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Aug 14, 2014 05:34 AM
Discussion

Are Next "Trio" tickets going to surpass $200pp?!

I've been stalking Next for over 3 months already for a reservation in October. They tell me "calm down, wait until September", but I'm now seeing resales on the Facebook page, presumably from season ticket holders. The shock (to me) is that the 'face value' resales are well over $200 a ticket. My understanding was that Next changed themes, but generally stayed in the mid $100s. Is this wrong?

I wrote the restaurant, and will update with the answer, but since my dates are now under 2 months away, alternatives are filling up, and I think I need alternatives if I'm unwilling to pay over $200.

So here's what I'm coming up with:
GRACE - also over $200 ($205 to be exact), so that's out.
NORTH POND - not taking reservations yet ($90 for 5-course menu)
TRU - (11-course $158/7-course $115)
MOTO - ($175 - yeesh, though it seems Alinea-esque for $100 less)
GOOSEFOOT - $135 with free corkage sounds perfect. Location not so.
SCHWA - $110 9-course with (basically) free corkage also sounds perfect, but the whole cancellation of reservations not cool.

I have Girl and the Goat reserved in the "casual and can take kids" department, and I will of course be eating deep dish pizza. But I'd like 2 or 3 "experience" dinners (sans kids) too.

I'm staying at the Hyatt on the south bank of the Chicago River, so Goosefoot is definitely a geographical challenge (savings on food and corkage will go toward paying for cab). It seems to be filling up fastest.

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  1. Next does one menu per year that is a lengthier menu as well as a longer meal where they generally just do one seating per table. It is considerably more expensive and priced in the ballpark of Alinea. Expect to pay at least $300 per/person for food/tax/tip for the Trio menu (and that is with no beverages - with pairings it will run around $500 per/person).

    If you are looking for a good value tasting menu consider Elizabeth. Like Next/Alinea Elizabeth sells tickets but reservations do not book out too far in advance and once within a month of a meal prices are often adjusted downwards - occasionally Elizabeth runs deals as inexpensive at $35 for the full tasting menu (approximately 13 courses) and often runs deals in the neighborhood of $55 to $65 per/person. The chef there is great, Iliana Regan, extremely friendly, creative and talented. She plays a large role in procuring much of the food herself via foraging, gardening and occasionally hunting/fishing. The food has some of the whimsy of Alinea but has a farm-to-table emphasis and is hyper seasonal. Casual and comfortable ambiance, amazing food and memorable dining experience. I would watch Elizabeth's Facebook page as Chef Regan posts there when she is putting dinners on sale. She has a Michelin star and in the future Elizabeth stands a good chance to earn a second star. There is an open kitchen so it is nice observing the chefs working their magic as they dine. Elizabeth is definitely the best value in fine dining in Chicago (possibly anywhere) when you can snag the sale prices.
    http://website.elizabeth-restaurant.com/

    I love Goosefoot too but be advised that it is possibly the hardest reservation in Chicago. Really fantastic food though. Like Elizabeth also a casual ambiance, but top notch quality cuisine and friendly service.

    I also am a big fan of Girl & the Goat; good thing you already snagged a reservation as those are tough without significant advance planning.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gonzo70

      Thanks gonzo. Elizabeth sounds great, but her reservation calendar says nothing open my week in October (since every day in the weeks before and after are open, I'm guessing this is a vacation week).

      Next did write back to confirm the prices will be $245-255++. What a disappointment. I could eat at Goosefoot AND Schwa (combined) for less. And I may do just that.

      I got a 6pm Rez at Goosefoot, and since that's like 7pm for us, that should be fine, so long as we can cab it out there.

      I'll start dogging Schwa for the other open slot. Or maybe something more traditional like North Pond to round things out.

       
      1. re: non sequitur

        Yes, it does appear that Elizabeth will be closed that week; Elizabeth does often take a week off when transitioning between seasonal menus - that appears to be the week in between the summer and fall menus.

