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Chicago Dinner Itinerary- Thoughts?

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Hi everyone,

Thanks to all of your helpful recommendations over the last couple of months, we have finalized our dinner itinerary for our upcoming trip to Chicago. Without further ado, here it is:

Saturday: Dinner at El Ideas
Sunday: Dinner at Alinea
Monday: Dinner at Blackbird

Anything you think we're missing or something we should skip? Also, we're still working on lunch or brunch ideas? We're still finalizing our cocktail bar selections. Here's our list so far:

The Whistler
Three Dots & a Dash (if open)
Longman & Eagle
The Violet Hour
The Aviary (not sure we can get in here though)

Thanks for your thoughts!

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  1. When is the trip?

    Do you already have reservations for El Ideas & Alinea?

    The Aviary is easy to get into as long as you plan ahead and email for a reservation. They're only open Tuesday through Saturday.

    Three Dots & a Dash is definitely open and from what I've read, pretty crowded and busy since it is so new.

    The Whistler is fun but Billy Sunday in Logan Square is a must visit if you are a cocktail fan. It's a short walk, we recently did the two back to back.

    Longman & Eagle is more of a restaurant than a cocktail bar. Not a place I would drop in just to get drinks.

    Also, I'm having trouble picturing how you'll get from place to place if you want to have drinks before or after dinner. Taxi? Will you have a car? Chicago is large. Have you mapped out all of your choices to see how spread out they are? For example, I recall our cab from downtown to Logan Square being around $20 due to traffic.

    The bars you list aren't really near your restaurant choices except for Blackbird and the Aviary, but the Aviary is closed Mondays.

    5 Replies
    1. re: kathryn

      Thanks for the tips. We do have reservations (or tickets I suppose) at both Alinea and El Ideas. The El Ideas one can be cancelled if necessary. We were also considering (and can get a reservation at) L20 instead if people have a strong preference.

      We are planning on using cabs primarily, and have factored that into the budget. That said, if there are cocktail bars, etc that you'd recommend during those days, I'm all ears!

      1. re: alaina9yaya

        >> "We were also considering (and can get a reservation at) L20 instead if people have a strong preference." <<

        We are out-of-state and visit Chicago once a year mainly for the fine dining, typically Alinea and one other high end place. No experience with El Ideas, so no opinion there (it does seem interesting) but we've been to L2O twice, once a couple years back when it had 3 Michelin stars and a second time a few weeks ago. If you enjoy subtle seafood dishes and aren't turned off by the high cost then it's an excellent choice. Also the wine pairings were exceptional, probably the best we've had anywhere.

        We'll likely be back in November and the two restaurants we're targeting are Alinea (4th time) and L2O.

        Last week while researching a foodie trip to Spain this October I saw one of those "Top 100 Restaurants in the World" lists that had Alinea # 1 and L2O # 18 ... we've dined at nine of the top 34 restaurants on the list the past three years and while # 18 in the world might be a bit of a stretch, we feel L2O was actually better than two of the USA places ranked higher on the list and in the same class as several others.

        1. re: alaina9yaya

          I'd prioritize the Aviary, Three Dots, and Billy Sunday, maybe the new Berkshire Room if you are into barrel aging. The Violet Hour is excellent but you may have a speakeasy style bar much like it at home. You already have a lot of the best spots on your list, it just seemed geographically challenging.

          1. re: kathryn

            Sounds like a well-planned itinerary, and thoughtful suggestions from others. A couple of things to consider: You could move Blackbird to Monday lunch, which would free up a dinner slot without sacrificing the Blackbird experience. Their $22 Prix Fixe is one of the few fine-dining deals in town. I also enjoy strolling the Randolph Street area during the daytime, popping into places like JP Graziano's (check out the "About us" page at www.jpgraziano.com), Little Goat Bread, Perman Wine Selections, Publican Quality Meats, and Glazed and Infused donuts. There are also some great wholesale butcher and fishmongers in the area but probably not conducive to tourists unless you like window-shopping for foodstuffs, are packing a cooler, or are staying somewhere with a kitchen and like to cook during travels.

            You can also consider Longman & Eagle for one of your breakfast/brunch/lunch stops. The food is casual and tasty all day long, and since you're on vaca, I assume you can enjoy the beverage menu any time of the day. I have dropped in "just to get drinks" before dinner but not as a late-night cocktail experience. They do have an impressive whiskey menu, so if that's your thing, it could work as a place to wind down your night.

            As Kathryn referenced, Aviary is an easier seat than most of the other popular cocktail lounges, as they take reservations. In your email, I would suggest mentioning you have a reservation at Alinea during the same trip.

            Enjoy!

            1. re: GourmetWednesday

              Yes, move Blackbird to a lunch and do EL Ideas at dinner.

              Just to provide a little more diversity of opinions here: I haven't been to L2O since Laurent Gras left, but a sous chef I really respect gave a quick pan of it recently. If you decide to go anyway, you can easily get a reservation at L2O at any time these days.