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Boinsoiree or Table Fifty two

I admit I am partial to Bonsoiree, after all they catered my wedding and I had my rehearsal dinner there. The dining experience is fantastic there, given how intimate it is, and it is BYOB which is a huge bonus with a really nice meal.

I had a good meal at Table 52, but not memorable enough to return, especially after they crammed three of us into a two top against the wall with two of us on the bench side of a small table when I had a reservation WELL in advance. The food there was good, but if you want something slightly more unique and romantic, I would go with Bonsoiree.

Jul 24, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Have lots of wine...need new BYOB ideas...

I just got married and I have a ton of wine leftover from the wedding! Because I've been preoccupied with wedding planning, I've been a bit out of the loop on any new BYOB's that might have opened this summer! Any suggestions would be helpful, even better if it's close to Old Town or near an el stop!

Jul 09, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Please critique my Memorial Day weekend agenda!

You SF Chowhounders are awesome! There will be 5 total in the group that is making the trip out to Napa, so not a huge group. I'll be looking into your suggestions and adjusting the itinerary shortly. Again, I appreciate all the suggestions! As you can tell from the fact that I'm planning my meals months in advance, I am very excited to visit your fair city!

Mar 25, 2009
jn2001 in San Francisco Bay Area

Please critique my Memorial Day weekend agenda!

I'm going to be in SF for Memorial Day weekend for a fun weekend get-away before my wedding. I've reviewed some of the posts on this board in order to put together an agenda that I hope is sophisticated, fun, and delicious.

I'd love some feedback on my choices or additional suggestions to steer me in the right direction, because one thing I did not research is where these places are located. My friends and I are staying at the Westin San Francisco Market Street (50 3rd Street), and we will not have a car, but are willing to take reasonable cab rides (i.e. not 30 minutes) for good food! My friends and I are from Chicago and we love to eat, but some of us have lost our jobs, so I'd *prefer* to keep most of the meals to no more than $50 pp including some wine, if possible. Here goes:

Friday late lunch - Tartine
Friday dinner - 1550 Hyde or L'Ardoise or South Park Cafe
(I'm really trying to go for a neighborhoody place with great food, but it would be nice if we didn't feel completely out of place looking a tad dressed up)

Saturday morning - would like any suggestions for a place to pick up some breakfast snacks or pastries for the ride to Napa.
Saturday lunch - E'toile at Domaine Chandon. (I know there are other great choices for lunch in Napa like Ubuntu, but we're taking a limo up there and also visiting Domaine Chandon, so this works out well. If there is a really compelling reason to avoid E'toile however, please chime in)

Saturday dinner - we'll likely be exhausted from wine tasting, so maybe ordering in (pizza?) or something else fairly low key. Any suggestions?

Sunday brunch - anyone been to brunch at Canteen? I couldn't find their menu for brunch online to assess pricing or food options. Either that or dimsum?
Sunday dinner - Aziza. This is going to be our dressiest dinner night out. Does the atmosphere at Aziza jive with that?

Monday lunch - The Slanted Door. I eat Vietnamese food religiously in Chicago, but my friends are newbies to the cuisine. I have to admit to a bit of sticker shock at the prices on-line, but I was having some trouble finding other good options that were open for lunch on Monday.

Thanks in advance!

Mar 24, 2009
jn2001 in San Francisco Bay Area

Need suggestion for romantic restaurant, impeccable food and service.

Spiaggia would also be a good choice - I've had romantic dinners there and found the food and service to be spectacular. I also requested a table by the window with a view of Michigan Avenue and it set the mood perfectly.

Mar 24, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

family, friends, fish, fun!?

Glenn's Diner is probably a lot more casual than you desire, and the drink menu probably leaves much to be desired (I think they just have some wine), but it's reasonable, relaxed, and has fresh seafood:

Mar 16, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Delicious, affordable wedding food?

I realize this is all relative when it comes to weddings, but define "fairly inexpensive...."

Feb 11, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Need help planning weekend in Chicago!

I would strongly recommend M. Henry as the brunch/breakfast choice. I just ate there over the weekend and I'm still thinking about their winter brunch plate...bacon and squash crepe...yummy...

