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Jun 8, 2014 12:11 PM

Visiting & Looking for healthy good dining for one

Hi, I am visiting from today until Thursday and am looking for some good casual dining where I won't feel to self-conscious eating alone, either at the bar or a table. I am not necessarily looking for fine high end dining but not a dump either. I place most emphasis on the quality of the food but also like a decent atmosphere. I'll be staying near West Belmont & North Broadway and am looking for places local to there for dinner. I like all types of food.

Also, if there is any cool place downtown near that merchandise mart that I absolutely have to try for lunch I'd also welcome those suggestions. I am going to try Blackbird's Prix Fixe lunch. Thanks!

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  1. You are staying very near Ceres' Table; a wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant. Great varied menu with an emphasis on fresh, quality ingredients and a great chef and front of the house staff. Wonderful wines and cocktails too. They have bar seating which would be perfect for a solo; the bartenders are really friendly.

    A long walk or short bus or cab ride away is one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago - Boka. Contemporary American cuisine with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Also excellent chef and really friendly staff with bar seating available.

    Other good spots in walking distance of you would be Bar Pastoral (amazing cheeses, meats and upscale comfort food), wine bistro atmosphere and Senza (pretty unique venue with super friendly staff and consistently outstanding food); relaxed, casual fine dining.

    Near River North if there on a weekday Topolobampo has a great three course prix fixe for lunch, $25 for three courses if I remember correctly (Rick Bayless restaurant). A bit further is Embeya which also has a great lunch prix fixe deal (modern Asian fusion). I recently dined for lunch at both of these as a solo and were excellent meals. Eataly is also a nice option.

    1. In addition to Gonzo's suggestions in Lakeview and Lincoln Park, I recommend North Pond. It's a 15 minute walk south of Belmont and Broadway. The setting is exquisite in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond with the city skyline looming over the far shore. Ask to be seated at a table in the front room facing the pond. (The bar is small and has no view; neither does the rear dining room with the open kitchen.) The food, from James Beard Award winning chef Bruce Sherman, is awesome. My recent dinner there was the best restaurant meal I've had in Chicago this year. I posted a very detailed review at

      Near the Merchandise Mart are several places that are terrific for lunch. One is GT Fish & Oyster, which has a small plates format (and craft cocktails). Another is Naha, which is an elegant higher-end restaurant that offers a prix fixe menu, three courses for $25. I also like Gonzo's suggestion of Topolobampo, which features our local specialty of contemporary Mexican cuisine.

      It's also a short walk from the Mart to the French Market, another great place for lunch. The booths there include some of the very best places of their kind in Chicago: Lillie's Q for barbecue, Saigon Sisters for banh mi and pho, Vanille Patisserie for pastry, Pastoral for cheese and sandwiches, Fumare for Montreal-style smoked meat, etc.

      Also, you mention "healthy" dining in your title. You might be interested in the suggestions in this topic about calorie-conscious dining:

      Returning to Chicago - healthy week in the loop -

      1 Reply
      1. re: nsxtasy

        Thanks to both of you for the replies. That is exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

      2. You can also try Melanthos a few store fronts from Ceres Table. I loved their grilled calamari there. Slightly south of it is Chilam Balam which is cash only. This is a BYOB Mexican place. I believe the chef used to work at Topolobampo.

        4 Replies
        1. re: sunbrace

          My understanding is the Chilam Balam chef who formerly worked at Topolobampo and was a Top Chef contestant left the restaurant back in 2012. I have not heard much positive feedback about the venue since, but have not been personally.

          1. re: Gonzo70

            I have eaten at Chilam Balam. For creative contemporary Mexican cuisine, I think the food is much better at Mixteco Grill, which is not far from Belmont and Broadway (2 miles, a quick bus or cab ride up Clark Street). Note, Mixteco Grill is BYOB and there's a liquor store at that intersection.

            1. re: Gonzo70

              I never ate there before the ex-owner left so I don't have a before and after comparison of the 2. I was there last year when the current one was at the helm and found the food flavorful without being too spicy. From what I remember, both the current and the ex-chef met each other while they were both at Topolobampo.

              1. re: sunbrace

                Just looked at her bio; she did actually spend some time at Frontera/Topolobampo during an internship while in graduate school. She actually worked as a pastry chef at Otom after graduate school (Homaro Cantu's restaurant that preceded iNG - iNG happened to be a very frequent hang of mine, but never had made it to Otom). She later became a pastry chef at Chilam Balam and soon after also became involved in savories there.

                Here is an article about her from Grub Street: