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Everest or Acadia for special occasion with "careful" eater lol

I am visiting Chicago at the end of April for the weekend with my girlfriend. We are mid 40's, coming from metro detroit, leaving our kids behind. We are going for my birthday, and she promises to do anything I want.

She is really not an adventurous eater, but will try anything that I put in front of her. Though she dislikes mushrooms, picks out onions/olives, does not want to eat cow balls lol, etc. But that is not too big a deal, though I don't want her to starve.

I am an bit of a foodie, and an adventerous eater, often planning vacations around dining.

I have reserved Naha Friday night, North Pond Sunday Brunch. I selected these after reading many of the great postings on this board, and I want to thank all the great contributors.

So I am asking for a little advice.
I want to do a tasting menu Saturday evening. Can basically get a reservation anywhere at this point.
I want it to be romantic. And I want her to have enough in the tasting that she will eat. I wil lorder wine pairings, she doesn't really drink
I've sort of narrowed it down to Acadia and Everest - based on their current tasting menus (which will likely change by 4/26?). I have also considered Grace, as that seems to be a huge favorite of the Chowhounders.
Elizabeth seems really nice too, but it looks too casual for what I want this dinner to be.
Do you have any advice for me?
Thanks!!
Also, for the restaurants mentioned (or any you recommend), would they substitute something for her if the menu has fish eggs, mushrooms, sweatbreads. I'm not sure I'll even ask, but just curious how each of the places handles such requests.

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  1. In terms of a "romantic" setting, Everest probably trumps Acadia. The view from the 40th floor is pretty spectacular, especially if you are there for sunset and facing west. Acadia's room is ho-hum -- nice enough but not spectacular (as I recall, only been there once and it was a couple of years ago).

    The more significant issue seems to be your GF's tendency towards pickiness. Odds are that the current menus will not be the same by late April. In terms of the restaurant's willingness to accommodate your GF's aversion to the ingredients that you've listed, you probably should call them and ask. Restaurants that offer tasting menus are typically willing to work with diners with allergies, so I would assume they might be willing to work with your GF's aversions too, but it would be best if they had advance notice.

    Alternately, perhaps your GF could be persuaded to just go with the flow? Not sure if you've done these kinds of tastings before, but they typically are only a few forkfuls per course. So, it's not a big deal just to skip or nibble at that course. And often the items to which the diner is averse are presented in a way that is surprisingly inobtrusive or even delightful. I've been at tasting dinners where every diner has been confronted with at least one course that included ingredients that he/she ordinarily would not choose to eat, and yet, when we did, were pleasantly surprised by how tasty the dish was.

    3 Replies
    1. re: masha

      I have yet to pay for a high-end meal where my needs or those of my companions weren't accommodated (within normal limits, of course - so "nothing red" may get an eyeroll). Places like Alinea and Arun's, as examples, will bend over backwards to meet your needs as long as you give them some advance notice.

      I once attended an "intimate" (maybe 40 diners) dinner prepared by a celebrity chef where there were several courses that were not within my dining range. His only issue was that had I given him more notice he would have sought out some alternative ingredients. As it was I had a pretty spectacular improvised meal.

      1. re: masha

        masha ... Thanks for the advice. I am certainly leaning towards going with the flow. This will be her first experience at this level of dining, and she will probably be willing to taste most things. It might be better that I show her the menu and tell her what some things are after she tastes them.

        1. re: Markcron

          She may surprise you and herself. Although I don't think of myself as "picky" there are actually a lot of food items that I ordinarily avoid and that usually prevent me from ordering a dish a la carte if they are a featured ingredient (olives, artichokes, sweet potatoes, eggplant). I've eaten all of them on tasting menus.

          In fact, my first exposure to sweetbreads was on a tasting menu. I'd mentioned my hesitancy to eat them to the waiter and he responded that (a) they really were one of the chef's specialties so I should give them a try but, (b) if I truly did not like them, he'd get me a substitution. They were a revelation and now sweetbreads are something that I order with some frequency.

      2. If you can afford the splurge at Grace, that would be my recommendation based on what you are seeking. Since they have two separate tasting menus on any given night (and you can mix and match from them) that is perfect for being with someone who is a picky eater. Grace also manages to be extremely elegant and luxurious, yet also comfortable - so it would not be as intimidating or stuffy a setting as Everest for someone not accustomed to fine dining. Definitely a romantic, intimate ambiance (though no stunning views as some seats at Everest feature). The service at Grace is the best in Chicago (they will do everything possible to ensure your date will receive food she enjoys) and the food served is absolutely amazing tasting and beautiful. Chef Duffy does not use a lot of offal or challenging foods, so again a big plus under your circumstances (in comparison Acadia tends to have a lot of offal and game). The wine pairings at Grace are terrific as well.

        Personally I feel Grace has already become Chicago's best restaurant and it is in an entirely different league when compared to Everest and Acadia. My only concern is they may already be fully booked; Saturdays do book well in advance - so make sure to call ASAP if you opt to go with them and see if they have anything available.

        1. El Ideas will also do their best to match your likes/dislikes (and as I said before, I'd be surprised if any higher-end place balked at special requests).

          1. I think you've gotten great advice so far. And all three of the leading candidates - Acadia, Everest, and Grace - are the kind of places where they will be happy to make substitutions for dishes or ingredients that don't appeal to an individual.

            I've been to all three. I've had mixed reactions to Acadia; I ate there once ordering a la carte, when I loved it, and once for the tasting menu, when it was rather disappointing. I think Everest is wonderful, not only for the food, but also for the amazing view and the wine list. The view alone makes it easily the most romantic of the three. Similarly, Grace is wonderful, especially for the service (as Gonzo mentions). Grace is also considerably more expensive than the other two, and the most difficult to reserve. While all three offer tasting menus, the style and ingredients selected may be more acceptable to a picky eater (more mainstream, if you will) at Grace, least acceptable at Acadia.

            Just to throw something else out there, is it possible you might be better off ordering a la carte, either her alone or both of you? Some restaurants only offer the tasting menu to the entire party, while others may permit her to order a la carte while you get the tasting menu; you would need to ask to be sure. (Grace is the only one of the three that *only* offers tasting menus.) Even if you both order a la carte at Everest or Acadia, you could probably work something out when ordering that approximates the tasting menu.

            I think you would probably find that any of the three will do their best to accommodate your situation (for which you have my sympathy) and will probably work out fine. Sounds like a great trip, including your other two choices, which are excellent for your needs. Good luck, and let us know how it works out!

            1. I convinced myself after reading the replies that Grace is the place.
              Called and got our reservation today. Looking forward to it. And thanks.
              Also, I asked about the menu, and they are planning to change them in about a week or so.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Markcron

                I haven't even been to Grace (yet...) and I'm excited for you! Please report back :)