But I digress. A trip out to Oak Park for some Frank Lloyd Wright action might be fun for an architecture buff! As for food, I've always been a big fan of Avec, but I tend to take people there later in the night (after 10) esp if we've been eating most of the day already. I probably wouldn't go there during the dinner hour since the wait would be annoying.

Feb 03, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Farmerie 58

I have been to Farmerie 58, as well as the other restaurants suggested in the other responses and I can say do NOT waste your time at Farmerie 58. Based on the service alone, I never got the impression that the servers knew, much less cared where anything on the menu came from. The menu is interesting, in the fact that there are "bistro" type items (for lack of better terminology) and sushi. I found this to be an odd assortment, and the end result was that nothing we ate was very noteworthy.

Do yourselves a favor and go to Mado, Lula, or North Pond. I have had great meals at all of these restaurants. I think it depends a lot on the type of place you're looking for. North Pond is definitely great food, but again, a more romantic and less casual environment. Mado and Lula both have a more casual and "neighborhoody" vibe, which is why I love them.

Jan 08, 2009
jn2001 in Chicago Area

boston hound needs your help

Not sure how far west your office is on Monroe, but here are some options that are within a few blocks of Jefferson and Monroe. Check out these menus:

I've eaten here on a Friday night (with a reservation) but the room was not packed, so I would assume that mid-week you should be okay.

This might be harder to get a table mid-week, but it's worth a try. These also might be on, so you might be able to easily check if you can get a reservation!

Dec 16, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

? re: The Mia Francesca group of restaurants

I was in the same situation - a Francesca's gift card brought us to Francesca's Forno near the Damen/Milwaukee/North Ave intersection, and unfortunately the meal fell squarely into the "I never would eat here if I had to pay my own money" category. Our pasta dishes were so completely bland and uninteresting that we had to ask for marinara sauce to add to it. That and this location was inexplicably packed to the gills, so our service was completely lackluster and the restaurant was really really loud.

Friends of mine have been to the location in Naperville and liked it, if that helps.

Dec 16, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Where do you take visitors to Chicago?

I don't know what "truly Chicago Area food" means, but these are my go-to places with visitors:
- Avec - I can't get enough of the chorizo-stuffed dates, and with friends in town, it's a great option when you're out late and want a tasty bite.
- Chinatown for dimsum - (because a lot of my out of town guests come from places where there are very few ethnic restaurants, much less ethnic neighborhoods). Shui Wah is my current favorite.
- Argyle for Vietnamese food, because I can't ever get enough.
- Tango Sur for the meat-eaters, because there's something about that outdoor seating in the summer, BYOB, and lots of meat that people love.

Dec 04, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Appetite Stimulus Plan (Restaurant Week)

I went to Le Lan this week for this deal, and the three courses was ANY soup or salad, entree, and dessert (except the cheese plate) on the menu. A great deal, in theory, but after a few tasty cocktails, I walked out of there spending $75 per person. So much for saving...

Nov 20, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Drinks at Sixteen and a dining question

I'm not sure about Sixteen, but if you wanted to have a drink at the Trump Hotel, you could always just go to Rebar, instead of the restaurant. I've just been there for after work drinks, so mostly everyone was in suits.

Nov 20, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Truffle Butter in Streeterville?

I would consider this walking distance, but I'm pretty sure I just saw some at Williams Sonoma at 900 N. Michigan.

Nov 20, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

River North/East - running out of ideas?

For your next trips, it might be good to check out Eve, located at 840 N. Wabash.

Eve opened recently and is affiliated somehow with Tallulah in Lincoln Square, (which I've enjoyed as well). I found the decor at Eve to be very elegant, and my friends and I all enjoyed our meals. The three of us had the pranws to start with, scallops, short rib, and monkfish for entrees, and shared a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The total damage was about $60 per person after tax and tip. I was the one who ordered the shirt rib, and it was a very generous portion that I found to be quite tasty! An enjoyable meal, and probably worth checking out the next time you're in town!

Nov 19, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Locavore/veg options in Chicago

Mado might be worth looking into. I seem to remember reading that the chefs/owners were really focused on locally sourced items for their menu. That said, you might want to call and verify about the sustainable and responsible meat requirement. It is located in Bucktown and easily accessible by several buses or the blue line.

Nov 04, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Is Spiaggia overrated?

Spiaggia is fantastic, and in my opinion, not overrated. If you are looking for a great dining experience, I feel you will not be disappointed if you keep your reservation, as long as you set realistic expectations about how much you will be spending to dine there!

Oct 27, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area


I had an enjoyable meal at Province over the weekend. My dining partner and I had the smoked sable ceviche, which we both really liked, the shrimp grits, which were decent (not sure if I'd re-order, but then again, grits aren't really my favorite in general), and the rabbit confit (from the "big" section of the menu) and smaller portion of the lamb (from the "bigger" section of the menu). There are several items on the "bigger" section of the menu that you can get in a smaller portion size, one of which was the lamb, and we found it to be a nice sized portion. The rabbit confit was tasty, but I didn't feel as though it was a "lunch-sized" portion. Nonetheless, everything was sized so we could try several things from the menu so it all worked out for the best! We had the pear tart for dessert, which was okay. All in all, the total tab came to $100 after tax and tip and including wine, so not too bad!

Oct 27, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

New to Chicago

I've eaten dinner at Boutique and wasn't crazy about it...just one data point however, and it wasn't brunch. Two places that I've been wanting to try for brunch are M. Henry and Sweets and Savories. I have not been to M. Henry, but Sweets and Savories is one of my favorite places for dinner, so I would guess their brunch can't be all bad! You should be able to find some posts about both places that might help you make up your mind.

If you feel like trying something different, I'm partial to dimsum in Chinatown (at Shui Wah) or Vietnamese food on Argyle (Tank Noodle) for my brunches. Both are easy trips on the red line if you feel like exploring some of Chicago's Asian neighborhoods!

As for post-show appetizers and drinks, Avec is my favorite for a little late night treat. It's open late (I think 1am on weekends) and serves great food (small plates) to go along with some great wine.

Oct 23, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

New Yorker Coming to Chicago for 1st Time

Later meal -
Avec is my favorite for those later meals because it's open late. If you show up around 10, you can still expect a wait, but I'd guess it's a shorter wait than if you came at dinnertime. It's communal seating, no reservations accepted, small, and bustling, and I love the food.

Maybe for something a little different than standard Chicago fare, you can take the el north to Argyle (red line - Argyle stop) and grab a casual meal at one of the many Asian (mostly Vietnamese) restaurants in this area. Sun Wah and Tank Noodle are my favorites here.

Oct 16, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

First Chicago trip

I think that Spiaggia would be a great choice for your Italian/fine dining night out!

For more casual, I have a few recommendations:
Urban Belly - a small dumpling/noodle shop
This place is a long cab ride from the mag mile (perhaps 15+ minutes) has communal seating at four large tables, and gets crowded fast. However, you MIGHT be able to call ahead for your large group (not sure, I've never done it), it's BYOB, and the food is awesome.

Sweets and Savories
To me, this place is really great food in a comfortable and casual environment. Still a cab ride from your home base, but well worth it, in my opinion.

Argyle & Broadway area:
This area on the north side of the city is about a 15 minute ride on the CTA red line from the Michigan Avenue area to the Argyle stop. There are a lot of Vietnamese/Asian restaurants here - my favorites are Sun Wah and Tank Noodle (Pho Xe Tang), which are both on Argyle right by the el stop.

For fine dining, I would recommend Blackbird:

Sep 25, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

DCite Visiting Chicago for the First Time

Welcome to Chicago! If you want some fun neighborhoods to walk around in, Bucktown/Wicker Park and Old Town might be fun to check out. Not sure where you're staying, but for Bucktown/Wicker Park, you can just ask a cab to take you to the North Avenue/Damen/Milwaukee intersection, and pretty much walk in any direction from there. You'll find lots of nice boutiques to browse in. As for Old Town, a cab to the North Ave/Wells St. intersection would be a good starting point.

I'm not so well versed on the lunch/cafe scene, but a few recommendations I had for dinners on the company tab would be:
- Blackbird
- Graham Elliot
- Sepia

If you and your husband get a chance to get away and you'd like a romantic place for dinner, North Pond is an excellent choice!

