Chicago Area Dopers: Restaurant Advice

Hello, all -

I realize this doesn’t exactly fall into the realm of an Earth-shattering cry for help, but I figured hey, the forum title does include the word “mundane.”

In a few weeks, I and my wife will be traveling to the fair city of Chicago as part of a longer driving tour (we’re going to see baseball games at seven different stadiums, a vacation matched in coolness only by the fact that it was my wife’s idea)

Anyway, I would like, while in Chicago, to surprise my wife with dinner at a really good restaraunt; it would be the one extavagant meal we’re allowing ourselves on the trip. Any suggestions? I’m looking for something relatively high end, with great service and great food. We’re pretty much open to any kind of food, so the type of restaurant isn’t a consideration.

Well, thanks for any help anyone can provide.

  • FCF

I would suggest the original Pizzaria Uno but that’s probably not high enough. :slight_smile: If you’re going to be in Chicago in May, try Castaways. If not, try one of the other Stefani restaurants.

AFIK, Castaways has no indoor seating and doesn’t open until May.

For high-end and high-rated establishments, try (though I recommend you call now for reservations):
Charlie Trotter’s [Contemporary cuisine]
Everest [French]
Topolobampo (or its slightly cheaper and not quite as fancy cousin, Frontera Grill - both are Rick Bayless establishments) [Mexican]
Red Light [Pan-Asian]
Spiaggia [Italian]

I’m sure there are others - this city has a ton of wonderful restaurants - but those are the ones that spring to my mind at the moment.

My personal favorite is Ambria. It is high class French but not snooty or chi chi, and because it isn’t trendy, there’s never a “hit or miss” problem. Also a comfortable experience because it is not noisy or too crowded. Classy, traditional and conservative with great food.

Everest, Spiaggia and Topolobampo are also great; Charlie Trotter’s has a great rep but I’m never going back there because of the poor service.

Ambria is excellent.

There is also Spiaggia Cafe, which, while cheaper than the regular Spiaggia, is still pretty high end, and just a little less hoity-toity.

Lawry’s Prime Rib is very good and very Chicago. Be prepared for meat and lots of it. The menu is pretty limited.

Heaven on Seventh is supposed to be marvelous, but I understand it’s a little woo-woo (snobby).

My personal favorite is on Peterson, and it’s called The Fondue Stube. Tiny, and kinda crowded most nights, but very romantic and if you go on a weekend, they have live chamber music.

(Disclaimer - I actually haven’t been to Fondue Stube in a couple years, so this may have changed.)

These are “high end” for me. The food is great at these places, and the atmosphere is pretty good too.


MOD-but avoid the pork. It tends to be dry.

Do you like sushi? Mirai-expensive, but worth it!

Butterfield 8 (yes, like the movie)

Coco Pazzo-reservations strongly, strongly recommended.

Francesca’s-there’s also one on Clark, but this one isn’t as cramped and I find the service is better. Excellent cosmopolitans.

and finally, Marché. It’s over by Blackbird, so you can get drinks at one place and dine at the other, in case you want to experience both.

Happy hunting!

Most of the restaurants people are talking about here can be found in Chicago Magazine’s Dining Guide

I’ll second the recommendation for Topolobampo/Frontera Grill - it’s one of my favorites. Topolobampo takes reservations, but Frontera doesn’t. The menu’s are different, but they share a kitchen.

Ugh - I thought that link gave more than just the star ratings. Anyway, is a good site that will give you more info on any of the restaurants anyone mentions here.

Drinks and sunset in the lounge of the Signature Room at the John Hancock building (95th floor).

Tapas at Cafe Iberico.

Classical Mexican cuisine at Rick and Deann Bayless’ Frontera Grill. (Porcupine and Ferret Herder have noted that Topalobampo is the sister restaurant.)

Dessert at Cafe Lutz:

Heaven on Seven is not to be missed, but it’s a coffee shop, not fancy at all.

I’m drawing a blank - it’s been many years - but what’s that classic restaurant downtown, I want to say “Bergmans” or “Bergdorf” or something like that - they have a creamed spinach dish that is their signature, kind of. Not an exceptionally fancy restaurant, but kind of classy, and a taste of what big busy restaurants used to be like in the Good Old Days before they all got impossibly trendy. It’s probably closed by now.

Ah. It just came to me. The Berghoff. (Links to a photo; lop off the last bits of the url to get to the main site, if anyone wishes.)

I love these old-fashioned big restaurants. They’re dinosaurs, although it looks like The Berghoff is still going strong.

They’re not fancy, but the Portillo’s restaurants have the best vienna beef sandwiches anywhere. Missing one of those is missing Chicago. Go Cubs!

Oh yeah…and Dicks Last Resort. No, never mind that one.

I’ve eaten at most of the suggested places and all are excellent.

As long as someone already mentioned a couple ethnic places, I’m going to reccomend Arun’s for Thai. Not cheap but great. Check out the review the Tribune gave it.

Definitely check out and look for the Chicago board. You will find a wealth of dining info that just floors me.