Between Winnetka and Waukegan — needing nice dinner options
I'm going to be near Chicago next weekend for my grandfather's posthumous purple heart ceremony. All of my family will be there, which rarely happens. I'd love to find a nice place for dinner for all of us on Sunday night, but I'm unfamiliar with that area. We'll be staying in the Libertyville area. My parents are getting older and I'd rather not drive into downtown for dinner, though we could if we didn't find anything we liked near the hotel.
When downtown, I've had very memorable meals at Avec (love!), Carnivale, Frontera Grill and some fun places in Wicker Park. We're a foodie family so I'd love to find a place similar in spirit that's nice enough to go to dressed up. We'll be in suits and dresses after the ceremony.
Also welcome would be cheaper lunch or brunch places for the other days we'll be around.
I'll start with four chef-driven possibilities for you, all with outstanding food. Only one is open on Sundays.
For your Sunday dinner, Michael is in Winnetka and is an upscale French restaurant, although the cuisine is as much contemporary American as it is French. Some of the very best dinners I've had in the area, have been at Michael. It's not necessarily dressy; business casual attire predominates. But it's the only place in this entire post where you can wear suits and dresses without feeling out of place. It's the best fit for what you're looking for IMHO. www.restaurantmichael.com
The next three places I will recommend are all closed on Sundays. They may work for your other meals.
Inovasi is in Lake Bluff. They do a small plates format, and are also open for lunch. It's a neighborhood bistro type place, fairly casual, the most trendy of all of these. www.inovasi.us
Abigail's is in Highland Park, and is another neighborhood bistro type place. Note, they accept reservations only for seatings at or before 6:00; they are popular and if you want to dine later than that, you will probably have to wait to be seated. They are dinner only. www.abigails493.com
MH Fish House is in Lake Forest, and is an upscale seafood-focused restaurant. Too bad they're closed Sundays, because otherwise they would be a great choice for Sunday. Dinner only. www.mhfishhouse.com
The three Carlos Nieto restaurants are all possibilities for your meals; all are very good. Nieto's is on the border of Highwood and Highland Park, in the location that formerly housed Carlos; Carlos was high-end fine dining, whereas Nieto's is somewhat casual and moderately-priced. It's dinner only, closed Tuesdays but open the other six days. This might be your best backup plan for Sunday dinner if Michael doesn't work out for you. www.nietosrestaurant.com Café Central is in Highland Park and is a casual French bistro. Open for lunch and dinner, closed Mondays. www.cafecentral.net Happ Inn is in Northfield and serves American food with some global influences. Open lunch and dinner, seven days. www.thehappinn.com
Froggy's is a very good French bistro in Highwood, open for lunch and dinner, closed Sundays. If you go there, you can also stop by Gourmet Frog next door; it's their carry-out arm, with nice soups and baked goods to go. www.froggysrestaurant.com
For lunch, Jerry's in Winnetka is excellent, moderately-priced and casual. www.cornercooks.com
For brunch, Walker Brothers Original Pancake House is excellent. Don't think of it as "just" a pancake house because the level of quality is way better than any other pancake house. If you enjoy sweeter dishes, their huge puffed-up cinnamon-laced apple pancake is to die for. Their omelets are outstanding also. The Lincolnshire location is the closest to Libertyville, and other locations are also not too far. Beware, they don't accept reservations, and you can expect to have to wait to be seated on Saturdays ane especially Sundays, not too bad on weekdays. www.walkerbros.net
Another place for brunch is Wildberry Pancakes in Libertyville. It's quite good, although not "wow amazing" good like Walker Brothers. And the waits to be seated on weekends are as long as they are at Walker's. www.wildberrycafe.com
Thank you for your grandfather's service and sacrifice, and congratulations on this honor.
I second Nsxtasy's recommendation for Restaurant Michael. As he mentioned, many of the finer restaurants in the area are closed Sundays (and often Mondays). To his list in this category, I would add NEAR in Barrington, which foodie friends in the area frequent often, and the more casual Cafe Pyrenes in Libertyville.
Other places that are open on Sunday which might work for your family are:
Miramar, a French bistro in Highwood. They also have some private dining areas so depending on the size of your group it might be worth calling to discuss options and requirements.
La Casa de Isaac & Moishe, a Mexican restaurant in Highland Park. It might be more casual than you wish for this occasion, but given your previous experiences, I think you would like it.
DiPescara, a seafood-driven restaurant in Northbrook Court mall. It is from Lettuce Entertain You, a restaurant group with many options in the Chicago area in addition to Vegas, Minneapolis, and elsewhere. While I don't think I would call most of their spots "for foodies", they are well-regarded for consistency, quality superior to other chains, and handling groups well. DiPescara has private and semi-private seating areas.
Prairie Grass Cafe, also in Northbrook, might also be too casual for Sunday night, and might be a good option for other meals, including weekend brunch. It is, certainly "chef-driven", given that Chef Sarah Stegner is a former Beard Winner, and co-chef and partner George Bumbaris cooked with her at the Ritz-Carlton and is a former Bocuse d'Or competitor.
Again, my first choice would be Michael if it is available, and I just wished to identify additional possibilities if it can not accommodate your group on this night or you have other desires.