Sep 17, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Anniversary...where to go for a drink b4 dinner?

I haven't been to Sixteen, so I don't know if it's a good place for just a drink or not. I have been to the bar at the Trump, and it felt like an overpriced hotel bar.

I'm going to second the terrace at NoMi, weather permitting. I went there on a special date night, and it was really really nice. Expensive, no doubt, but definitely romantic and special.

Sep 12, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Graham Elliot prices

I dined there for a business dinner soon after they opened, and including wine, cocktails, apps, entrees, dessert, the tab was over $100 per person (before tip). I'm sure people would have exercised more restraint if dining on their OWN dollar rather than the company's, but that should give you an idea of what it will run you if you splurge.

Food was great, service was outstanding. I'd put it in my "definitely worth a visit, a tad too pricey for a return visit" category.

Sep 10, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Help planning ONE evening in chicago

Since you threw out Violet Hour (which I love, by the way) I took a stab at throwing out some suggestions in the Bucktown/Wicker Park area, all of which should be reasonable walking distance to each other.

Dinner -
Spring - pretty elegant, with good food, and this is the pricier of the two ideas I have here. It has been a long time since I have eaten here, but I really liked my meal. It's seafood-focused.

Mado - more casual, with the whole exposed brick/chalkboard menu thing going on. I had a really enjoyable meal here - most things are sized so they're shareable, and it was still BYOB. You might want to call ahead to see if they're still BYOB.

Dessert -
Hot Chocolate - I have never been, but this is a popular spot in the neighborhood for dessert!

Post dessert people watching -
Chaise Lounge has a nice outdoor area that I've enjoyed for people watching, but there's not anything in the way of dancing.
There's a ton going on in the neighborhood, so I have a chance you won't have trouble just walking around and finding a place to pop into.

Happy visiting!

Sep 10, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Bachelor party weekend

For a group of 10 guys, a Brazilian steakhouse sounds like a good fit. ZED451 is new and fun, and it has a great rooftop bar. I haven't eaten there, but it might be worth checking out.

As for non-Brazilian steakhouses, Chicagoans have a wide array of opinions when it comes to what steakhouses are best. Not a steak-eater myself, but my friends like Gibsons, which has an atmosphere conducive to bachelor party reveling.

Aug 26, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

birthday.anniversary dinner

Upon reading your post, my initial reaction was that Spiaggia would be perfect. I think that with skipping dessert and doing drinks instead of a bottle of wine, $300 or less might be do-able, so it might be worth some consideration, because I think that the food, service, ambience, and view would be perfect for your special occasion. I've taken my Significant Other to Spiaggia before for a celebration, and I think we managed to keep it under $300 and we had an absolutely fantastic meal.

You're pretty much right on the money with your assessments of the other places you've thought sixty blue is great, but I took the CTA there and it definitely felt "off the beaten path." North Pond is worthy of consideration as well, and it would probably cost you less than Spiaggia.

Aug 05, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Chicago Picnic suggestions

I was really excited about a Fox and Obel picnic basket for a concert at Ravinia a few weeks ago and after picking up several of the vegetarian baskets for my friends and I, we were really quite disappointed.

The vegetarian basket consisted of a small fruit salad, a small caprese salad, and three types of bruschetta, which were essentially three pieces of hard bread and what amounted to a teaspoon each of three bruschettas. Maybe there was a cookie involved. It in no way resembled a meal, so if you wanted it to be a meal, then you would have to prepare some supplements, so I would advise you to just save your money and skip it all together. (We picked it up on the way to the train station and actually felt the need to stock up on supplements at the 7-11)

As far as picnics go, if enormous crowds don't detract from your idea of romantic, an evening of wine, music, and a candle-lit picnic at Ravinia might be a good choice!

Jul 31, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area

Chicago Restaurant Suggestions for Labor Day

Here are a few ideas for you, since you seem open to a variety:
Graham Elliot - River North
Mixteco Grill (BYOB) - depending on where you're staying, this may be inconveniently far north
Mado (BYOB) - Bucktown

I second the previously mentioned recommendations as well!

Jul 30, 2008
jn2001 in Chicago Area