        Schwa can be a lot of fun, but another place just slightly more expensive (also BYOB) that has a similar vibe but is more reliable is El Ideas. You might want to take a look at them. While Schwa can be so mind blowing that it falls into the one of the best meals you've ever had category, it occasionally can be a real dud or one can even have their reservation cancelled on last minute. I have dined there three times; two were absolutely amazing but one was a waste of time/money; also two of the three times I had to reschedule as they cancelled on me day of (one of those occasions just over an hour before my reservation). El Ideas is so much fun; like Schwa modern, interesting food (though less sweet components); El has an open kitchen and you can hang out in the kitchen between courses chatting with and observing the chefs. Each course is presented by the chef who created that particular dish. Been five times now and each has been amazing. Like Schwa it is still edgy and energetic, but a bit more refined and a lot more dependable. Only negative is the location - you definitely need to take a cab there. For an out-of-towner or for a special occasion I feel El is a better choice than Schwa, but Schwa sure can be fantastic.
        http://elideas.com/

        North Pond is solid, but you do not need to worry about booking the second reservations are released; they do not tend to sell out far in advance. Wonderful ambiance there (especially if dining while still light and you are seated in the back room which has wonderful views). Consistently good food, but not the same type of memorable, unique dining experience like at Schwa, Elizabeth and El Ideas and service is not always the warmest.

        Glad you scored the Goosefoot reservations; that is really a gem.

    2. Just a few points to add...

      Sounds like you're looking at it the right way - taking into account the bottom line, including not only the food, but also the wine/corkage (which can vary depending on your preference), plus transportation for places not close by.

      In evaluating transportation costs, you may want to consider taking public transportation to some of the more distant restaurants. For example, from the Hyatt to Goosefoot, you can walk four blocks to the CTA Brown Line elevated train, and take it to the Rockwell stop, two blocks from Goosefoot; that would cost $4.50 for two people each way, compared with $30-35 for a cab. Your choice.

      It may be worth calling some of the restaurants that are not BYOB to ask what their corkage policy is. Some may permit you to bring your own but charge a corkage fee (sometimes as much as $35/bottle) that is not inexpensive but may make it worthwhile to do so. Sometimes they allow it but do not permit bottles the same as those on their own wine list.

      TRU - which is one of the very best on your list - is the only place you're considering that you can walk to, so there's no transportation cost. Of course wine will cost more than a BYOB place, but maybe they permit BYO with a corkage fee (as noted above). If this is a possibility, there's a good wine store, Un Cork It, which is sort of on your way walking from the hotel.

      I don't know what is going on with North Pond and why they are not taking reservations for October yet; that may be worth a phone call too.

      Two places you have not mentioned, that may be worth considering, are Acadia and Naha. Acadia, which is in the South Loop two miles south of the hotel, offers a tasting menu as well as a la carte selections, and Chef Ryan McCaskey is among the top chefs in town. So is Carrie Nahabedian of Naha, which is a 10-15 minute walk from the hotel, so no transportation cost. I don't think Naha offers a tasting menu (although you could call to ask whether they can do one for you), but the service, food, and atmosphere are comparable to the best places in town. My favorite places for a special occasion dinner without breaking the bank - where you can have a nice dinner including moderate alcohol and tax/tip for $100-130ish per person (but more than that for the tasting menu) - are North Pond, Naha, and Acadia.

      You have also not mentioned Sixteen, and it might be worth considering also. But it is more expensive than some of the others (e.g. North Pond, Naha), and IMHO it is good but not as good as others (e.g. TRU). It is only a block from your hotel, so it too has no transportation cost. Also L2O, where I have not eaten recently, and which is three miles from the hotel.

      Regarding Elizabeth, it is true that you can sometimes find relatively inexpensive seatings, particularly for weekdays and early hours. However, the cost of wine may not be such a bargain; for example, their wine pairings are $100. At a recent dinner there, we thought some of the dishes were quite delicious, but others not so much, although all were creative and fun. It is as far away as Goosefoot, so transportation costs may be an issue there as well (although it is close to the Western stop on the CTA Brown Line). Like Next, Elizabeth sells tickets in advance. Oh, and I highly doubt that Elizabeth will ever receive a second Michelin star; although the food is creative and some of it very good, Michelin places an equal emphasis on service and d├ęcor, and that's not what Elizabeth is all about (it's more about being casual and fun). It's just not the kind of place that receives two Michelin stars (e.g. L2O, Sixteen, Grace).

