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Restaurants for two nights

Thanks, everyone. We are going to try for Gjellina (brunch) and Animal (though reservations may be difficult to get -- we're coming this weekend), and are adding Luques to the agenda.

Jul 26, 2011
Kaelin in Los Angeles Area

Restaurants for two nights

Hi all,

My boyfriend and I are heading to LA and need a few recommendations: two dinners, two brunches/lunches.

I know absolutely nothing about LA and, admittedly, have done minimal research. I am going to list my favorite restaurants/restaurant types in NYC, San Francisco, and Chicago. Please give Los Angeles suggestions that are along these lines (if you are familiar). If you haven't eaten at these places, I would describe them as not scene-y, ingredient-focused (duh), really warm and welcoming, pretty small, nice but not formal. No specific cuisine preference.

Chicago: Avec, Publican, Frontera Grill, Hot Chocolate, Takashi
San Francisco: Frances, SPQR, Locanda, Firefly, Bar Tartine
New York: Perilla, Little Owl, Momofuku, Joseph Leonard

Of course, these are rough guidelines (what I love!) but if there is something distinctly "LA" that might fit in here -- by all means, let us know. We are staying in Beverly Hills but have a car.


Jul 25, 2011
Kaelin in Los Angeles Area

Steak House in Chicago??

David Burke's. Not even a question. Though not as "old school" as G&G's in djfpdx. If you go to Burke's, ask for a tour of their dry-aging room.

Dec 06, 2010
Kaelin in Chicago Area

L2o or TRU

I second HoosierFoodie's sentiment -- L2O is the finest meal I've had in Chicago (up against praiseworthy nights out at Alinea, Schwa, Trotter's, etc.). The room, the service, and -- most importantly -- the food were simply transcendent. I hope nsxtasy gives L2O one more go, or else demurs -- his (or her) prolific posts are so rich and informative, but I think that this is one instance where giving a negative warning every single time L2O is mentioned may be a disservice to Gras' gem. Enjoy!

2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

Jul 29, 2010
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Seattle weekend -- long

I've been in Seattle for business during weekdays for the past month and quietly trawled the boards to identify great spots for a weekend stay-over. Wanted to give a review here and to thank all the posters for your help -- we had an outstanding time: your city is a foodie haven!

Long-story short: go to Ethan Stowell's restaurants, try Bottega Italiana gelato, drink at Zig Zag Cafe, have a fish sandwich at Matt's, and visit the Ballard Farmer's Market. I refuse to advertise Cafe Besalu in hopes of limiting its lines on Sundays!

Long-story long:

We were staying downtown at the W and trekked up the hill to Anchovies and Olives. Wish we could have time to stop at Elysian Fields or some of the other brewpubs along our walk -- next time! Overall -- excellent food and space, somewhat spotty service. Highlights included the Tuna Radiatore (pasta with tuna confit, tomato, currants, capers, pine nuts), the Kumamoto oysters (sweet, un-fishy, and "redefine what oysters are", per my boyfriend), and the chocolate budino and basil dessert. The wine didn't pair particularly well but, overall, we were very satisfied -- how could you not be with a meal like that, a direct view of the kitchen for both diners, and a great soundtrack (Pink Floyd, the Roots, the Beatles).


Explored Pike Place Market, following the board's advice to wander around and sample. Our top-notch breakfast bites were the spinach danish at Le Panier and the cardamom hazelnut roll from Piroshky Piroshky. Go early -- we stumbled into Piroshky Piroshky on a whim (well, honestly, our noses took us there) and were so glad we did, especially when we saw the twenty-minute line that had formed by the afternoon.

After visiting Olympic Sculpture Park we made it back to the market at lunch -- a light, perfectly-seasoned halibut sandwich and glass of chenin blanc at Matt's in the Market and Muscat and globe grapes from one of the market produce stands. Also tried a new (to us) fruit: a Grapple -- tastes like a grapy apple and smells identical to grape Bubblicious. Ben was still on an oyster kick so we stopped at Place Pigale and had a half-dozen straight -- these fit the bill for traditional oysters on the half-shell with a shallot mignonette.

