Miracle Mile Chicago. Nearby would be handy, but I'm not opposed to taking a cab.
3. I prefer (though not exclusively) more modern food. Interesting proteins, preparations and sophisticated plating. That means that while it has its place, I'm not really looking for deep dish pizza or a steakhouse. Delicious? Maybe. What I'm looking for? Not this time.
4. A cocktail program would be nice, but not at all required. I'm a big fan of wine, but a good cocktail program is always helpful. Like I said above, a bar is nice, but frankly a wine bar location is fine too. Either way is good!
5. Not terribly concerned about cost, but since my wife is coming into town the next day, we'll probably go all out the next day (or two), since we have two nights in town. I'd take suggestions for those meals too, but for this meal I'd like to get out probably for under $100 including drinks. (but if there's a can't miss place a bit more, please don't leave it out!)

There's lots of great ideas (and I'm soaking them all in!) on this board, but I couldn't find this nugget of info. Any help?

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  1. Off the top of my head and walking distance from your hotel (some closer than others), I think of: Sable, Purple Pig, Sumi Robata Bar, Sunda, GT Fish and Oyster, The Boarding House, Graham Elliot, and Allium. More club-focused options would include Gilt Bar and The Drawing Room. Edited to add: Eno, within your hotel, is a decent wine bar and worth a stop at the beginning or end of your evening. Also, and we get this a lot, the stretch of Michigan Avenue in Chicago where you'll be is the "Magnificent Mile" or "Mag Mile", although if you experience any miracles please let us know.

    3 Replies
    1. re: GourmetWednesday

      I like the suggestions that GourmetWednesday gives you. In particular, I like the three places that specialize in "small plates": Sable, Purple Pig, and GT Fish. When dining solo, I love places with a small plates format because I can try several dishes without stuffing myself. Sable and GT Fish both have terrific craft cocktails from two of the best mixology teams in the city. Sable and GT Fish both have a bar in a separate room from the dining room, and you can order food while seated at the bar (which you mention as your preference) or at your own table in the dining room. The Purple Pig has only one room, consisting of 15-20 seats at what is really as much a counter as a bar (much of it faces the kitchen prep area), as well as three high communal tables seating 10-12 and seven small two-tops. Because of the no-reservations policy and the limited seating, waits to be seated can be horrendous (1+ hours for lunch, 2+ hours for dinner), although they can be avoided by dining mid-afternoon or late at night. I mention this because the long waits result in many folks eating at the counter/bar, and not just solos.

      One other place I'd consider is Frontera Grill. They don't take many reservations (by all means phone them to try), leaving much of the room for walk-in traffic, and without a reservation, waits to be seated can be lengthy. You can avoid a long wait by arriving 15-20 minutes before they open the doors. An advantage of eating at the bar at Frontera Grill is that you can order off either menu, the one for Frontera Grill or the one for Topolobampo, the more upscale restaurant that occupies one dining room in Frontera Grill.

      Speaking of reservations, restaurants that accept reservations are usually willing to take solo reservations over the phone, but some don't do so via Opentable (so as to avoid paying Opentable's fees for one cover). If you go into Opentable, you can make a solo reservation for Sable, but it will show that GT Fish is full. I strongly suspect that GT Fish actually has availability but blocks reservations for 1 from being made on Opentable. When making a reservation, you can mention/enter your preference for dining at the bar.

      Logistics - the Purple Pig is right across the street from the hotel, Sable is three short blocks west, Frontera Grill is five short blocks west, and GT Fish is seven short blocks west.

      1. re: nsxtasy

        Frontera Grill / Topolobampo's cocktail program is also very good if you like tequila and mezcal, though GT Fish and Sable also have very good programs as well.

        Purple Pig's motto is wine and swine, no cocktails there.

        1. re: kathryn

          Another idea: Baume & Brix is a newish place I think would fit your requests quite well, although I have not been so this isn't based on first-hand experience. Their home page promises "playful, modern food", and both the food and drink menus look creative.

          http://baumeandbrix.com
          351 W Hubbard
          Chicago, IL 60654
          312.321.0351