Chicago dopers: Looking for a restaurant recommendation

My lovely wife and I will be in Chicago next week. We’re already planning to get together with area Dopers on Thursday night (details), but we need some advice for another evening.

Because, you see, the event that brings us to town is our fifth wedding anniversary. Naturally, we’d like to have a nice, quiet, romantic dinner on that night. However, I’ve never been to Chicago, and she hasn’t visited in years (it’s her hometown), so we don’t really know where we want to go. I’ve been doing the web research, and I’ve got a few candidates, but I’m hoping for some local feedback.


Romantic. Hey, we like a boisterous Italian place as much as anyone, but not for our anniversary. We’re hoping for a subdued atmosphere, a reasonably private table, low light, unobtrusive service; you know the drill.

Quality. While we’re not snobs, and enjoy pizza and beer at the right time, we can also switch to refined-palate mode. We’re seeking excellent food on this occasion, and will certainly pay as necessary. Hundred-dollar prix fixe is not out of the question. However, if we spend the money, we want the goods. I can name half a dozen restaurants in Seattle that charge a premium for a reputation that has long since faded into mediocrity.

Location. Our hotel is downtown, in the heart of the Magnificent Mile (on Michigan and Grand). Since we’ll likely be having a minimum of two bottles of wine with dinner, we don’t want to have to make a long trip; we’d prefer a short cab ride at most.

To give you an idea of what we’re looking for, here’s a short list of possible candidates I’ve found via Epinions and Citysearch and other sources. Again, I know nothing about these other than what I’ve found on the web.

**Les Nomades** (link 2, link 3) — Premium French. Seems like a good candidate.

**Vivere** (link 2) — “New” Italian. Sounds promising, and not as spendy as above, but maybe not as classy?

**Everest** (link 2, link 3) — French. Sounds top-of-the-line, with prices to match, but some of what I’ve read indicates you’re paying for reputation and the amazing view more than the cuisine. I’m worried this is the Space Needle of Chicago: Because everybody goes there, the food doesn’t have to be that good.

**Tizi Melloul** (link 2) — Mediterranean. My wife and I love this type of cuisine, and the place sounds fairly exotic. Concerns: Privacy (sounds like the tables are packed tight) and atmosphere, literally (the reviews mention “hookah service,” and my wife has asthma).

Le Colonial (link 2, link 3) — Vietnamese by way of the colonial period. What I’ve read seems fairly consistent: excellent ambience, excellent food, but wildly inconsistent service. Given that we’re planning to sit and enjoy ourselves, we don’t want to be rushed, and we don’t want to deal with surly staff.

I also noticed that Geja’s Cafe keeps popping up on “most romantic” lists. However, fondue isn’t really what I’d call romantic, and the fact that they don’t accept reservations — meaning we’d be waiting for an indeterminate period for a table — is a deal-breaker.

So that’s a starting list. Any other suggestions would be welcome.

And just to give you a further idea of what we’re looking for, here’s some information on other restaurants we’ve considered major successes in the past: **Le Crocodile** in Vancouver B.C., **Greystone** in the Napa Valley, and Chez Shea right here at home in Seattle.

Thanks in advance for opinions and assistance!

Vivere is the ony one on your list I have been to. It is one of 3 restaurants - the main floor - in the Italian Village, a long-time fixture.

The decor was redone about 10 years ago. It struck me as really funky at the time, but I’m not exactly on the cutting edge. Food is consistently good, but I don’t think I’d call it great. They have one wierd booth that is almost a separate room - you might be able to reserve that.

In addition to the factors you mention, Everest gets props because of its chef - Jean Joho IIRC, and its wines. He has a less expensive alternative pretty close to your hotel named Brasserie Jo.

Charlie Trotter’s is the one restaurant that has perpetually been on most “must hit” lists. But I doubt you could get out of there for less than 2 bills - if that cheap. And you probably couldn’t get reservations this late.

Hell, you should just come over and hang out in my yard - I’ll burn any meat you want! :wink:

Happy anniversary.


'Nuff said, really. :smiley:

I’d go ask this question on

Great bunch of people who eat out far too much :slight_smile: I’ve gotten some wonderful recommendations there.

I actually agree with those who mention Geja’s Cafe as a good choice for an anniversary.
I’ve been there several times. (Ask for a booth).

Here is the reservation policy as stated on their website :

When I was there a few years ago, you could make a 5pm reservation on Friday or Saturday (when they opened).
But usually that’s kinda early for dinner, I’ll admit.

