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Jun 10, 2014 08:14 PM

Leaving Chicago - What is your number 1 fave?

Hi Dear Chowhounds! We are leaving Chicago in a few weeks back to California and we have a chance to really enjoy outselves. WIll you all please let me know your number 1 favorite? I know - pick one!

It would be very enlightening for us. Deliciousness is key. Otherwise without qualification. It could be any type of food. Thank you!

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  1. My current clear cut favorite restaurant in Chicago is Grace - though it is expensive, so definitely a special occasion/splurge type restaurant. It is truly the total package and an extremely memorable dining experience. The food itself is artistically presented, unique, interesting, top quality, perfectly cooked and most importantly phenomenal tasting. Fantastic wines, cocktails, coffees and teas to complement the food. The dining room itself is stunning; manages to be elegant and comfortable at once. Service is among the best anywhere; perfect combination of polished/attentive yet friendly/personable; they do a commendable job figuring out the patron's style and adjusting service to match. Grace is really the most fitting name for this venue. Heading there for my anniversary in a couple weeks and am so excited to be returning.

    If it fits your budget and you enjoy tasting menus; there are two different approximately nine course menus to choose from - one more meat/seafood focused and one largely vegetarian (that can be made fully vegetarian). Generally you can mix and match a bit between the two menus.

    1. A couple of weeks ago, I posted (at ) the restaurants that I consider "do not miss" places for a quick first-time trip to Chicago. These are the same places I consider my own favorites, places I would want to go before moving away from Chicago. They span a wide variety of price categories and cuisines, which makes it difficult to pick just one. But if you asked me where I had the best dinner of my entire life, that's Alinea (the most expensive of the group); if you asked me where I've dined more times than any other in the past year, that's Anteprima (whose excellent value makes it a no-brainer for returning frequently); if you asked me where I would go for food I would be least likely to find wherever I were moving, that's Lou Malnati's; and in that particular post, the OP was looking for the best place within a specific price target, so I recommended North Pond. As you can see from these examples, the need to pick just one depends on a lot of factors - budget, familiarity, fanciness, etc. Here's that entire post:

      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.

      1. What wonderful replies. This information was just what I was looking for.

        1. A person can find great, high end food in almost any big city in the USA. Many using the same chefs as headliners.
          But an Italian beef sandwich a la Portello's. No where else on earth compares.
          Sure, those will write and tell me about the Poretllo's in California and Arizona. Please, save your breath. it will never, ever be the same as the place on North Ave.