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Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

I've been to 7 of the 30 (including Hinterland), and I'd say all of them are deserving. I would have disagreed with her if she hadn't dropped Maxie's from the list, but she did.

about 13 hours ago
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

Delicious Chinese near Mag Mile/River North?

Shanghai Terrace is in the Peninsula Hotel (a hotel chain that was founded in and is based in China). It is outstanding, and showcases many of China's regional cuisines. It is a lovely, upscale restaurant - and its downside is, it is priced like one. You can expect to spend $150-200 for a dinner for two, including moderate alcohol and tax/tip. So it's very good for a special occasion, maybe not if you're looking for something more moderately priced than that. http://chicago.peninsula.com/en/fine-...

For Chinese at a more moderate price in that neighborhood, I think the best you're going to do is Big Bowl. They have two locations: one on Cedar near the north end of the Mag Mile, the other on Ohio near the south end. www.bigbowl.com

about 18 hours ago
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

Last month I ate at Bacchus, which is part of the Bartolotta group. I thought it was "thoroughly outstanding in every way", as I posted in my detailed report at www.chow.com/topics/985525

Of course, you won't see a negative review in a "Top 30" article! But not all of her reviews are 3.5-4.0 stars. She gives out a lot of 2.5 stars ("good to very good") and some 2.0 stars ("good"), often pointing out areas that need improvement. (For example, see her review of West Bend Tap at www.jsonline.com/entertainment/dining... ). There's certainly plenty of differentiation between those and the truly outstanding places like Bacchus. I also think it's great that she's giving attention to some excellent places that would otherwise not receive much, such as Pastiche Bistro.

1 day ago
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

Carol Deptolla's 2014 Top 30 List (MKE)

Interesting. I think turnover is a good thing when it reflects new places opening up that are even better than the ones being bumped off the list. But some of the restaurants being bumped off the list seem like they are still deserving (e.g. Crazy Water which I've been to, Wolf Peach which I haven't but has been praised here). Also it's rather sad to see Ratzsch's bumped from the list, given its historical place in MKE's culinary scene. But as Ms. Deptolla notes, she agonizes over those decisions, and I'm sure the newcomers are worthy as well.

Thanks for posting!

1 day ago
nsxtasy in Great Lakes

I've got an offal feeling.

Another excellent restaurant in the Logan Square neighborhood is Yusho, featuring Asian-influenced cuisine, and they too often have a fair amount of offal on the menu. I had dinner there last night and one of the items was a dish featuring beef tongue and veal hearts. This week they opened a second location on the South Side in Hyde Park, and I assume the same would apply there. They have a bar where you could sit also. (I was originally going to dine alone and Opentable let me make a reservation there for one person, which many restaurants don't permit - although some will do so over the phone even when Opentable doesn't.) www.yusho-chicago.com

Other restaurants which often feature offal are Publican and Blackbird; both are Paul Kahan restaurants in the West Loop. And also the Purple Pig, just off the Mag Mile.

2 days ago
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Yet another conventioneer...

Assuming you mean the San Francisco Bay area, anyone visiting from there is likely to find our Chinatown a disappointment (even though it is close to McCormick Place).

Sep 19, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Yet another conventioneer...

It's also possible to walk to Chinatown; it's just under a mile.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

chicago italian near downtown

Also, I think of Petterino's more as a steakhouse rather than as an Italian restaurant (although I realize it's a little of both, like the Rosebud restaurants).

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Yet another conventioneer...

For small plates, my two favorite restaurants are GT Fish & Oyster (mentioned above) and Sable. Sable is less expensive, and most of the dishes are available in half portions, so you can try a lot of things. Absolutely terrific food. And $25-30 of food at Sable is sufficient for dinner, so it's a real bargain. Other small plates places worth considering include Mercat a la Planxa for tapas (oh wait you did that - consider Café Iberico), or Quartino for Italian. Any of these should fit the bill for dinner (as well as for lunch), and fall within your $150 limit.

You're not going to get a full dinner with alcohol and tax/tip at Blackbird (or Boka, either) for anywhere near your $150 limit (it's typically over $200), so I agree with Gonzo - go to Blackbird for lunch if at all. I also strongly second his recommendation of Naha for lunch.