I’d try looking on this website - Check, Please! is a locally produced restaurant review program:

Look for Ambria, which is a short cab ride from where you’re staying - I was impressed at how (relatively) reasonable it was for a fine dining experience, and I’ve never heard anything bad about the restaurant.

I looked a little deeper into that link I mentioned above, and found more details regarding their reservations:

Please go to the 95th Floor in the John Hancock building.

Chicago is spread out before you, in glittering night attire. The waitstaff is attentive, the atmosphere heady, the wine perfect and the smells delightful.

Do not forget dessert. The chocolate cake is most excellent!

Doh! I was so proud when I saw the thread title. I thought “I’m going to recommend,” but MikeG beat me to it! Damn you MikeG and your book learnin’, college boy tricks!

Thanks for the suggestions, y’all.

Wow, what a truly excellent resource! I went and checked it out, and found I didn’t even have to post the question; it comes up so frequently I got half a dozen previous threads on the subject, with lots of recommendations.

And sorry, tiggeril:

…but the folks at Chowhound are pretty unanimous in their opinion.

I think I may have found my top candidate:

Cyrano’s Bistrot and Wine Bar. Ten blocks from the hotel, looks like a great menu, good feedback all around (Chowhound link). Anybody been there?

Thanks again!

If you’re looking for a short cab ride, Geja’s might be a little too far away. It’s at 2000 North where you’re probably in the 600-900 North area. However, it’s quite good and great for a romantic dinner.

Another one I’d recommend is Brasserie Jo on Hubbard Street. It’s Alsace, so it’s somewhat French and somewhat German. It’s a nice place, casual to semi-dressy, the food is quite good and they’ve got an extensive wine list.

Plus it’s very close to some hem hem adult entertainment, if that floats your bobber.

If you’re willing to try something different, Arun’s is a thai restaurant unlike any other you’ve most likely been to.

Arun’s offsers a per fixe menu of the most exquisite dishes you’ll ever eat. I’d say it is on par with any fine dining experience in Chicago.

I’m a big fan of Crofton on Wells. Suzy Crofton is an amazing chef and I think the place is romantic as it can be. You’ll be at Grand and Michigan? The restaurant is at Grand and Wells - a mere seven blocks west.

Wasn’t Cyrano’s the joint that was just shut down due to health code violations?

For some reasons the terms “rodent droppings,” “raw sewage,” and “roach infestation” comes to mind …

Enjoy your meal. Just realize that they might keep the lights low for a reason …

You are in luck. There are only two restaurants in the world that I have visited and feel confident recommending to anyone, even without knowing their tastes well, and one of them is in Chicago:

Dao Thai Restaurant & Noodle Palace 230 East Ohio Street

Great Thai food, convenient location, nice atmosphere, and quite reasonably priced. Check it out!

Geja’s is where my husband and I went on our wedding night. We called them in advance and explained to them that it was a very special occasion. While they didn’t disrupt their “No Weekend Reservations” policy, they did bend it quite a bit for us. Suffice to say they wrote down our names with a time and bumped us right to the top of the list when we showed up. You might try something similar if that’s the place you’re interested in.

I can also second the recommendations for Spiaggia (although I haven’t been there in over a year, so chowhound may be on to something) and the Signature Room on the 95th floor of the John Hancock.

A very happy anniversary to you both. :slight_smile:

I don’t like to slam restaurants but Arun’s was some of the more mediocre Thai food I’ve had in Chicago. I felt cheated after meals at Thai Aree on Milwaukee and Spoon Thai on Western blew Arun’s away at a fraction of the cost. Iwould not return.

Geja’s was wonderful but be warned my date complained of the oil that got on her, I’ve heard similar comments from others. Not spilled, but the oil is in the air and gets on your skin and clothes. She had on a silk blouse that was never the same after that. Still, great atmosphere and I loved the food.

The last time I ate at Les Nomades it was still a private club and it was the occasion of my wife and I telling her parents we were expecting. One of the finest meals in my life, up there with Le Jules Verne in Paris (without the view) and it beat Charlie Trotters for ambience.

The only time I ate at Everest, I ordered a fish special and it had a bit too much anise in it for my taste but everyone else raved about their food and the rest of the meal was stunning, plus I was sitting about ten feet from Richard Daley :slight_smile:

Enjoy your visit and congratulations!