[Start to think about moving to Seattle]

Our evening at Anchovies and Olives had been so pleasant that we scrapped plans for Crush and went to Union, another in Stowell's group. The food soared, especially the Kucchi oysters and the pork ragu orrechiette but the real star was the service: our waiter was gracious, funny, creative (came up with an excellent Oregon Pinot Noir pairing), and warm. Union's space is a little generic, but we would heartily recommend it for a high-end downtown meal.

Dessert was at Bottega Italiana -- best gelato we've ever had. We tried mint sorbetto, strawberry-basil sorbetto, and tiramisu.

After-dinner drinks turned into the rest of the evening at the bar of Zig Zag Cafe, where Eric the bartender was -- far and away --the most skilled and efficient cocktail man we've seen (and this compared with the artisan bartenders at Violet Hour in Chicago). We mostly just let him run off-menu with our orders, but the classic Mint Julep deserves particular praise.

Fries at the bar of the W (kitchen open til 1:00) sealed a perfect Seattle food day.


Woke up early and headed up to Ballard/Fremont area for a trip to the Locks. We knew we were on the right track when, on the way to Cafe Besalu, we opened the Travel section of the New York Times and found an article reviewing Seattle bakeries -- and anointing Besalu as the top pastry shop around. It exceeded expectations: lines out the door, beautiful, artful pastries, a croissant with a flaky/chewy texture I didn't know possible, spinach quiche, apple galette, and a super-creamy latte.

Ben and I are both pretty spoiled for farmer's markets (we thought) -- lots of experience at the Union Square Market in New York and the Green City Market in Chicago. Ballard Farmer's Market blew both of those experiences away in the diversity of product, the accessibility of the market, and how well the community utilizes the option. Especially loved the smoked salmon, fresh raw radishes, and the apple cider.

[Begin to talk about moving to Seattle]

We took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island in the afternoon and found Mora Ice Cream. Excellent. I had Chocolate Peanut Butter Moreo Ben had Mint with Shaved Chocolate, and -- as gorgeous as Bainbridge was -- I would have been a happy camper spending the rest of the afternoon sampling other flavors (Cinnamon, Sabayon, Rose Petals . . .).

We had canceled our Crush reservation and wanted to take advantage of all the sun with an outdoor spot. Checked out menus at the Pink Door and Cafe Campagne, we settled on the Steelhead Diner -- more for the location and outdoor patio than the menu. What a fortuitous choice: Ben tried three kinds of oysters -- the Kumamoto and Miyagi were top picks from the trip -- and our salmon panzanella salad and salmon collars were the perfect Pacific Northwest accents for a casual meal. Good by-the-glass wine, too. This is a restaurant that can be something different for everyone.

Trying to stretch the day as long as possible, we moved to Maximilien's for drinks while watching the sunset. Top-notch French 75, even better view.

[Begin to put dates on future move to Seattle]

After that, we migrated into downtown to the Capital Grille for good LBV Port and a Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich (believe it or not, we aren't obese despite all details to the contrary!). A Capital Grille is a Capital Grille is a Capital Grille -- but ask your waiter why there's a giant portrait of Jimi Hendrix in the middle of a clubby steakhouse.

Perfect trip, perfect food, perfect weekend. Thanks, all.

Piroshky Piroshky
1908 Pike Pl, Seattle, Seattle, WA 98121

Pike Place Market
1501 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101

Cafe Campagne
1600 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101

Pink Door
1919 Post Aly, Seattle, WA 98101

Elysian Fields
542 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104

Steelhead Diner
95 Pine Street, Suite 17, Seattle, WA 98101

Zig Zag Cafe
1501 Western Ave Ste 202, Seattle, WA 98101

Cafe Besalu
5909 24th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107

Bottega Italiana
400 NE Ravenna Blvd, Seattle, WA 98115

May 21, 2010
Kaelin in Greater Seattle

Local source for Sea Beans/Sea Asparagus/Salicornia?

The Ballard Farmer's Market on Sunday had a slew of sea beans -- I think it was "Foraged and Found".

May 21, 2010
Kaelin in Greater Seattle

Green Tea Two thumbs up

Funny that you mention Green Tea -- it is my (only) reliable go-to Lincoln Park sushi stop. None of the crazy wait times like you get up the street at Sushi Toro, and more bang-for-your buck than Ponzu or some of the other places on Clark.