For oysters, go to Shaw's and chat with the folks at their oyster bar. www.shawscrabhouse.com

For Polish food, go to Podhalanka. It's right at the Division stop on the CTA Blue Line. If you need to avoid expensive cab rides, you'll want to get familiar with the CTA el (subway) and bus system. Staying at McCormick Place, which isn't really close to any el stops, doesn't help, so you'll want to pay attention to the rules regarding transfers (you definitely want to pay with a fare card, not cash, so you can get transfers for $.25). www.transitchicago.com

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

O'Hare-Rosemont - help?

Girl and the Goat and Little Goat Diner, which are across the street from each other, are not all that close to any el stops; the nearest ones (Morgan-Lake and Clinton-Green, both on the Green and Pink Lines) are about four blocks away, and those lines don't go to your Embassy Suites hotel, so you would need to transfer. Same thing for bus routes. For four of you over such a short distance, you would probably be better off just taking a cab.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

chicago italian near downtown

I don't think they're quite at the level of the others. Like their former LEY stablemate Maggiano's - not bad at all, just not as unusual or authentically Italian as the others. And, as I mentioned in my first post above, I wouldn't split hairs arguing over these rankings.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

O'Hare-Rosemont - help?

You might want to take a look at the sample menus on their websites, to get a better idea of the difference in food between the two. Also, Little Goat is more of a diner, whereas G&TG is a small plates bar/restaurant, lively/noisy, somewhat cramped seating, active bar area.

Both are around a mile and a half southwest of your downtown hotel, and about five blocks west of the French Market.

Sep 18, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Almond Croissant and Donuts near WrigleyField

FWIW, I haven't been to Payards, but I've been to Dominique Ansel's. And I think the caneles and the kouign amanns at Bad Wolf Coffee are even better than Ansel's.

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Tufano's?

>> The Taylor Street area isn't what it used to be as far as destination dining goes.

No, it isn't; it's actually much, much BETTER than ever before! The Taylor Street area is much improved from the past, and has MORE destination dining restaurants these days. These include not only excellent modern Italian restaurants (e.g. Davanti Enoteca, Three Aces), but also non-Italian places like County Barbecue (which is terrific), Sweet Maple Café for breakfast/brunch/lunch, and the about-to-open Bascule Wine Bar. You should really check it out!

Its resurgence and diversification is similar to that of nearby Pilsen, where longtime Mexican favorites like Nuevo Leon are being joined by newly-opened non-Mexican places like Nightwood and Dusek's.

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

4 nights in Chicago - Sunday choice

While each restaurant is a separate concept, there is some commonality beyond simply their ownership. For example, Giuseppe Tentori was the opening chef-owner at Boka before going on to open his eponymous GT Fish & Oyster. While there have been changes to Boka in its chef and décor - it was remodeled last year at the same time as Lee Wolen was brought in as chef-owner - I'm sure Tentori's influence is still a part of the restaurant's DNA. For example, when I dined there under Tentori's leadership, I experienced some of the best service I have ever observed at a mid-priced restaurant; I expect that they are continuing to follow the high standards he set.

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area
1

Tufano's?

I've never been to Tufano's Vernon Park Tap, so I can't address that part of your request; perhaps others can. But I can tell you that many of the more noteworthy restaurant openings over the past few years have been restaurants serving Italian cuisine. Newly-opened restaurants tend to receive lots of comments, while those that have been around for a while tend to get very few comments. This is true not only of Tufano's, but of other Italian restaurants that are not so new, such as Vivere, Merlo, Stefani's, etc. Lack of comments doesn't necessarily mean anything as far as quality.

And if you're looking for Italian, there are terrific Italian restaurants all over the city. My favorite is Anteprima in Andersonville on the North Side. I also enjoy so many in the downtown area, including Piccolo Sogno and Piccolo Sogno Due, tesori, Vivere, and many others. All of these are casual and easy-going, very enjoyable.

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

4 nights in Chicago - Sunday choice

If you would be interested in an upscale high-end restaurant that would fit your budget, I recommend Acadia. They offer a tasting menu as well as a la carte suggestions. It's in the South Loop. Noise level is quite moderate, should fit your needs very well. Note, there is no signage on the exterior. Opentable says "Please accept our apologies on behalf of Acadia. Online bookings are not available on this date at this restaurant." and I don't know what that means, whether they will accept phone reservations, or maybe it is booked for a private party. www.acadiachicago.com

Here are additional suggestions, keeping in mind your need for a not-too-noisy venue that is available this Sunday:

Sable is another small plates restaurant, one of my favorite places in the city. Terrific contemporary American cuisine, most of the dishes available in half portions so you can try a lot of things, and the food is remarkably inexpensive. Also great craft cocktails. Not terribly noisy, even quieter if they can seat you in their second dining room (to the east of the main dining room) that they sometimes use for private parties. www.sablechicago.com