      Based on what you say you are looking for, I recommend concentrating on TRU, Naha, and North Pond, with a call to the latter to find out why they don't show availability on Opentable.

      8 Replies
      1. re: nsxtasy

        North Pond takes reservations six weeks out.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          FYI Michelin ONLY considers the food when doling out stars; service, beverages and decor/ambiance are non-factors. I agree that Elizabeth is not yet at the multi-star level - there are still some inconsistencies and a greater percentage of the courses need to have that "wow" factor, but Chef Regan is young and steadily improving (I have dined at least once each quarter since Elizabeth opened and am so impressed with the growth I have seen); in a couple of years I think she has a real chance at a second star and would love to see that occur.

          http://www.michelintravel.com/micheli...

          1. re: nsxtasy

            The train directions and "un cork" suggestions are GOLD nxstasy! Thanks!

            North Pond, as VaPaula notes, is 6 weeks advance, which gives me another week to mull it over. But with Girl/Goat and Goosefoot nailed down, I'm well on my way.

            Sixteen and TRU, both still on the shortlist, are more on the formal side. Since I'm not going to Next or Alinea, I'd hoped to leave the jacket at home, and I don't think that's an issue at Schwa or Goosefoot. Not sure about North Pond. Not that formality is a deal-breaker, but Schwa is more intriguing to me than Sixteen.

            Naha looks to have a $25 (!!) 3-course lunch, so at that price I'd even take the kids while wife is stuck in conferences. I wonder if that is a summer-only promotion? (see lunch menu at http://naha-chicago.com/?post_type=me...)

            1. re: non sequitur

              >> Sixteen and TRU, both still on the shortlist, are more on the formal side. Since I'm not going to Next or Alinea, I'd hoped to leave the jacket at home, and I don't think that's an issue at Schwa or Goosefoot. Not sure about North Pond.

              "Business casual" attire prevails at North Pond; no jacket required. Not that it would be out of place, but you'll usually see more gentlemen without jackets than with them. The same is true at Goosefoot, although the last time I was there my recollection was that there were slightly more men with jackets than without. Either way, though, you can definitely leave the jacket home for either. Not with Sixteen or TRU, though.

              When making reservations at North Pond, include a request to be seated in the front room with the full-length windows facing the pond. (I think this is the room that Gonzo calls the "back room" but I consider it the front room; the other room has an open kitchen but otherwise not much of a view.)

              >> Naha looks to have a $25 (!!) 3-course lunch, so at that price I'd even take the kids while wife is stuck in conferences. I wonder if that is a summer-only promotion?

              I believe they've had that for a while, and it is definitely a great promotion and a true bargain.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I made that request twice at North Pond for this past Sunday (well once via the reservation on OpenTable, and when asked if it was a special occasion when they called to confirm the day before.) I know they can't guarantee anything, but we ended up in a booth which felt like a diner to me. Disappointing for an anniversary dinner. Anyway, I swapped seats with my husband so I could at least see the room and not just the host/ess stand. The front room was full.

                Much to my chagrin, some were dressed well below business casual - and after I swapped seats, I got to see two guys in shorts and sneakers, and one in flip flops in my direct line of vision - so the diner again, ha ha.

                Regardless, the food was very good, despite some of the plates just having way too much going on - for me, anyway. Service was excellent. But had we not walked around a bit outside, we never would have known there was anything special about the space/ambiance.

              2. re: non sequitur

                I posted this twice but it didn't take! NAHA offers tasting menus for $135 with wine pairings for $65 ( 7 courses). I offer that guests can make suggestions for what they would like to have on the menu. Our newest restaurant up the street Brindille serves refined Parisian cuisine in a very sexy intimate upmarket setting. In addition to our menu, we offer an 8 course tasting menu for $150 and wine pairings for $75. Custom as well, just like NAHA. Our $25 lunch menu is the best in town.... Changes during the year.
                Carrie Nahabedian

                1. re: Cnaha

                  Thanks, Chef, for sharing your time and posting the facts. I hope to see you on here in the future.

