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Is North Pond worth the $$$ ?

ChefJune Jan 17, 2014 12:47 PM

I'm going to be in Chicago in March with friends for a culinary conference. An acquaintance has recommended we should be sure to dine at North Pond. I looked at the menu, and it looks pricy and eclectic. Do you think it's worth the $$ ? I mean... there are SO many great places to dine in Chicago. If you were spending that much money, where would YOU choose?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Gonzo70 RE: ChefJune Jan 17, 2014 01:03 PM

    Will you be in town on a Sunday? North Pond offers a three course Sunday brunch for $33 per/person. It is not breakfast type fare, but a menu similar to what they serve at dinner - just fewer options. You have a choice of four dishes to choose from each for appetizer, entree and dessert. It is a nice experience for a much smaller price point. An advantage is that it will be light throughout your meal, so great views of the pond, park and skyline (request a table with a view if you end up making a reservation).

    If you are not around for Sunday brunch, it is still definitely a wonderful place, but is expensive. My favorite venue in that price range with that style of cuisine is Boka. They are currently closed to remodel, but will be opening in early February and should be better than ever. Boka is even a bit less expensive than North Pond and while there is no view like North Pond's - the ambiance is warmer/friendlier and the food and beverages at least as good. it is still upscale, but more relaxed and not at all stuffy.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Gonzo70
      lamb_da_calculus RE: Gonzo70 Jan 18, 2014 04:09 PM

      It sounds like you've been to North Pond for brunch and at other times as well. Would you say the quality's consistent throughout? Sometimes places that offer prix fixe end up with a reputation that the prix fixe isn't "really" the same quality.

      1. re: lamb_da_calculus
        k
        KateBChi RE: lamb_da_calculus Jan 19, 2014 03:00 AM

        I know that your question was directed to Gonzo with whom I frequently agree on matters of taste and I have never been there for brunch but the food will be good because the restaurant is good. It just isn't really good IMHO. It doesn't merit an expensive dinner but it might merit a brunch. There are many breakfast/brunch places that I love that are far more reasonable in price. If I were asked (and I wasn't) North Pond wouldn't be in my top 20 list of places to eat in Chicago

        1. re: lamb_da_calculus
          Gonzo70 RE: lamb_da_calculus Jan 19, 2014 07:39 AM

          I have had brunch three times at North Pond, but not dinner. I really enjoyed the cuisine all three visits, so would be surprised if the quality was inferior than at dinner. What has kept me from having dinner at NP is the service has been just a bit arrogant and stuffy at times for me to want to shell out the prices they charge at dinner. Also I would not want to do dinner there from late fall through early spring since part of the draw of NP is the view/setting which is a non factor once dark outside. Since the brunch is generally wonderful (other than some service issues), I am happy to come in periodically for brunch and just have not had the urge to book a dinner.

      2. h
        HoosierFoodie RE: ChefJune Jan 18, 2014 07:20 AM

        Last year I would have said, I don't know but after a great meal last summer I would say definitely yes. My wife and I have been several times. We quit going b/c of a bad experience but after thinking about it, our dining companions had a lot to do with the problem. I would not hesitate to go back.

        1. k
          KateBChi RE: ChefJune Jan 18, 2014 12:03 PM

          I had dinner there in December after a long hiatus because I wasn't wild about the food and was unhappy with the service. It is a lovely restaurant but it was a fight to get a table by the fireplace that my friend had specifically requested when she made the reservations almost a month earlier (wedding anniversary dinner). The food was fine but, as every time it have been there, it was pretty boring.
          A lot of people whose taste I respect really like this place. But it doesn't work for me and I say it isn't worth the money if you are going for anything other than the pretty, romantic location and competently prepared food

          1. g
            GourmetWednesday RE: ChefJune Jan 18, 2014 02:54 PM

            Obviously value is in the eye of the beholder. I do believe North Pond's prices are a few dollars higher than similar fare elsewhere (e.g., $14 for a beet salad, whereas other spots might be in the $8-10 range); consider it a surcharge for the spectacular setting. If you are comfortable with $30-40 entrees, I think the food is good. If that price range is a stretch for you, there are dozens of places in the Chicago area where a memorable meal can be had for considerably less. (Heck, my husband and I had a fantastic lunch today of two Italian subs and a cannoli from JP Graziano's and beers at the Map Room for about $40!) Do you have a particular cuisine you want, or neighborhood, or atmosphere, or price range? If you tell us what you're looking for we can probably give some guidance, rather than feeling beholden to the one recommendation you've received.

            1. chicgail RE: ChefJune Jan 19, 2014 05:46 AM

              North Pond is a unique and beautiful location. Located on a pond in Lincoln Park (the actual park) it was a warming spot for people who skated on the pond, it is a beautiful example of Arts and Crafts architecture. Charming is a good word.

              It can be very romantic and lovely, particularly during the day when you can see the park and the skyline of the city. That's what makes it such a nice brunch experience. Except that the brunch I had was kind of ordinary.

              That being said, the chef has won a James Beard award which should say a lot about the food and justify high prices. My experiences there have been good. The service as good, the food, while creative and also good, was not blow-your-sox-off great.

              I'm not sure what a culinary conference is (are you all chefs?), but for foodies, the experience might be interesting and the discussion about the food from this award-winning chef worth the visit. The tasting menu is $90, which is less than many other fine dining restaurants in Chicago, so it might be a good choice.

              1. s
                sunbrace RE: ChefJune Jan 19, 2014 01:55 PM

                Would it be correct to assume that you like French cuisine based on your other posts? I have brought a friend of mine from Paris for dinner at North Pond in November. We had a coq au vin app, monkfish and lamb for entrees and a chocolate dessert. I can't remember what the other dessert was. But both of us enjoyed our dinner. As for if it's worth it or not, it will depend on what you value and what you think is expensive. So if there is a certain price range you are looking at, please let us all know.

                1. c
                  chowyadoin99 RE: ChefJune Jan 19, 2014 02:14 PM

                  I think the best thing about North Pond is the superb location. In summertime you can dine outside, by the namesake Pond, looking across the green lawns and trees beyond that to the city skyline in the background. Nice. In March, however, I don't know. The food is good, don't get me wrong, but for the full experience ....

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