Piccolo Sogno Due is an Italian restaurant and they do everything well, terrific food with an emphasis on seafood. It's rather spacious and surprisingly not overly noisy for a lively place. www.piccolosognodue.com

Café des Architectes serves contemporary American food with a French influence. Not terribly noisy, located at the entrance to the Sofitel. www.cafedesarchitectes.com

Shanghai Terrace is a very upscale Chinese restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel. The Lobby is another restaurant in the same hotel, serving contemporary American cuisine (and may be the most spacious restaurant downtown, with wide spacing between tables and a ceiling that may be 100 feet high). http://chicago.peninsula.com

(I have not been to Embeya yet. www.embeya.com )

Check out the sample menus on their websites and that may help you make your decision.

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Indian or Vegan near Rosemont

There is an Indian restaurant in Rosemont called Maharaja. I know absolutely nothing about it other than I found it on Google Maps, and they have a website at www.maharajachicago.com

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Almond Croissant and Donuts near WrigleyField

For a good almond croissant near Wrigley Field, go to Julius Meinl. It's about 1/4 mile west of the ballpark at the corner of Addison and Southport. Or, better yet, have brunch at Southport Grocery & Cafe, a few doors south of the same intersection. Southport Grocery is a restaurant and they serve some of the best brunch fare in the city, including their bread pudding pancakes, adult pop tarts, omelets, hash, etc. (I'll be dining there before attending this Friday's game too - and Kershaw is pitching! A perfect day.) www.southportgrocery.com

As much as I LOVE Bad Wolf Coffee - their pastries are absolutely amazing - the selection is very limited unless you are going somewhat early in the morning (and even then, they usually only have around five items of baked goods). They frequently sell out by lunchtime, especially their most popular items, the caneles (which come out of the oven at 10:00) and kouign amanns. If you're going there at 10:00, you'll have some of their best; past 11:00, and you may be out of luck. Also, if you're looking specifically for donuts and croissants, they don't have donuts, and they don't usually have croissants (although the kouign amann is a flaky pastry sort of like a caramelized croissant). Bad Wolf Coffee is just over a mile from Wrigley. www.badwolfcoffee.com

Here are two other places with some of the best French pastry in the city; both have excellent croissants and they are about two miles from Wrigley. Floriole has a wide selection of pastries and desserts, usually including basque cake, kouign amanns (decent but not as good as Bad Wolf), chocolate pot de crème, panna cotta, etc. www.floriole.com The Clybourn location of Vanille Patisserie is about six blocks west of Floriole. In addition to the croissants, they have a wide selection of entremets (individual sized mousse cakes). www.vanillepatisserie.com

If you hit one or more of the above, you may not want donuts too. :) I don't know of a good donut place within walking distance of Wrigley, but here are two possibilities a bit over a mile away, since you'll have a car (which may be an impediment for most of your trip if you're spending it in the city). Glazed & Infused has several locations; the closest to Wrigley is at Armitage at the CTA Brown Line stop. www.goglazed.com Dinkel's is a traditional, full-selection bakery (including donuts) and it's pretty good. It's about a block from Bad Wolf Coffee (see above for tips) so you can hit both at the same time. www.dinkels.com

Sep 17, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

4 nights in Chicago - Sunday choice

Those are three good choices, but you are correct, all three can be lively (which is just another word for loud and noisy).

For your dinner on Sunday, I strongly recommend North Pond, one of the best restaurants in the city. It is simply wonderful in every way. It's unique, and ideal for anyone looking for a "pure Chicago experience", for its setting in the middle of the park, facing its namesake pond and the city skyline. Bruce Sherman, the chef-owner, has won the James Beard Award for best chef in this region, and they have a terrific dessert chef too. It will easily fit your budget, and while it's a friendly environment, it's not terribly loud or noisy either. When making a reservation, request seating in the front room with the full-length windows facing the pond and the skyline. My recent dinner there was the best so far of 2014. Below is the detailed report I posted shortly afterwards (at www.chow.com/topics/976337#8953769 ). www.northpondrestaurant.com

We ate there Sunday night, and our dinner was absolutely OUTSTANDING. It's the best restaurant dinner I've had in 2014, and I'm sure it will end up among my best of the year.

Of course, one attraction of North Pond is its exquisite setting in the park, facing the pond. We had requested seating in the front room, with the big windows facing the pond; apparently so did everyone else, as that's where everyone was, with no one in the rear room with the open kitchen. I just hope their business improves as the weather warms up, as Chef Bruce Sherman is working wonders there.