The Salmon Don is outstanding -- my dining companion spent some time in Asia and says its presentation is closest to the real deal that he's seen in the States. Green Tea's staff is friendly and accommodating and, as would be expected, sitting at the bar and watching the knife skills in action is a thrill in and of itself.

2407 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

Sushi Toro
2546 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60614

May 21, 2010
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Hyde Park dinner recs

A friend of mine and I will be down exploring the business school at the University of Chicago on Saturday afternoon, and we're looking to finish with a nice meal. I'm a Hyde Park neophyte, so any and all suggestions are appreciated.

Favorite downtown/Northside restaurants include Avec, Publican, and all of Shawn McClain's restaurants; local is always a plus; and we're fine with up- or down-market spots, though nice atmosphere is appreciated -- I'm trying to prove a point on Hyde Park's cultural/culinary attractiveness.

As always, thank you !!

Jan 25, 2010
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Urban Belly replacement

Big Star !!

Paul Kahan's new taco joint in Wicker Park is outstanding. It's a little bit of a scene (e.g. no reservations, open seating policy) but once you get cozy at the bar, it's incredibly affordable -- and just plain incredible. Enjoy reasonable and creative food (fresh, smooth guac, tacos al pastor, pork belly tacos, lamb tacos -- all at $2 to $3 a piece) and everything from cocktails created by Violet Hour mixologists to $1 Schlitz.

Cash only, go early to avoid the rush. Happy birthday !

Jan 11, 2010
Kaelin in Chicago Area

How were recent experiences with Eve?

Not a good experience at all: I ate there in November and it was one of my worst meals in 2009 (especially on a bang-for-buck dimension).

There were five of us in our group: we are all in our early to mid-twenties, but well-versed in food and very well-appointed. I don't know whether our young age was a factor, but we were treated like second-class citizens: 45 minutes between when we sat down and when we got our drinks, another hour between appetizers and dinner, and mediocre food (over-salted, unexciting presentation) to boot. The service was terrible: when ordering drinks, I ordered a gin and tonic with Tanqueray 10 -- they didn't have Tanq 10. Another in our party ordered a French 75 -- the waitress had never heard of one.

For the prices at Eve, I'd rather go to Blackbird, Perennial, Boka, or North Pond anyday!

Good luck!

Jan 07, 2010
Kaelin in Chicago Area

The Lounge at Daniel or.......?

I second the Salon at Per Se suggestion. When I went this past weekend our party of 2 was seated right when we arrived at 9:00 on Saturday. Excellent exposure to the way a Keller kitchen works, same caliber of service, and more manageable than the 9-course tasting menu. I'd liken our experience at the Salon (in length and amount of food) to the three-course prix-fixe in Daniel's main dining room (which remains my top meal ever -- do try to get in if there's a cancellation). Enjoy!

Nov 20, 2009
Kaelin in Manhattan

Not Healthy Manhattan Tour

Just back from a whirlwind 48 hours in New York and have to thank all of you for your help. As you'll see from the summary below, a spontaneous change of plans changed the tone of the trip -- violating both the letter and spirit of the cheap eats law, but certainly in line with pursuit of delicious food and experiences. A (longish) review here:

Friday night, Motorino - replaced Di Fara with Motorino (East Village location) to accomodate friends in the city. Sweet room (tiled floors, pressed tin ceiling, cramped tables), outstanding service, and really good pizza. Someone should nominate Schotland McQuade for best general manager ever / New Yorker I'd most like to have a drink with. Started with the salad and a complimentary serving of the octopus before the main event. The table shared two pizzas: one with sopressata, garlic, and chili oil and the other with brussel sprouts. The crust!! The char!! Amazing! Overall, a great experience though I like the cheese better at Spacca Napoli here in Chicago. Had planned to go to Milk Bar for dessert, but Schotland sent out housemade soft-serve (raspberry and chocolate) for the table, and who can argue with that. An ill-advised order of Insomnia Cookies closed out the evening.

