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May 30, 2014 05:21 PM

1 night in Chicago

Hey guys. Wife's taking me to chicago for one night. Any recommendations? I'm looking for an amazing meal and one to remember. I was thing about girl and the goat. I would like the meal to be under $250 for couple and will be staying at Hotel Monaco. I like all foods and am open. Thanks for any help

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  1. Here's my list of ten "DO NOT MISS" restaurants for a first visit to Chicago. These are places that are also worth many return visits. They're in order by price; the first two will not meet your budget threshold, but the others will. If I had to choose one of the others for "an amazing meal and one to remember", my top pick would be NORTH POND. When you make your reservation, request seating in the front room facing the pond.

    1. Alinea - Acclaimed by many as the best restaurant in the country. My recent dinner there was the very best in my entire life. Notable for its unusual presentation techniques as well as its amazing deliciousness.

    2. Grace - Sophisticated place whose "sum is greater than the parts", with excellent food, d├ęcor, and service.

    3. North Pond - Unique for its setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond and the city skyline. James Beard Award-winning chef turning out wonderful food (special props to the dessert chef too). Unlike the previous two, more casual (jackets not required/recommended) and less expensive ($100-120/pp including moderate alcohol and tax/tip). My recent dinner there was the best so far of 2014.

    4. Naha - Like North Pond, another James Beard Award-winning chef turning out wonderful food. And similarly more casual and less expensive.

    5. Contemporary Mexican cuisine - a specialty of Chicago and rarely found elsewhere this side of the Mexican border. Rick Bayless's Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are open for lunch or dinner. If you can't snag a reservation there, consider Mexique in West Town or Mixteco Grill in Lakeview.

    6. Sable - Delicious contemporary American cuisine in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails.

    7. GT Fish & Oyster - Excellent seafood in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails.

    8. Anteprima - In a city full of new and old Italian restaurants, this remains my favorite, and my most frequently-visited restaurant not in my 'hood.

    9. Lou Malnati's - With locations all over the city and suburbs, perhaps our best place for our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza.

    10. Jam - Chicago has quite a few breakfast/brunch-focused restaurants, but if I had to choose only one, it's Jam. Imagine what a creative chef with a fine-dining background would create for an inexpensive breakfast restaurant, and that's Jam.

    And, while not a single restaurant, I think our French Market is also worth a visit. It's in one of the commuter train stations just west of the Loop, and features some of the best restaurants of their type in Chicago, including Lillie's Q for barbecue, Vanille Patisserie for breads and pastry, Saigon Sisters for pho and banh mi, Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, and Fumare for Montreal-style smoked meats.

    And don't miss Garrett's for popcorn, with several locations downtown while you're here, and locations at O'Hare to grab some on your way home.

    I realize this is more information than you need, when you were only asking for a place for a single meal. Again, my answer to that is North Pond.

    9 Replies
      1. re: oliviafoodie

        When are you visiting? Reservations book up as soon as they open, 60 days in advance. Waits during prime dining hours generally exceed an hour or 90 minutes. To get in with minimal wait, if you don't have a reservation, you need to arrive when they open at 4:30 pm. (Which is why I've never been. Cannot conceive of reserving 60 days out, am allergic to waiting 1+ hour for a table, and have no interest in eating dinner at 4:30-5:00 pm).

        1. re: oliviafoodie

          >> Any thoughts on girl and the goat?

          Aside from the reservations/waiting issue (which masha describes very well), I've eaten dinner there and wasn't overwhelmed. Some savory dishes were pretty good, others less so, and nothing wowed. Desserts were particularly dreadful. Granted, a lot of other people like it plenty, but that's my experience.

          1. re: oliviafoodie

            I love GATG for their innovative, delicious small plates, and good cocktails. It's a good value for what you get. For two, we don't spend anywhere near $250. However they get quite loud & are very busy and do book up months in advance. They take reservations six months in advance over the phone & 3 months advance (90 days, not 60) on OpenTable last time I checked, and their OpenTable is accurate (they don't hold tables back) from what the reservation told me. When is your trip?

          2. re: nsxtasy

            Elizabeth seems like a nice place for your price point. From what I've read it's a fairly unique restaurant as well. I think it might be your best chance at a "meal to remember" if you're looking for something in the tasting menu vein.