Still, it was the food that made this dinner so amazing, so I'll talk about that. (Sorry, no photos.) One of the unusual aspects of Sherman's food is that the dishes are plated with the main ingredients pretty much separate. So when a dish is described on the menu as, for example, "Grassfed Beef, Mushroom: New York Striploin Medallions, Short Rib; Beech Mushrooms, Confit Potatoes, Mushroom “Pudding”, Marrow, Pistachios", those are not ingredients mixed together in a single item, but rather, you'll find each of them in a separate place on the plate. As a result, what you're likely to find is that each plate is its own little "tasting menu", with lots of things to try, and odds are high you'll love many and maybe even all of them.

Standouts at this dinner - actually, everything I tried was a standout - included:

"Foie Gras, Ginger: Seared Foie Gras, Gingerbread, Earl Grey Tea Sorbet, Kumquats, Blood Orange, Hazelnuts, Frisée". Just a wonderful rendition. Also praiseworthy because the foie gras portion size was quite generous even though it was only $3 more than some of the other appetizers.

"Beet, Pastrami: Candied Red, Gold and Chioggia Beets; Smoked Pastrami, Sour Cream Panna Cotta, Rye Crumble, Quail Egg, Beet Greens". I loved the juxtapostion of such different textures in this dish. The pastrami was actually rather mild.

"Leek, Apple: Warm Apple-Potato Vichyssoise Soup, Charred Leeks, Mussels, Toasted Pumpernickel, Green Apple Boules". A terrific soup. Interesting to have a warm vichyssoise. And I loved the way the leeks and mussels were floating in the soup.

"Grassfed Beef, Mushroom: New York Striploin Medallions, Short Rib; Beech Mushrooms, Confit Potatoes, Mushroom “Pudding”, Marrow, Pistachios". I love short ribs, and this was one of the best short rib preparations I've ever had. It was all meat, no fat, yet amazingly moist and tender. It was covered with a red wine reduction that is one of the thickest, most concentrated reductions I've ever had. The other items on the plate were all very good as well, but oh, those short ribs! Wow!

The desserts, from pastry chef Greg Mosko, deserve special recognition. These were two of the best, most creative desserts I've had in a long, long time. A lot of desserts are delicious but not unusual, or unusual but not that amazingly delicious, but these were wow-worthy!

"Chestnut, Orange: Chestnut Mousse, Ginger Cake, Orange Segments, Blood Orange Sorbet, Chickory Glaze, Sage". Wonderful. Not mentioned in the ingredients listed - the black pepper meringue pieces surrounding it.

"Coconut, Milk". I'm not sure of the official description of this one because it's the one dish that isn't on their website menu, so let me describe it. In the center was a disk-shaped toasted coconut cake that was very nice. (And since the coconut was toasted, it didn't have the raw coconut chewiness that can be unpleasant.) It was topped with dabs of milk chocolate crémeux. In the center was a small scoop of sorbet whose flavor escapes my memory. There were three thin chocolate tuiles standing up around the sorbet. There was white chocolate powdery crumbs around the cake. And the plate was spread with a yummy ancho cream, which was only slightly spicy but also rather caramel-y in taste. I loved, loved, LOVED this dessert. Bravo, Chef Mosko!

Also worth noting... I had the strongest iced tea I have ever had in my life, and I loved it! I asked about it, and they said it's a black tea from Intelligentsia. Service was excellent - efficient and friendly, yet unobtrusive. Oh, and the bill, including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, was just under $100/pp, which I would consider a bargain for such a special restaurant with such delicious food.

Since this discussion was last active, North Pond was awarded a star from the Michelin Guide.

With new trendy restaurants opening up every week and getting all the attention, it's still worthwhile to stay aware of the places that have been around for a while. Their food may be every bit as good, even though they aren't receiving much media attention any more. North Pond is a perfect example. And even though the setting in the park may be our most common association with the restaurant, the food should not be forgotten. This dinner was thoroughly outstanding in every way. Thank you, Chef Sherman and North Pond!

Sep 16, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Brindelle or Sixteen?

I've been to Sixteen (under its current chef) as well as Brindille. They are different kinds of restaurants. Sixteen serves contemporary cuisine with a choice between a lengthy tasting menu and a four-course prix fixe menu. Brindille serves traditional French cuisine with an a la carte menu. Brindille is significantly less expensive; including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, I've spent around $125/pp at Brindille, $200/pp at Sixteen.