Saturday AM - coffee at Joe's, in the West Village, followed by a cross-town walk to Donut Plant. What a spot. We had a vanilla bean yeast donut and a chestnut cake donut, and ate in while ogling the Coconut Cream yeast donuts, the Blackout cakes, etc. The chestnut was the best donut I've ever eaten.

After continuing our walk down Wall Street, to the end of the island, and back up through Battery City Park and the West Side Highway (all in the rain), Jacques Torres hot chocolate was the ideal antidote. Thick, rich, and aromatic, it bests Mindy Segal's hot chocolate at Hot Chocolate in Chicago for the best I've tried. Plus, the store is worth checking out since the chocolate is all made behind giant street-facing plate glass windows.

Next, a stop at Murray's Cheese Shop and City Bakery because -- hey, why not!?

Saturday evening -- we couldn't decide on a cheap eats spot and decided, at the last minute, to see if we could slip into the Salon at Per Se (eep!). Fortunately, I was visiting my identical twin so her wardrobe worked fine for the occasion. Walking up to those storied blue doors, we had no idea what to expect and figured we would just slip down to Bouchon Bakery if/when Keller couldn't accomodate us but they ushered us right to the bar. We started with kir royales and the best bar food ever: truffled popcorn. The amuse was an "ice cream cone" of salmon tartare: a sesame tuille pastry filled with creme fraiche and a "scoop" of salmon on top. Amazing textures and flavor profiles, especially how the creme fraiche and last bite of the cone were almost sweet. The chef sent out a veloute of parsnip, vanilla bean, and creme fraiche while we waited for our appetizer and we enjoyed the bread service (french, sour dough, and pretzel roll with outstanding Vermont butter and fleur de sel). From the salon's a la carte menu, we shared the hearts of palm salad, I had the duck breast with turnips and bacon vinaigrette, and my sister ordered veal with porcini mushrooms, cheese-filled fusilli, and chestnuts. My duck (with a big Bordeaux pairing) was superb, but the veal composition was Kaelin's Best Bite of Food in 2009 (an annual award: 2008 - maple bacon bread at Charlie Trotter's, 2007 - duck with grits at Aigre Doux -- RIP). For dessert, we shared the sorbets (blood orange, passion fruit, key lime, and manjari chocolate -- and a taste of the coconut sorbet from the gentlemen sitting next to us with whom we shared great conversation). The mignardises included pates de frut (passion fruit and rasberry), almond nougat, and 72% house-made chocolates. We traded our pistachio nougats for never-ending caramels from our Salon-mates. Of course, in case that wasn't enough, the staff then brings out perfectly presented cakes (chocolate, vanilla, and another layer I can't recall, with apricot jam) for breakfast the next morning, tied with a per se ribbon. In addition to the excellent food, I can't thank the restaurant enough for the gracious, approachable service. Our server, Alicia, was so open, knowledgeable, and fun, Michael the maitre'd (?) was a delight. We learned so much about per se from them and it truly enriched the experience.

Sunday -- given the night before, we backed off our agenda and enjoyed a calm brunch at Cafe Morandi, in the West Village. It was fine but, like my experiences at other Keith McNally places, felt a little formulaic (even if he is the originator of the formula). At this point, after a run, yoga, little sleep, and too much alcohol our bodies were pretty run into the ground so we eased off. Made the trip up to Morningside Heights to visit Columbia. We window-shopped many little restaurants along Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway: expect an upcoming post requesting recommendations in that area.

Finally, tucked into a perfect neighborhood restaurant for dinner: the New French, in the West Village, where we finally took care of ourselves: lots of veggies in the New French salad and bowls of fragrant, spicy pho (mine topped with chicken, Sarah's with brisket -- yum).

And that's all she wrote. Notable oversights this time around: Shake Shack, fried chicken at the Red Head, great French Toast, and street food. Perhaps I need to plan a trip based entirely around itinerant culinary offerings (e.g. Van Leeuwen's Ice Cream, Waffles and Dinges, the Dessert Truck, halal carts, etc.).

Thanks again for the help -- I love eating in New York.

Nov 16, 2009
Kaelin in Manhattan

Best meal in Chicago, money no issue?!?!