                  1. re: Cnaha

                    The summer menu looks great. I am rarely downtown on weekdays, but have stand by jury duty at the Daley Center next week. If I am called in to serve will definitely have lunch at Naha assuming they grant me a sufficient lunch break.

              3. Chicago hounds... I'm from NYC but always enjoy reading about other major city's restaurant happenings.

                Can someone explain to me why the Tribune critic, Phil Vettel, keeps on reviewing all of Next's menus? 4 stars for "Bistro" - no surprise there.

                http://www.chicagotribune.com/enterta...

                Trio menu: http://www.chicagotribune.com/enterta...

                Modern Chinese: http://www.chicagotribune.com/enterta...

                So if Next does 3 menus per year, that means Vettel is "wasting" 3 reviews per year that he could do on other restaurants. I'm torn - if there were a restaurant like Next in NYC, I don't know if I'd want to read 3 yearly NYT reviews on it versus an opinion on 3 new restaurants or re-reviews. We get the gist by now - it's a very good restaurant and whatever they put on their menu is going to be top-notch (4-star-ish level).

                Perhaps it's just about readership/page views? By the time Vettel gets his review out, all the tickets for that particular menu have probably been sold. So it's not like people will read his review and then decide they can get into Next for that menu. Perhaps people just like reading about what the new menu is about and getting clicks?

                So I know Chef Achatz and crew get upset at Michelin hasn't given it a star ever. I believe Michelin has said that Next is like a new restaurant every time it changes its menu, plus previously they had a difficult time getting in (you can't review if you haven't eaten there). So by their logic, you can't give it a star because the next year will have completely different menus/concept. But then Vittel is treating Next like a new restaurant every time too which is validating Michelin's concerns.

                I guess you can't have your cake and eat it too, as the saying goes.

                5 Replies
                1. re: deepfry7

                  Who cares which restaurants are reviewed? Newspaper or magazine restaurant critics in Chicago have only vestigial influence. Chicago Magazine had a major impact, but it ended in the last century.

                  The dining section in the Tribune today followed the bistro theme with mini-reviews of seven bistros in city and suburbs. Vettel wrote three while Kevin Pang and a new person wrote two each. I suspect that Kevin Pang probably drives more restaurant business than Phil Vettel even though K P makes no effort to conceal his identity and specializes in more reasonably priced and often somewhat offbeat restaurants.

                  For better or worse Check Please on WTTW probably has more influence then Phil Vettel.

                  1. re: deepfry7

                    Next is a marketing gimmick, period. They're guaranteed (is the idea) three bigtime reviews per year, cause see they're different restaurants each time! Whereas Everest, Blackbird, Spiaggia, etc etc etc are the "same old place" year in year out ...

                    1. re: deepfry7

                      Many locals have been asking the same thing. It does seem strange that Vettel (and a few other critics) go back and rave about each menu when other places like Elizabeth and Sixteen completely change their menus several times a year and don't get repeat visits.

                      If I had to guess, page views are probably a factor. When Next was the hot ticket, everyone wanted to know about it - even people who had no interest and would never spend $40 on dinner, let alone hundreds, knew about Next.

                      They're now facing a backlash - tickets are now easy to get, especially non-prime times, and Trio tickets were selling at a huge discount on the secondhand market (haven't looked into Bistro yet). I think those not really into food still know about Next and read about it, while many of the former subscribers seem to get a kick out of reading the reviews while rolling their eyes.

                      I've been to just about every Next menu, some twice, and the food really is inconsistent. I think Michelin claims to rate on food only, but service is also hit or miss.

                      1. re: chris

                        Surprise!

                        http://www.chicagotribune.com/enterta...

                        I'm not from the area (but like to read what's going on in other cities), so nice tidbit, Chris, that the tickets are now easy to get or selling at a discount. I somehow missed your response a few months back.

                        I had tried to get into the elBulli one, but missed the cutoff. Kind of glad I didn't spend all that money to fly to Chicago and go. I rather take that money and go to Elizabeth, el Ideas, etc. next time I visit.

                        1. re: deepfry7

                          I keep looking for the word "Advertisement" at the top of the page, but can't find it. ;)