Which would I go to? That depends on what you're looking for. Brindille may be the only restaurant in Chicago serving classical French cuisine (not bistro fare), so if that's what you want, Brindille should be your choice. The food and service are excellent and the décor is contemporary and luxurious.

OTOH if you are looking for contemporary cuisine in a fairly expensive, fairly formal setting - which is what Sixteen offers - then I agree with Gonzo that Grace is a better place to go. Sixteen is pretty good, but with a few flaws; Grace is simply terrific in every way, the second best restaurant in Chicago (exceeded only by Alinea, still the best restaurant in the country but even more expensive). If you'd like to get a better idea of what these two restaurants are doing and what might make them worth paying more for, here are two recent reviews:

Grace - http://eater.com/archives/2014/09/11/...
Alinea - http://chicago.eater.com/archives/201...

If you want to stay within Brindille's price category but you would prefer contemporary cuisine rather than classic French, I strongly recommend Naha (Brindille's sister restaurant, both under chef-owner Carrie Nahabedian) or North Pond. Both offer wonderful food from chef-owners who have won the prestigious James Beard Award for best chef from this region. North Pond accompanies this with its exquisite setting in the middle of the park (when making reservations, ask for the front room with the full-length windows facing the pond and the skyline), whereas the service is a bit more pampering at Naha, although both have helpful and friendly service. These are the two best choices in Chicago for an a la carte special occasion dinner, with the best tasting food without spending as much as at Sixteen or Grace.

Sep 16, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

chicago italian near downtown

The prices at these places don't vary all THAT much from one to another. At all of them, I find myself typically paying $60-80 per person (including appetizer, entrée, dessert, moderate wine and tax/tip), which is basically the upper half of your $75-45 group. So no, the rankings wouldn't change based on price. (I didn't mention Spiaggia, which would significantly exceed that range.) And I don't think you're going to find any nice Italian restaurant downtown where you can expect to have a complete dinner for under $45 including wine and tax/tip. You can do that for lunch, or with pizza, or a few small plates at Quartino or Bar Toma, or just a single pasta dish or possibly entree, but not a complete three-course dinner (app/pasta, entrée, dessert; or app, pasta, entrée), even with splitting one of the three courses.

Even at Anteprima - which is my top pick for great Italian food at a bargain price, thanks to their prix fixe special Sundays-Thursdays, $29 for almost any three courses (and is not downtown) - I usually find myself paying in the $50-65 range, which isn't all that much less than the above group and is still in that same $45-75 range. I'd probably rank Anteprima tops regardless of price for the outstanding food, and not because it's slightly less money than the previous group. www.anteprimachicago.net

Sep 16, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Restaurant suggestions for Chicago Trip 9/30 - 10/4 with 20 month old

>> Any thoughts?

>> Girl and the Goat - Dinner

If you don't already have a reservation there, I would strongly recommend dining when they open at 4:30, so that you don't have to wait a long time to be seated (not good with a toddler who may get antsy).

>> Purple Pig - Dinner

Go early (say, 4:00), before it gets mobbed with dinnergoers (which it will by 5:00).

>> Sable - Dinner

Great choice! Make a reservation in advance; they accept them on Opentable.com

>> Longman and Eagle - Dinner

Another restaurant that AFAIK doesn't accept reservations. Again, you'll want to dine early to avoid waits and crowds (although not as early as Purple Pig); you'll probably find immediate seating at 5:00 when they open or even at 5:30.

>> Lou Malnati's - Lunch

Deep-dish pizza normally takes 30-40 minutes to bake. Since toddlers can get antsy, I recommend phoning ahead with your pizza order. That way they will have it ready at the time you specify, and you can avoid spending all that time seated and waiting for your pizza to bake.

>> Chicago French Market - Lunch

The concern here is not waiting time, but it can get rather crowded on weekdays at prime lunch hours (11:45-1:00), and seating is limited. If you can go slightly earlier or slightly later than that, that will help.

>> Doughnut Vault

I would just avoid this altogether, and go to one of our other donut specialists instead. The DV donuts aren't any better; the only difference is that at DV you'll probably have to wait 30-60 minutes in line, and other places you won't. I recommend instead going to Firecakes on Hubbard www.firecakes.com or Glazed and Infused on Hubbard www.goglazed.com , both of which are closer to your hotel than DV.