For thin crust: Piece, Crust, Spacca Napoli (my personal favorite, in Lincoln Square), and Great Lakes all get lots of play on the boards

For deep dish: I love Gino's East (the whole sausage patty across the entire pie, that thick, chewy cornmeal crust and sweet/spicy tomato sauce, yum . . . ), but there are plenty of other Chowhound posts that play host to Pizza Wars 2009. Everyone has a favorite spot; they tend to shake-out between Lou Malnati's, Giordano's, the original Uno's and Due's, Pizano's, and Gino's East. Regardless of where you go, call in advance and they can start your pie cooking so that you don't have to wait a full ~45 minutes after you order.

Spacca Napoli
1769 W Sunnyside Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Great Lake
1477 W Balmoral Ave, Chicago, IL 60640

Gino's East
2801 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657

Nov 04, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Best meal in Chicago, money no issue?!?!

L2O, L2O!!

Read Frank Bruni's review of the place and tell me you're not sold:

Alinea is extraordinary, but it is as much "theatre" as it is "fine dining". While I look back in awe on my meal there, most of what I remember has less to do with the food and much more with the presentation. In fact, there were too many dishes where I had to ask myself: if this weren't coming from Achatz, and we weren't told that Achatz is -- by definition -- a genius, would I really think that banana, foam, and salmon roe sounds like a good combination?? The service and aesthetics will blow your mind, but If I were free from fiscal constraints and guided by my taste buds and a quest for elegance, L2O would be the top choice.

As for "locals only" food, how about Xoco??


Though not holes-in-the-wall in the purest form, some of our best restaurants are in neighborhoods that are off-the-beaten tourist path. Lula Cafe, in Logan Square, is an amazing, inventive farm-to-table gem; Urban Belly, Bill(?) Kim's noodle-and-dumpling counter-service BYOB tucked into a strip mall next to a laundromat is absurdly delicious; and there are at least a half-dozen spots in Pilsen that lay claim to the best tacos al pastor north of the border, but I'll let other Chowhounders point you in the exact right direction.

Good luck and enjoy.

2300 Lincoln Park West, Chicago, IL 60614

Nov 04, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Thoughts on David Burke's for Thanksiving?

I second that, chicgail! Glad to see nsxtasy resurface.

Nov 02, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Not Healthy Manhattan Tour

You all are the best.

The Redhead is a must and Wafels and Dinges looks amazing; definitely adding to the list. How about some clarification on the brunch topic, since we'll probably only go to one of those places (202, Balthazar, or Clinton Street Baking Co.)? To be honest, the prospect of Shopsin's intimidates me (something about not wanting to pay to be yelled at while I order and eat), so I think that's out.

As for the burger debate, I've never been to Shake Shack and it's one of those places that those of us outside of New York hear a lot about, so I feel like I owe it a try. That said, Peter Luger may be part of our plans yet . . . I knew the burger was legendary but had no idea that it was also so (relatively) affordable. Of course, that would entail crossing into Brooklyn again, unless we marry the Di Fara and Luger visits, and that just seems gluttonous (as opposed to the rest of the itinerary!).

Also, further help on:

Good beers -
Hot chocolate (not Max Brenner, please) -


Oct 14, 2009
Kaelin in Manhattan

Not Healthy Manhattan Tour

And one more to add, since we can't live on sweets alone.

Top-notch bar bites and good beers (the beers don't have to be cheap) -

Oct 13, 2009
Kaelin in Manhattan

Not Healthy Manhattan Tour

Hi all,

I'm visiting the city in the beginning of November with a sole purpose: cheap deliciousness. No Daniel for us this time -- heck, not even any Momofuku on this go-round. My sister and I will be on a pilgrimage for caloric overload on a budget. We're tossing waistline worries to the wind: this is the itinerary that your mom never would have told you about.

Only parameters: with the exception of Di Fara, we're looking to stay in Manhattan and we're looking for affordable (under $20 per person per meal). We'll be based in the West Village but are fine with public transit and are marathon walkers.

Here's what we're thinking so far -- and please fill in the gaps.

Pizza - Di Fara
Donuts - Donut Plant
Brunch (specifically, French Toast) - TBD (debating between 202, Clinton Street, Balthazar, and . . . ??)
Fried chicken - yes, I realize people may suggest Momofuku here . . . any others?
Burgers/fries/shakes - Shake Shack
Pie -
Porchetta - Porchetta (by default and definition!)
Something near the Met whose offerings square with the trip's intent -
Somewhere near Wall Street (we're there to visit the bull) -
Chocolate -

Other suggestions of must-hit spots?

