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Jul 9, 2013 02:13 PM

Chicago Trip in August- Great food and cocktail recommendations wanted

Hi everyone!

My husband and I are taking a trip to Chicago at the end of August and would love some recommendations on great places to eat and drink. We're looking for great food- upscale dining and more casual places are equally appreciated, as long as the food is great. We're staying in the Magnificent Mile area- but are willing to travel by taxi for great food.

Also, if you have any recommendations for cocktail bars, that would be great. We prefer craft/classic cocktails- our favorite places across the US are The Varnish (LA), Bourbon and Branch (San Francisco), Smuggler's Cove (San Francisco), Bar Uncommon (NOLA), Arnaud's (NOLA), Weather Up (Austin)- among others.

Thanks in advance for your recommendations!

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  1. Please don't take this the wrong way, but looking for great food in an upscale or casual setting that's within a taxi's ride distance from your hotel is pretty broad. Any preference for type of food? Or a general sense of your preferred budget per meal?

    Now as for cocktail bars, some of my favorites are in the Logan Square or Wicker Park neighborhoods (~15-20 minutes by cab, each way). The Violet Hour is outstanding - very relaxed, very creative but still with an eye towards the classics. Bar Deville (cash only; about a mile south of the Violet Hour) isn't as outwardly impressive as the Violet Hour, but the bartenders know what they're doing and you're not as likely to see quite the same crowds.

    Longman & Eagle (a great restaurant in its own right) has a cocktail bar called OSB that's fun. It's a small-ish menu, but solid. Billy Sunday is nearby and is also very enjoyable. Both are in the heart of Logan Square -- and about a mile south (I'd take a cab) is Scofflaw. Great food in addition to great drinks but, again, be prepared for a wait at peak times. About a half-mile southwest of Logan Square is the Whistler. Again, it's a small space and can get very crowded but the drinks are worth it (to me). They often have live music, too, across a variety of genres.

    Closer to downtown, there's The Aviary, from Grant Achatz. I'm not particularly enthused about it, but I would say it's worth trying at least once. Sable has its fans but I can't help but feeling as if I'm drinking in a generic hotel bar (the overall quality of the drinks notwithstanding). Three Dots & A Dash, a Tiki bar, is set to open any day now and while I expect it to be permanently mobbed, there will be a good reason for it; the head bartender opened The Whistler (mentioned above) and has an unironic appreciation for Tiki classics.

    3 Replies
    1. re: danimalarkey

      danimalarkey- I totally agree- I know my request was completely vague, but I guess that's what I was going for in terms of recommendations. Just trying to get a feel of the stand-out/must-visit restaurants in the area. My husband is a chef and we are "foodies," if you will. Just looking for great food in Chicago- simply put.

      Thank you so much for suggestions on the cocktail scene. I had heard about Three Dots & a Dash- really hoping that it will be open when we arrive in August.

      1. re: alaina9yaya

        Fair enough! :D My own list would include the following:
        Nightwood (farm-to-table/contemporary American; Pilsen)
        avec (Mediterranean small plates, West Loop)
        Publican (Midwestern farm-to-table meets European brasserie; West Loop)
        Vera (Spanish; West Loop)
        Coalfire (Neapolitan pizza; West Town)
        Schwa (contemporary American; Wicker Park)
        Revolution (brewpub; Logan Square)
        Lula Cafe (farm-to-table/contemporary American; Logan Square)
        Longman & Eagle (gatropub; Logan Square)
        Fat Rice (Portuguese/Macanese; Logan Square)
        Big Jones (Southern/coastal; Andersonville)

        I would also look at Elizabeth, especially for a weeknight meal (it looks like a great value).

        ETA: It's worth mentioning, too, that some of these places don't accept reservations, some are prix-fixe only or even BYO.

        1. re: alaina9yaya

          I don't live in Chicago but I'm a frequent visitor, and places we go back to over and over are:
          The Aviary
          Purple Pig
          Frontera Grill / Topolobampo
          Publican / Publican Quality Meats
          Girl and the Goat

          See also:

      2. See also:

        The Aviary is a must try, especially as you likely don't have molecular gastronomy bars at home.

        I have also been hearing good things about the Berkshire Room in River North in the Acme Hotel.

        End of August seems far away now but it you want to visit Goosefoot, El Ideas, Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, or Girl & the Goat, you need to decide ASAP, as these tend to book many weeks in advance or dinner. You may already be too late for Alinea as they already are selling tables up to Oct. Also Next ends the Vegan menu on August 24 and starts Bocuse d'Or on August 31, so the dates may not work out for you at all.

        2 Replies
        1. re: kathryn

          I've been looking at El Ideas, but I was curious, how long does the meal usually take? Dinner on Saturday is at 6:00, is it over by 9? 9:30?

          1. re: Gavin499

            I have dined there three times and typically the meal has lasted in the 3:15 to 3:30 range - so should be over by 9:30 unelss things have changed..