>> Any thoughts and feedback on which of Rick Bayless restaurants to go to? Between Frontera and Topolobompo? We would be going for lunch most likely. Both menus look great just don't know what the real differences are between the two. Seems like Topo is the more formalish of the two?

Topo is indeed the more formal, although it's still lunch so not as formal as dinner. Check out the menus on their websites to see which one you find more appealing. And I strongly recommend making a reservation; at this point you also may only be able to get a reservation at one and not the other, so that may make your decision for you. I think both accept reservations on their own websites (as well as over the phone, of course); if not, you can also make reservations at Topo on Opentable.com and at Frontera on cityeats.com If all else is equal, then Frontera Grill may be the better place with a toddler, since it's a bit noisier.

Sep 16, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Grace - Fauna and Flora Menus

>> we both also really like our meat and seafood. A mostly vegetarian menu doesn't really get us too excited.

I would have said the exact same thing; I'm a confirmed omnivore. But I had the flora menu there, just because the dishes sounded better to me (and besides, I was sharing dishes with others at the table who ordered the fauna). IIRC I asked them to substitute one dish from the fauna menu for me. Like you, I was a little bit wary before going, because a vegetarian menu normally wouldn't thrill me, but I was unexpectedly delighted with everything I had.

Also, they will be happy to make substitutions. For example, if you prefer most of the fauna menu, but you would like one or two of the dishes from the flora menu instead of dishes on the fauna menu, they will be happy to do that.

I would suggest going, checking out the menus, and deciding what sounds best to you once you're there. Maybe you'll both want the full fauna, maybe each of you will want one or two substitutions from the flora, or maybe one of you will want the full flora. Whatever sounds best to you, let them know, and go for it!

Sep 15, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Affordable lunch & dinner options in Chicago

>> Between Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan is called Streeterville, while west of Michigan Avenue is River West (many hotels and restaurants in both neighborhoods).

I think you mean west of Michigan Avenue is River North. :)

Sep 15, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Question on crowds at Au Cheval and South Loop suggestions?

I'll second the recommendation for Acadia. The burgers on their bar menu have been widely praised. When seated at the bar, you may also be able to order items off the regular dinner menu as well; you'll have to ask. Note, there is NO signage on the exterior of Acadia.

As another possibility, I had dinner at Gioco a while ago and I enjoyed it. It's Italian. www.gioco-chicago.com

From the Hyatt at McCormick Place, Acadia is 0.8 mile, and Gioco is 1.2 miles. Chinatown is also about a mile away.

Sep 15, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

One very nice (but not bank-breaking) dinner in October

They're all good places, you can't go wrong with any of them. That being said, the Gage is in the Loop, and if you're not already going to be in the Loop, I'm not sure I would bother; it's good but not all that unusual. I haven't been to Tanta; I've heard great things and it's on my list of places to try (which never seems to get shorter, LOL - this is the dilemma for us locals in a city with so many great restaurants).

The choice between North Pond, on one hand, and GT Fish & Oyster and Tanta, on the other, is really a choice between two totally different types of places, as I (as well as others) have already mentioned. All have great food. But it's a choice between a fairly elegant restaurant with a great setting and view, vs a festive casual restaurant. Many folks consider an elegant restaurant to be more appropriate and memorable for a special occasion. Of course, that's a matter of personal preference, and some folks would prefer a lively noisy casual restaurant as a place to celebrate. If I were you, that's the distinction you might want to concentrate on, to help you make your decision.

Sep 15, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

One very nice (but not bank-breaking) dinner in October

>> Since you have to go to Tavern on Rush

Most of the places we're discussing are walkable but not all that close to that Gold Coast area. If you'd like to keep your dinner within a couple of blocks of Tavern on Rush, you might consider Hugo's. Hugo's is a seafood-oriented restaurant, the sister restaurant to the well-known Gibson's Steakhouse next door; they share ownership and work out of the same kitchen. So if you go to Hugo's, you order off the Hugo's menu, which has more seafood choices than Gibson's, but if you order a steak, it's the same steak you'll get at Gibson's. www.hugosfrogbar.com

Two other good choices within a couple of blocks of Tavern on Rush are Café Spiaggia, for Italian cuisine - www.cafespiaggia.com - and Le Colonial, for upscale Vietnamese in an old mansion - www.lecolonialchicago.com And there's also a new Lou Malnati's a block north of Tavern on Rush. www.loumalnatis.com

(I've experienced the same problems at Nico Osteria alluded to above - skimpy portioning on most of the dishes - plus I didn't find the tastes particularly exciting, either. But it's received plenty of hype, and has its fans.)