When this tour is over, expect to see a post about detox and juice diets.

As always -- thanks.

Oct 13, 2009
Kaelin in Manhattan

Gramercy Tavern-esque?

Gramercy Tavern is one of my favorite restaurants, too -- it's hard to replicate, but Chicago does have a few spots that come close. North Pond and Perennial, both in Lincoln Park, remind me of Gramercy in a couple of ways. Both highlight organic, seasonal ingredients (often locally-sourced) and serve refined takes on clasic American fare.

Beautiful rooms -- North Pond takes the cake for its setting in the restored Arts and Crafts-style skating house in the middle of Lincoln Park (the park, literally) -- and gracious service at both.

Good luck!

Sep 27, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Chicago Foodie Marathon 4 days - big aspirations - need advice!

I second Bleeding Heart Bakery, The Gage, and Primehouse.

Sep 16, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Chicago Foodie Marathon 4 days - big aspirations - need advice!

What an exciting premise for a trip! You'll love Chicago.

First, ms. chow is spot-on: Hot Doug's, an "encased meat emporium" would be a place you want to hit ( but unfortunately they are closed from October 3rd-October 20th. One of the charms of Hot Doug's is that its owners are totally hands-on but that also means that if they aren't there, the place shuts down.

Even without Hot Doug's you won't be wonting for great grub. I'll list a few of my top choices here and I know that other CHers will chime in.

Sun-Wah BBQ: hole in the wall Korean near Argyle. A family run joint that serves an amazing four-course Peking Duck meal for $28 dollars all-in (yes, that's right, $7 a person for a party of 4!


Tank Noodle: one of the city's best Vietnamese restaurants, and around the corner from Sun-Wah

Lincoln Park Greenmarket ( one of the nation's finest farmer's markets, in the heart of the actual park near the intersection of Clark and LaSalle on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. One of the chefs at Spiaggia, where the Obamas often celebrate special occasions, will be presenting a demonstration at 10:30 on the 17th.

Hopleaf ( Excellent beer list, excellent mussels and frites, great neighborhood vibe in Andersonville

Pizza! Obviously you'll have to try Chicago deep-dish. At the risk of setting off a tangential debate, I'll put my two-cents in for Gino's East, but others on the board have strong feelings (search for Deep-Dish Debate -- favorites tend to breakdown between Gino's, Giordano's, Pizzeria Uno and Due, and Lou Malnati's). There are minor differences between the chains, but all are totally different than the pizza you're used to!

I also think that there are some slightly nicer places that are incredible values.

Avec ( James Beard-nominated restaurant in the West Loop serving small-plates Meditarranean at communal tables. Outstanding, seasonally-rotating menu and a really fun vibe (and great wine list). Get there early, since they don't take reservations.

The Violet Hour ( In the spirit of a Prohibition Era speakeasy, this spot makes the best cocktails in Chicago (and among the best in the country). Try the Dark and Stormy or the Romeo and Juliet. Wicker Park/Bucktown, where Violet Hour is located, is a very fun neighborhood to walk around, people watch, and window shop. The drinks may be expensive, but they're not overpriced.

Hot Chocolate ( - Mindy Segal does things with sugar and chocolate previously believed impossible. Go here for dessert -- it's near Violet Hour.

Those are my top recs. For some more "hidden gems" check out, which has a section devoted to Great Neighborhood Restaurants ("GNRs") by cuisine and neighborhood.

Let us know any other questions and good luck planning your itinerary.

Sep 16, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Wicker Park Update Bar Hopping/Fine Dining

Mado is pretty delicious -- might be perfect to go there and then head to Hot Chocolate for dessert and then (depending on your stamina) to the Violet Hour for after-dinner drinks. All three of these are heavily featured on the national dining/imbibing scene but none of them are pretentious and all are delicious! Other options include the Bristol, which is a short walk down Damen (great shopping strip that your wife may enjoy) and Takashi, as mountsac mentioned.