            1. re: lamb_da_calculus

              You didn't give us many clues regarding what you like, which would be helpful, and we might be able to offer better suggestions. What makes a memorable meal for you: Setting? A particular cuisine? Style of service? Tasting menu, sharable small plates, or traditional app-entree-dessert type of menu? We all have different priorities and perspectives, so as we share them, you can choose which are closest to your tastes. For example, in the $250/couple range, I often prefer to go to a mid-range restaurant and order indiscriminately (e.g., hubby and I start with cocktails then have a bottle of wine, order our own apps rather than share one, etc.), rather than choose a higher end place where we are doing math along the way to try to stay within budget, but some people prefer tasting menus. We are spoiled in Chicago to have so many stellar options, and it can be splitting hairs to choose one, diss another, etc. Based on your Austin post, I think you'd enjoy Girl and the Goat if you can get a reservation. They specialize in small plates, many with meaty ingredients but some of the veggie options (cauliflower comes to mind) also shine. The menu descriptions can sound like overload, but to me, most of the dishes work. (Some people complain of too much salt, so if this is a sensitive issue for you, you might look elsewhere.) If GATG is not available, check out The Bristol, Nightwood, Dusek's, and The Publican (Inside, The Publican is very noisy, and they relate it to a beer hall, but to me it's a lot of fun, and I love the oysters, pork rinds, roast chicken, and more). These are all a distance from your hotel, so you'd have transit expenses. As for Elizabeth, and as someone who lives two blocks away and is a supporter, it might not be your best bet. Among other factors, it is beyond your price point (on a Wednesday, before tax, tip, or drinks, it runs about $100/person, and goes up on weekends. As for distance, it is farther than the places I mentioned, but would be a fairly direct and about thirty minute Brown Line train ride from your hotel to the Western stop). Again, if you can give us more criteria, we'll try to give more specific recommendations. And on a final and somewhat unrelated note, I was married at Hotel Monaco in 2004 so that hotel has a special place in my heart. Don't forget to request a goldfish (as a pet not dinner ;) .

              1. re: GourmetWednesday

                I agree that you will likely be pleased with Girl and the Goat if you can get in. The vast majority of visitors to Chicago who make a special point of getting to G&TG end up happy with their meal there. Like a lot of places, the food skews to the heavily seasoned side, as mentioned above.
                Or, if you don't mind an early dinner, Purple Pig is very convenient to your hotel. The chef just won a James Beard award. I say early dinner because the waits are very long at core meal times.

                1. re: Polski

                  >> The chef just won a James Beard award.

                  The chefs at Alinea, North Pond, Naha, and Topolobampo/Frontera Grill have also won James Beard awards. This year Grace won a James Beard award for best restaurant design and was a finalist for best chef.

                2. re: GourmetWednesday

                  >> on a Wednesday, before tax, tip, or drinks, it runs about $100/person, and goes up on weekends.

                  And wine pairings there are $100/person too!

            2. As usual, the dilemma with dining in Chicago is that there are so many great places to choose from. There's never only one right answer. :)

              1. I was just in town and had a memorable dining experience at the Publican, but it would not be to everyone's liking - emphasis on shared plates and quasi-communal dining. The food was very good, though.

                1 Reply
                1. re: bropaul

                  Good point to bring up the communal dining aspect. If a reservation is made well in advance you can request a separate table, and we received our own two-top, but there is a large communal area.

                2. Just to note additional information...

                  All the restaurants that have been mentioned so far accept reservations, with the exceptions of Lou Malnati's and Jam (neither of which would be my choice for one dinner here). With two more exceptions, they do so at so you can go to that website and at a glance know what is available for the night you will be here. The exceptions are Elizabeth (for which you must purchase tickets in advance on their website) and Frontera Grill (which accepts reservations on the website). I strongly recommend making your reservation as far in advance as possible, to get your first choice and avoid any disappointment.

                  You may want to give some consideration to what type of restaurant you would like (not just what type of food). More specifically, some of these restaurants are very loud and crowded, while others are more elegant and spacious (even romantic). There are no right or wrong answers, but it depends on what kind of place YOU prefer for your dinner here.