Sep 14, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

One very nice (but not bank-breaking) dinner in October

>> >> North Pond was on my short list, but I never got there. Is it still worthy?

>> Absolutely - and not just for the lovely setting in the park, but for the terrific food as well. My dinner there was one of the very best I've had in recent years - even better than the dinner I had from Chef Lee Wolen right before he moved to Boka, although that was very good too.

FWIW, here's the detailed report I posted a few months ago ( www.chow.com/topics/976337#8953769 ), shortly after my dinner at North Pond:

We ate there Sunday night, and our dinner was absolutely OUTSTANDING. It's the best restaurant dinner I've had in 2014, and I'm sure it will end up among my best of the year.

Of course, one attraction of North Pond is its exquisite setting in the park, facing the pond. We had requested seating in the front room, with the big windows facing the pond; apparently so did everyone else, as that's where everyone was, with no one in the rear room with the open kitchen. I just hope their business improves as the weather warms up, as Chef Bruce Sherman is working wonders there.

Still, it was the food that made this dinner so amazing, so I'll talk about that. (Sorry, no photos.) One of the unusual aspects of Sherman's food is that the dishes are plated with the main ingredients pretty much separate. So when a dish is described on the menu as, for example, "Grassfed Beef, Mushroom: New York Striploin Medallions, Short Rib; Beech Mushrooms, Confit Potatoes, Mushroom “Pudding”, Marrow, Pistachios", those are not ingredients mixed together in a single item, but rather, you'll find each of them in a separate place on the plate. As a result, what you're likely to find is that each plate is its own little "tasting menu", with lots of things to try, and odds are high you'll love many and maybe even all of them.

Standouts at this dinner - actually, everything I tried was a standout - included:

"Foie Gras, Ginger: Seared Foie Gras, Gingerbread, Earl Grey Tea Sorbet, Kumquats, Blood Orange, Hazelnuts, Frisée". Just a wonderful rendition. Also praiseworthy because the foie gras portion size was quite generous even though it was only $3 more than some of the other appetizers.

"Beet, Pastrami: Candied Red, Gold and Chioggia Beets; Smoked Pastrami, Sour Cream Panna Cotta, Rye Crumble, Quail Egg, Beet Greens". I loved the juxtaposition of such different textures in this dish. The pastrami was actually rather mild.

"Leek, Apple: Warm Apple-Potato Vichyssoise Soup, Charred Leeks, Mussels, Toasted Pumpernickel, Green Apple Boules". A terrific soup. Interesting to have a warm vichyssoise. And I loved the way the leeks and mussels were floating in the soup.

"Grassfed Beef, Mushroom: New York Striploin Medallions, Short Rib; Beech Mushrooms, Confit Potatoes, Mushroom “Pudding”, Marrow, Pistachios". I love short ribs, and this was one of the best short rib preparations I've ever had. It was all meat, no fat, yet amazingly moist and tender. It was covered with a red wine reduction that is one of the thickest, most concentrated reductions I've ever had. The other items on the plate were all very good as well, but oh, those short ribs! Wow!

The desserts, from pastry chef Greg Mosko, deserve special recognition. These were two of the best, most creative desserts I've had in a long, long time. A lot of desserts are delicious but not unusual, or unusual but not that amazingly delicious, but these were wow-worthy!

"Chestnut, Orange: Chestnut Mousse, Ginger Cake, Orange Segments, Blood Orange Sorbet, Chickory Glaze, Sage". Wonderful. Not mentioned in the ingredients listed - the black pepper meringue pieces surrounding it.

"Coconut, Milk". I'm not sure of the official description of this one because it's the one dish that isn't on their website menu, so let me describe it. In the center was a disk-shaped toasted coconut cake that was very nice. (And since the coconut was toasted, it didn't have the raw coconut chewiness that can be unpleasant.) It was topped with dabs of milk chocolate crémeux. In the center was a small scoop of sorbet whose flavor escapes my memory. There were three thin chocolate tuiles standing up around the sorbet. There was white chocolate powdery crumbs around the cake. And the plate was spread with a yummy ancho cream, which was only slightly spicy but also rather caramel-y in taste. I loved, loved, LOVED this dessert. Bravo, Chef Mosko!

Also worth noting... I had the strongest iced tea I have ever had in my life, and I loved it! I asked about it, and they said it's a black tea from Intelligentsia. Service was excellent - efficient and friendly, yet unobtrusive. Oh, and the bill, including moderate alcohol and tax/tip, was just under $100/pp, which I would consider a bargain for such a special restaurant with such delicious food.

Since this discussion was last active, North Pond was awarded a star from the Michelin Guide.

With new trendy restaurants opening up every week and getting all the attention, it's still worthwhile to stay aware of the places that have been around for a while. Their food may be every bit as good, even though they aren't receiving much media attention any more. North Pond is a perfect example. And even though the setting in the park may be our most common association with the restaurant, the food should not be forgotten. This dinner was thoroughly outstanding in every way. Thank you, Chef Sherman and North Pond!

Sep 14, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area

Breakfasts, lunch and a dinner

For the breakfasts, here are three possibilities, all within two blocks of the Hyatt Regency:

1. LB Bistro is the restaurant in the Sheraton just across the river. It's run by a world pastry champion chef. They have an AYCE buffet that has some interesting items. I think someone mentioned this is now only on weekends? You can cross the river on Michigan Avenue on the upper level, or Columbus Drive on the lower level. www.lbbistro.com

2. Eggy's Diner - www.eggysdiner.com

3. South Water Kitchen - www.southwaterkitchen.com

Two more are a couple blocks further, north of the river: Yolk www.eatyolk.com and West Egg Café www.westeggchicago.com (Little Goat is over a mile away, not what you're looking for.)

You'll want to check their hours on their websites to see if they open early enough for you.

For your Monday lunch and dinner, I would suggest some combination of:

a. Sable - Delicious contemporary American cuisine in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails. About 10 minutes walk from the hotel. www.sablechicago.com

b. GT Fish & Oyster - Excellent seafood in a small plates format, combined with innovative craft cocktails. 15-20 minutes walk from the hotel. www.gtoyster.com

c. The original locations of Pizzeria Uno or Pizzeria Due, for our delicious local specialty of deep-dish pizza. Those two original locations still use the original recipe, unlike the franchised locations they have opened up across the country. 10 minutes walk from the hotel. www.unos.com Lou Malnati's may be even better than Uno and Due, but the nearest one is on Wells Street, 15-20 minutes walk from the hotel. www.loumalnatis.com

Sable and GT Fish accept reservations in advance, which I would recommend making.

If you *really* need to keep that lunch close to the hotel, the Purple Pig would qualify (see below) but the waits to be seated, even at lunch, are awful. Maybe if you get there just before they open at 11:30 they might not be so bad...? But if you're really time constrained, there's a Hannah's Bretzel around the corner (233 N. Michigan) with sandwiches and salads. www.hannahsbretzel.com

For your Tuesday late lunch or early dinner on the way to O'Hare, here are three possibilities:

Frontera Grill or Topolobampo - Contemporary Mexican cuisine is a specialty of Chicago and rarely found elsewhere this side of the Mexican border. Rick Bayless's Topolobampo and Frontera Grill are closed on Sundays and Mondays, but both are open for lunch on Tuesdays. 15 minutes walk from the Hyatt. You'll want to make reservations (yes, even for lunch). www.rickbayless.com/restaurants

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. It's open till 3 in the afternoon, and it's right at the Logan Square stop on the CTA Blue Line that goes to O'Hare. www.jamrestaurant.com

The Purple Pig - excellent Mediterranean-influenced small plates. They don't accept reservations and waits to be seated during normal mealtimes are horrendous, but if you can eat there between 1:30 and 4:30 (and it sounds like that fits with your Tuesday schedule), you'll be seated immediately. Under 5 minutes walk from the Hyatt. www.thepurplepigchicago.com

>> What's good in Chicago?

Our most well-known local specialty is deep-dish pizza. But contemporary Mexican cuisine is something done extremely well here, and not very common in other cities this side of the border with Mexico. (Chef-restauranteur Rick Bayless deserves most of the credit for that, as he has mentored many of the chefs who have gone on to open their own restaurants here.)

>> I have heard that Greek food is better in Chicago than NYC.

I'm sure it is, but it's not all that unusual (and, IMHO, not all that compelling). It's not really a unique local specialty, it's just something that Chicago (along with some other cities) happens to have in abundance and NYC doesn't. And it's not as close to the Hyatt as the options listed above. But if you want it anyway, take a cab to Greektown. You can find recommendations in the discussion at www.chow.com/topics/119233 (I know it's an old discussion, but if there's one type of food and restaurant in Chicago that never changes, it's the Greek food in Greektown!)

Sep 13, 2014
nsxtasy in Chicago Area
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