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Jan 1, 2014 04:27 PM

Fine-dining suggestions for weekend of Feb 27th-Mar 1st?

Hello fellow Chowhounders,

I am going to Chicago for a weekend at the end of February, and have made plans for some fine-dining establishments.

Thursday lunch: ?
Thursday dinner: Grace (fixed)
Friday lunch: ?
Friday dinner: Alinea (fixed)
Saturday lunch: ?
Saturday dinner: Schwa/Moto/el ideas/Next

Any suggestions for the lunches? For Saturday dinner, how long in advance must we book Schwa? Any tips for getting a Schwa reservation? - That is my first choice of dinner, but I'm quite open to dining at the other places mentioned.


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  1. Since Grace and Alinea are both rather formal dining experiences, for Saturday I'd recommend El Ideas or Elizabeth as a nice contrast. You seem to gravitate towards lengthy tasting menus, so these would fall in this category, but are very casual settings and a nice contrast from Alinea and Grace - yet still excellent, creative cuisine and friendly staff. I love Moto, but it would not be a large contrast from your other dinners if you want a bit of variety. Schwa can be mind blowing, but has some consistency issues and a penchant to sometimes cancel night of your dinner. If you do want to roll the dice with them, best time to reach them is early to mid afternoon on a day they are open; they might not book late Februaury until beginning of Februaury, but you can always call now just in case. Next IMHO has been slipping and has become woefully overpriced. Many better options.

    For lunches, assuming you want to stick with higher end venues versus deep dish pizza, Italian beef, hot dog type locales I'd recommend Topolobampo and Embeya for weekdays and Publican or Jam for the weekend lunch. GT Fish & Oyster would also be a nice choice (they offer lunch on weekdays, brunch on weekends). All of these venues are very different from one another and give good variety to your dinners, but are all outstanding and considered among the city's best in their categories.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gonzo70

      Thank you so much for your detailed reply!

      I was a Chicago resident for 2 months in summer 2012, so I tried a lot of Chicago classics (avec, blackbird, publican, gt fish and oyster, charlie trotter's, girl and the goat; along with the tacos, xoco, frontera, hot dogs etc.). This to me is a bit of a high end capstone to round out my dining knowledge of the city. I will definitely head to topolobampo, and will look into embeya and jam!

    2. We enjoyed lunch at Sixteen and The Lobby during our most recent visit.

      1. It kind of depends on your fine dining dinner times. I love The Purple Pig (a no reservation restaurant) but go at off hours because I don't care to wait at lunch this means about 1:45 to 4:00 pm. If you have earlier dinner reservations this may not work.

        Frontera Grill or Topolobambo are also fun lunch options but reservations are tricky for frontera. you can sometimes get day of dining reservations at Frontera but if not the best time to go is between 1:30 and 2:00. Topolo does take reservations but they should be made in advance. You can also come at about the same time as Frontera without too much trouble.

        I like the food at The Lobby in the Peninsula but haven't eaten lunch there because they were kind of weird with lunch time dining. Their website said lunch was available till 2:30 but I have gotten there at 1:45 and they said the kitchen closes at 2:00 and 1:45 was too late to place an order. Last ate at the restaurant (dinner) in mid December before their chef left to join the Boka group. I don't know if they have revamped the menu but if they still have the roasted chicken it is absolutely divine.

        I also like the tiny restaurant Pelago in the Raffaello Hotel. Their house made pasta is terrific as are the seafood dishes. The menu doesn't change much and the specials are very limited so it is not on our rotation as often as it would otherwise.

        I haven't been back to Schwa in several years despite some extraordinary food. One special dinner cancelled at the last moment soured me on the place. If you do manage to get a reservation have a back-up plan preferably some place near by. I had the extraordinary white and black truffle pizza with Iberico ham and mortadella crema at Balena just before Christmas it came with an ungodly amount of freshly shaved white truffles, fresh black Perigord truffles and an awesome 5 g sliced Iberico ham on a bed of mortadella crema. The truffle smell was awesome but the ham and mortadella crema were just so perfect. Bring your credit card. It's the only $100 pizza for two that I am ever likely to have. It has limited availability but is still on their web site.

        1. I'm assuming you're from Singapore. If you've dined and enjoyed at Catalunya, you may like Mercat a la Planxa downtown. Both serve Spanish/Catalan dishes without Catalunya's signature Spanish omelette.

          Boka is undergoing renovations right now but may open just in time for your trip. If so, you may want to consider this one as well. The chef who's taking over moved from The Lobby and used to be the sous chef at Eleven Madison Park. Of course none of us know yet what it's like once they reopen. So if you do go there in time, please leave a feedback of your experience.

          Reno in Logan Square for lunch or breakfast is also a good option. I really enjoyed their Montreal Bagels and their sandwiches.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sunbrace

            Yes, Boka should be open by then; they are tentatively targeting a February 7th open date. Chef Wolen commenced work there today to begin preparing the menu. I am a regular at Boka (and was also a regular at The Lobby while Chef Wolen was there) and from what I have heard Boka 2.0 is really going to be fantastic. I anticipate spending quite a few nights there in 2014; so excited for one of my favorite chefs to join forces with one of my favorite restaurants.

            Edit: Just noticed Boka posted what appears to be their anticipated new menu on their website; looks wonderful: