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Jan 2, 2014 01:02 PM

Just one dinner in Chicago, which of these?

I will be visiting Chicago in the Springtime with my husband for just two days (one night). I'm already considering restaurants because I'm a little obsessive and enjoy this sort of planning. I've been searching menus, reviews, etc. and every time I think I've come across the perfect place, I wind up finding a bunch of naysayer reviews. This is probably true of anywhere, but I'd love some input here.

We would like to have a fun meal. We'd definitely like something a littlle more interestiing than totally standard fare, but we dont get to go out for a nice meal often, and we're not hip, so it doesn't HAVE to be the latest and greatest necessarily. $150 before tip is the upper end we're comfortable with, and we'd like that to include a some alcoholic beverages. We'll be staying in River North probably, and plan to check out Millennium Park and Magnificent Mile before dinner, and would love a place somewhat nearby. But will have a car and are willing to take a cab. It would be great if hubby could wear jeans, but its not a deal breaker. We're in our 30s. I'd prefer a reservation as opposed to waiting, though it will probably be a Thrusday night.

So far, I'm leaning toward The Gage (hubby loves scotch, and loves game type meats) or Sable. We tend to enjoy a shared plate style.

Everyone everywhere seems to feel that Girl and the Goat is just the be all and end all, so I'm definitely considering it. But I dont know, I can put my finger on what about it isn't really exciting me.

I LOVE the menu at Tavernita! But reviews are hit and miss.

I mentioned the Publican to him, but he's not wild about the communal tables or communal bathrooms, lol.

Open to other suggestions.

Thanks for any input.

(p.s. the prices of drinks on these chicago menus are giving me sticker shock!)

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  1. The Girl and the Goat is indeed wonderful. Shared plates. Especially good vegetable dishes. You might also enjoy a breakfast of lunch at Little Goat across the street.

    I am not a big fan of either The Gage. Many others are. The Scotch thing might be good for him. Sable is a wonderful bar with very good (but not consistently wonderful) bar food.

    Tavernita is no big deal.

    My favorite of all your choices is The Publican. You can request a private table when you make your reservations. Dinners are fun and I especially like Sunday brunch there.

    Some other ideas in the River North area might include one of Rick Bayless' restaurants featuring regional Mexican cuisine: Topolobambo (the most upscale of the three), Frontera Grill (reservations not easy to get, but you can walk in - especially when they open) or Xoco that features really fine Mexican street food (some recent reviews have been less than favorable). Lunch there is both easier to get into and less expensive.

    Other options you might like in that neighborhood are Slurping Turtle or GT Fish and Oyster.

    I don't know what kind of transportation you will have, but you might really enjoy going to the Logan Square neighborhood where you will find Telegraph, Longman & Eagle gastropub, Reno pizza, Revolution Brewing

    5 Replies
    1. re: chicgail

      We were hoping to stay away from places that don't accept reservations (otherwise Longman & Eagle looks perfect.) But we will have a car and are willing to cab it as well.

      Thanks for the recommendations and opinions.

      I think what I really wanted here was for everyone to tell me the Gage is fantastic, because it checks all our boxes. But really, honesty is probably better, lol.

      1. re: StephiCakes

        Longman & Eagle is a personal favorite and depending on when your springtime visit occurs (purely for weather concerns) I wouldn't rule it out. First of all, getting there early helps and even if there is a wait you can wander the (growing) neighborhood to plan out your next visit. But I totally get the aversion to no reservations restaurants.

        1. re: ferret

          Along those lines, if you have an afternoon free (and I realize you're only looking for a dinner option here), a weekday lunch at Longman & Eagle is one my absolute favorite experiences. There's still a huge menu (covering breakfast/brunch/lunch dishes) but I find the prices much more reasonable -- it's rarely crowded, too. I think they stop serving at 2 or 3pm. Logan Square is a fun neighborhood to visit, and it's not far from Wicker Park/Bucktown where you can find a lot of interesting shops and stores.

        2. re: StephiCakes

          Longman & eagle is fantastic. But if you want a good, similar experience,you might also look at Owen & engine.

          1. re: lvnvflyer

            I like Owen & Engine as well. It is a good version of an English pub. Best fish and chips I've had on either side of the pond. But L&E is much better overall.

      2. Does The Gage have a strong Scotch whisky selection? I don't see much on their website and as often as I've been there, I haven't noticed anything too impressive (but maybe I just missed something). Clark Street Ale House, in case you wanted a post-dinner destination for drinks in the River North area, is a very low-key, casual bar with a great whiskey selection.

        3 Replies
        1. re: danimalarkey

          You know, I've looked at so many menus, I might be confused at this point. I thought they had a scotch flight on the drink menu and that my husband would get a kick out of that. Did I mention we don't get out much, lol.

          Thank you so much for that bar recommendation!

          1. re: StephiCakes

            I'd just like to echo some of the other recommendations for The Publican -- it's not the largest selection of Scotch whisky, but what they have is solid and there's a killer list of Bourbons, too (at the moment). Not sure what you mean by the bathrooms being communal, though -- each restroom is single occupancy. The only part that is "shared" would be the sink and that's outside all of the restrooms.

            1. re: danimalarkey

              Oh thanks! Someone somewhere said that it was like one bathroom with stalls for both men and women. I mentioned it to dh, and he thought it was lame. Not a deal breaker or anything, lol, just we thought it was odd.

        2. My last lunch at the Gage, a few weeks ago, was middling, at best. Maybe it was an off day but ... In your shoes, I'd go somewhere else.

          1. Original poster here: What about Nightwood?

            1 Reply
            1. re: StephiCakes

              You could do far worse than Nightwood. Proceed with confidence on that one, if you like the menu.

            2. Take a look at the menu at Bristol; solid place, reasonable prices, serves the style of food you appear to be seeking and has a nice but casual ambiance. Somewhat similar to Publican in terms of the cuisine, but no communal tables (at least that I recall), a bit more quiet and intimate yet still energetic. Really well executed, good quality food and wonderful cocktails. It is not in walking distance of you, but only a 10 minutes cab ride (barring traffic). It is in a lively neighborhood (Bucktown/Wicker Park) so lots of shops nearby, a great speakeasy (Violet Hour) if you want a before or after dinner drink and Mindy's Hot Chocolate is a short walk away (James Beard winning pastry chef) so you can stop in there for dessert and/or hot chocolate after dinner. One of Chicago's famous taco venues (Big Star) is also a short walk away, so you can have a predinner snack or drink there as well if you wish. The Bristol does take reservations (they are on Open Table).

              Violet Hour:
              Big Star:
              Mindy's Hot Chocolate: