Narrowed to six, help me pick one
First off, thanks for all the great advice and info here. I'm oddly obsessive and also have trouble making decisions, so y'all are very valuable to me! Lol.
I'm spending a night in Chicago with my husband and trying to pick a dinner place. We don't care much about what's hip or the newest trend or anything. We just want to have an enjoyable time eating delicious food that feels like it was worth the money, basically.
I've done a fair amount of research, and here are the places I'm deciding between. (I know some other places are highly recommended, but have ruled them out for one reason or another.)
(These two appeal to us for pretty much the same reasons. Nice variety on a tasty sounding menu. And walking distance to our River North hotel. But of course there are mixed reviews about whether they're really that great. My husband is into the fact that they seem to have game meats on the menu most of the time.)
The Purple Pig
(I'd prefer a place with reservations, but we plan to spend the afternoon/evening checking out the magnificent mile area and probably millenium park, so I figure we can out our name in then come back. But is it worth it? Is it really as awesome as some reviews say? What about the large number of reviews mentioning slow, in attentive service?)
(Really looks good and we will have a car. Is it a quick easy drive? And I've seen an awful lot of people lamenting extremely tiny portions, no?)
(Doesn't seem to get a lot of mention, but the menu looks great and the few things I've read have me interested.)
(Seems a little far away, reviews are somewhat mixed, but the current posted menu definitely seems like a meal we would enjoy, and it sounds like most people are having a very good meal there.)
So, would anyone like to cast a vote for or against any of these places? Have any thoughts on them in general?
Luckily, we love in Wisconsin, so it's not like we can't get back to try again. But we also have two little kids, so it'll be a while!
Oh I will add that we do care some about ambiance. Something in between so loud and crowded you can't really converse, and so quiet you feel self conscious and there's no fun vibe.
My top two from your list would be Purple Pig and Nightwood. Purple Pig has well-executed, delicious food, and the advantage of being in the middle of Michigan Avenue, which I think is a fun vibe for a visitor, and sometimes even us locals. Nightwood is very creative and thoughtful food, and more traditional appetizer/entree/dessert offerings, if you choose to order that way. It would be an easy drive, although would probably elicit a couple of "why are we going here?" looks along the way. I am not as big a fan as others of the Gage. On both occasions, one lunch and one dinner, the food was fine, but it did not feel like a good value ($100+ dinner for two, with one drink each, at what is essentially a pub), and we left somewhat disappointed. Vincent and Browntrout I would save for a longer trip, or a night when you want to explore the respective neighborhoods, rather than your one dinner in Chicago. I haven't been to Sable, although many enjoy it, especially the sweet corn brulee and the cocktails.
I haven't been to all those. Browntout is very good and we have had some very good dinners there. It is also a little "out of the way: if you're staying in the central tourist area.
Purple Pig is excellent, as long as you understand you'll be standing around and waiting for a table.
Sable is essentially a bar with some really good bar food (and some not-so-good). Things like excellent sliders and truffled deviled eggs. We didn't love the corn brulee. Thought it was like mom's creamed corn with a crust. Nice vibe and good location.
I am another one who is not a huge fan of The Gage. Tried it a few times and found it overrated and overpriced.
If you're interested in The Gage and Purple Pig, you'd probably love Publican. Make a reservation, request a private (as opposed to communal table) and enjoy.
Also, if you have a car, consider The Bristol. It's closer than Browntrout. Also a gastropub like the others, the food is consistently good, as are the wine and booze, and it is a pretty friendly, hopping place.
I'd agree with the Publican and Bristol recommendations; they are both somewhat similar to Purple Pig with regards to price and style of cuisine (nose-to-tail, farm-to-table etc.) and similar in quality, but have the advantage of taking reservations and have a nicer ambiance. Bristol has the best ambiance of the bunch, but is furthest away from where you are staying. If you do venture there, you can make an evening of it and hit up some other nearby venues such as Big Star for tacos, Mindy's Hot Chocolate for dessert (James Beard winning pastry chef) and/or hot chocolate or Violet Hour (a speakeasy) for excellent cocktails.
I enjoy Browntrout, but it is more a nice option if you are in that neighborhood already; it is not so good or special that I would recommend traveling to Browntrout from the downtown area for dinner; far too many as good or better options closer to where you are staying.
I'm from Toronto, love Chicago, visit frequently and always find time to stop in here.