For lunch I'd go to Birchwood Kitchen (, a new sandwich shop that hasn't got a ton of play on the boards yet, but check out the menu (the lamb french dip! The speck with celery cream!).

And since you put bar-hopping in the post title, I have to recommend The Bluebird in addition to Violet Hour. Right next door to Hot Chocolate with excellent bar food and an even better beer menu, it might make a nice pre-dessert stop-in.


Aug 30, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Thoughts on The Gage

Yum. Your plans sound delicious. I am one of many Chicago Hounds who will be wishing that we were accompanying you around the city!

The only restaurant that seems to be an incongruous choice is Orange. I like Orange's brunch just fine but it is not markedly better than most decent breakfast places in most big cities. That said, Lula Cafe is an excellent choice and Sweet Mandy B's is worth a stop at any time of day, although their real strength is cupcakes and cakes, not traditional breakfast pastries. Too bad you aren't staying through Sunday -- you could try the brunch at The Publican and report back!

The Gage is a really fun spot. Great menu -- especially the creative entree salads (I love the rabbit salad). Enjoy.

Aug 28, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Help me fill in the blank: L20, ______, Alinea

And the little gem salad. And the aged hams. And the crudo. And the beets. And the ribs. Seriously, I could go all day on this place. Enjoy!

Aug 13, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Grocery Bistro new chef

Worse than the first chef?! Yikes, that should be impossible!

Grocery Bistro was home to one of the most disappointing meals I've had this year. I ate there soon after it opened: the service was cocky, the menu disappointing, and the execution horrendous (my sloppily-presented fish was drowning in a nearly-congealed, over-buttery sauce). The room is a joke (combination of dried flowers, tchotchkes, and a flat-screen LCD fireplace??).

Really, the best part about Grocery Bistro is the charming and tastefully-appointed wine store next door.

Jul 22, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Best Sushi in Chicago for Bostonian?

Mirai is, far and away, my favorite sushi in Chicago. Coast is a great second rec, if price is the main object. As for Kamehachi (where I've had very so-so, unmemorable experiences): I'd rather have expensive, high quality sushi in a fun, beautiful space like Mirai than passable sushi for a little less.

With careful ordering, Mirai is not that much more expensive than other places (and the extra $2-3 for nigiri and sushi or $3-5 for a roll is more than worth it). The chutoro I had at Mirai last weekend was my favorite bite of sushi in the past year! Plus the atmosphere is great: a fun strip of Division and a gorgeous room.

Jul 16, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Need help with decision-North Pond or Avec?

I love your taste, too! All great options (been to all but Sola). Another place you may enjoy is Lula Cafe, in Logan Square. Outstanding seasonal, ingredient-driven, comfortable neighborhood spot with surprisingly elegant food. Regardless, you'll have a lovely meal at any of these spots.

Jul 08, 2009
Kaelin in Chicago Area

Toronto recs for a Chicago CHer

Wow -- you all are the best. I haven't made final choices yet but I'll let you know where I end up. A Portuguese equivalent of the Bayless restaurants sounds amazing: I'm leaning towards Kaiseki and Senhor Antonio . . .

Jun 12, 2009
Kaelin in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Toronto recs for a Chicago CHer

The menus at Kaiseki Sakura and Cava both look great! Can you tell me a little about their respective neighborhoods (e.g. residential v. commercial; walking distance from hotel, etc.)?

About to look up Madeline and Lee and Nyood and Kultura . . .

Jun 11, 2009
Kaelin in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Toronto recs for a Chicago CHer

Hello, all,

I will be in Toronto on Sunday and (maybe) Monday night and am seeking great spots. I've been in Toronto for business for a few nights over the past months -- highlights included Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar; lowlight was Panorama (but what a view!).

Looking for seasonal, ingredient-driven restaurants. I'll likely be dining solo and I like small plates restaurants / high-end gastropubs a lot. I might go upscale one night: the menus for Splendido and Nota Bene looked great, but both are closed on Sunday.

It might be nice to explore Toronto's neighborhoods beyond the immediate downtown. I'll be staying at either the Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, or Le Meridien but am happy to walk long distances.

Thanks in advance!

Jun 11, 2009
Kaelin in Ontario (inc. Toronto)