Time-pressured trip, need advice about Fat Rice, early a.m. breakfast, etc.
I'm flying in on a Wednesday night, May 14. Thinking a late-ish dinner at GT Fish and Oyster. Then need to grab lunch on the way out of town to Wisconsin on Thursday a.m. Thinking about Fat Rice...does this seem like a good plan? Is lunch as exciting as dinner seems to be, or would we be missing out on a lot of the excitement? Would we be likely to have a long wait on a Thursday at lunchtime? Alternatively maybe Nico Osteria?
We'll be back in town Saturday night and I'm still casting about for dinner ideas. I would love to do some of the unique, casual/avant garde places like Schwa or El Ideas, but I'm not sure I'm up to the challenge. Looking at Sepia, Piccolo Sogno, Nightwood, Le Bouchon, i realize that list is all over the place.
Then I have to be at Midway on Sunday morning by about 9:30. Are there any worthy breakfast places open quite early on Sunday morning? Is Fox and Obel still around? I'm staying at the Fairmont. (btw, what the heck is going on in town the weekend of the 17th? Every hotel is almost full and rates are double/triple what I'm used to.)
The National Restaurant Association show is in town that weekend, so you should grab some restaurant reservations while and where you can. A few additional thoughts, mostly to harsh your buzz, I'm sorry to say:
Fox & Obel bit the dust last fall. And alas, Fat Rice only offers brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I love Nightwood. However, their acclaimed chef has just left and I'm not sure who's running the show now.
Schwa is a blast, though if you get a reservation (maybe unlikely during NRA weekend) it's wise to have a Plan B, as they are prone to canceling at the last minute.
Fat Rice is not open for lunch on Thursdays. You could do Nico Osteria, but I wasn't all that impressed by my recent dinner there. I think the two best weekday lunches in Chicago might be Naha and Blackbird, both of which have three-course prix fixe menus for around $25. Another great option for a weekday lunch is Topolobampo or Frontera Grill, Rick Bayless's restaurants for contemporary Mexican cuisine.
There are many options for your Saturday night dinner, but whatever you do, try to reserve right away, because Saturday nights fill up fast at the most desirable places, especially during the restaurant association weekend. If you want to go Italian, I'd do Piccolo Sogno, with runners-up Vivere or Tesori or Café Spiaggia. Otherwise, wow, there are so many places. I've eaten at quite a few places in the past month or two and the very best dinner I had, simply outstanding, was at North Pond. Another alternative would be to go to Purple Pig for your late-night arrival dinner (the waits there die down after 10), then do GT Fish for Saturday night.
Jam, perhaps our best breakfast restaurant, opens at 7 a.m. and it's right at the Logan Square stop on the Blue Line. So that's do-able. I'd plan on getting there 7:15 or so. That should allow enough time to eat and then take the el to Midway (transferring to the Orange Line at Clark/Lake). www.jamrestaurant.com
I entered the address of the Fairmont Hotel (200 Columbus) and came up with a Corner Bakery at Michigan & Wacker ( 360 N Michigan), .2 mile away. Not the most glamorous breakfast in town but OK for breakfast sandwiches, pastry, coffee. They open at 6:30 AM. Although personally I would scram to the airport first and find something there after I got organized for the flight.
Right across the street and downstairs from the Fairmont (in the interior of River East) is Eggy's. I really like it for a great breakfast, but also I've eaten dinner there. Ask the doorman how to get there the quickest (i think you want past the entrance of the Raddison Blu across street and there's a stairway down). Restaurant is next to Mariano's grocery.
Fat Rice is not open for lunch. It is inconveniently located for where you are staying and I suspect I will be pilloried for saying so but the only truly scrumptious thing I have had on the menu is the Piri Piri Chicken. The Arroz Gordo is good, don't get me wrong, but not worth the wait, the distance and, for me, not something that lingers in my memory.
Nico Osteria is very good I just wish it weren't such a scene right now or located in the Viagra Triangle. That said I have eaten dinner, lunch and brunch there. The brunch and lunch items vary from a little to a lot from the evening menu. They fit the time of day. For example one brunch they offered their version of bacon and eggs which was a really good bowl of pasta carbonara. Their crudos are also excellent.
Viagra triangle? i have to ask.
My husband prefers it when I pick restaurants in "neighborhoods" , like wicker park rather than Michigan Ave. Of course, then there's the complaining when the cab is expensive, so it's hard to win. We did Balena last time and L20. I swore I would try not to spend L20 money again for a while.
Thanks everyone...here's my quick report:
GT Fish and Oyster: Really enjoyed it...the soba noodle dish and the oyster po boy slider are the ones that stand out in my now-hazy memory. Great space, really nice glass of a white blend from Paso, which I hope is still on their list so I can remember the name.
Nico Osteria: Also happy with that meal, an early lunch at 11:30 before the business dates and ladies who lunch showed up. Pricey, though...my maddai snapper crudo was delicious, but a mere morsel at $19. Fortunately there was a lot of tasty bread. I had an octopus open face sandwich, octopus was very nice but overwhelmed by the rest of the dish. Husband had mussels, which I actually thought were substandard. He also had a plain tomato sauce spaghetti , which was nice.
Le Bouchon: Best meal of the trip. I was a little worried about spending my Chicago saturday night at a restaurant that was on neither the James Beard or the Michelin lists or front and center of Chowhound recs. But it was stellar. From the very nice Champagne at $13/glass to the ending profiteroles, everything was perfectly done. The cheese I selected was delicious, my asparagus dish - white and green w/ fiddleheads - was beautiful and had a perfectly done egg on top. My husband's arugula, shaved fresh asparagus, strawberry, hazlenut, etc. salad was also perfect. I had the Corvina special...a beautiful, perfectly done piece of fish and Jeff had the soft shell crab w/ cous cous. Good, but my only quibble..I thought the breading on the crab was a little heavy.
We blew off the Sunday morning breakfast in favor of a second trip to Intelligensia...I love that stuff, and the almond croissant and Siggi yogurt was all I really needed for breakfast and more. Thanks everyone for your advice.