Help me plan a special dinner
February 21, 2011 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a nice place for an anniversary dinner in Chicago.

Mrs. Ghidorah and I will be visiting family for about a week in March, and we're looking to have a slightly belated anniversary dinner on March 22nd. We'll be staying out in the deep burbs (we'll be able to see Six Flags from my aunt's window), but we'll be heading into the city. Ideally, we'd like to do something fun during the day, then have a nice meal. I've read a lot about how Chicago has such an amazing food scene, but sadly, I'm completely out of touch.

I saw this question, and I was wondering if there are any other ideas out there. My wife's main concept of fine dining in America seems to be big chunk of meat type places, which she isn't all that crazy about, and has asked that we not go to a steak place, which is fine with me (although I'm really into charcuterie and well made food).

We were talking about tapas, which we both love, but we'd be open to other can't miss ideas. We'd love any suggestions for dinner, as long as it's easy access to the El or Metra (or short taxi rides) since we won't have a car. Any ideas for fun things to do during the day would be much appreciated as well. We're saving museums/Art Institute stuff for another day, so anything fun to do daytime, downtown, in March, if you can think of anything.
posted by Ghidorah to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One place I look to learn about new and interesting restaurants in cities I'm going to visit is Food and Wine Magazine's website. Here's a link to the search results for Chicago in the magazine's Articles section. You'll probably enjoy reading through the suggestions, and might even find places for lunch and snacks too...
posted by paindemie at 4:03 PM on February 21, 2011

Mr. DrGail and I live near your aunt; we can't see Six Flags from the window, but we can hear the people screaming on the roller coasters from our backyard, and I'd be happy to recommend some nice places for your anniversary dinner. Chicago Magazine has a pretty comprehensive (but not exhaustive) listing. Beyond that, though, there are so many possibilities that it would be helpful if you could narrow them down a bit.

First, are you wedded (no pun intended!) to a place in the city, or would someplace out in the neighborhood of your aunt's house be desirable? Are you interested in ethnic cuisine (and if so, what type?), or would you prefer more standard American fine dining? How fancy and/or expensive do you want? What kind of ambiance are you seeking?

Feel free to MeMail me if you prefer.
posted by DrGail at 4:10 PM on February 21, 2011

Response by poster: DrGail, the city isn't a must, it's just that I don't know much about good restaurants out in the burbs. When I lived there 12 years ago, it was pretty much a wasteland of TGIChillies and such. If there's something worth checking out, by all means, I'd love to know.

As for ethnic stuff, we both like Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, and Indian. We were leaning more towards Spanish and tapas, though American fine dining would be all right, too. As for price, well, less than, say, $200, including drinks.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2011

Best answer: If you're leaning toward tapas I have to recommend The Purple Pig on the Mag Mile. It's tapas style with lots of delicious small plates for sharing. I tried it last week for the first time after hearing a lot about it. DELICIOUS! How can you say no to something with the tag line Cheese, swine, and wine? It can get pretty crowded on the weekends (the wait was 2 hours when I stopped by Friday night to try it, ended up coming back early Saturday instead), but it should be pretty low key mid-week.
posted by Arbac at 4:24 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Caro Mio instantly popped into mind.

It's in Ravenswood, so that might be a bit of a stretch. But the trek would be highly worth it if you're looking for amazing BYOB Italian. My wife and I swear by the intimate, low-lit interior and fantastic homemade pasta. (The "Suprema di Pollo" is seriously, non-hyperbolically, one of the best things I've ever tasted. Top ten, easily)

Also, I would suggest Irazu in Bucktown for a quirky romantic dinner, but it might be a bit too casual.

(The Cultural Center is a beautiful and free spot for photography during the day. Right downtown, across from Millennium Park, it's a great spot to sit and enjoy the world's largest Tiffany-glass dome, drink coffee and pore over the provided city maps.)
posted by shiggins at 4:30 PM on February 21, 2011

Here is a list I reference for special occasions in Chicago. It's the newly minted 0Michelin ratings. I live here. Given your price range you are probably targeting the one star joints (the ones I typically target at well) I'd be surprised if one or any of these is not in walking distance from an L. We just had an anniversary dinner at Spiaggia, a classic.


Charlie Trotters

Crofton on Wells
Graham Elliot
Longman & Eagle
posted by patrad at 4:33 PM on February 21, 2011

Seconding Arbac for tapas: The Purple Pig
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:40 PM on February 21, 2011

Best answer: Much to our delight, the far northern burbs have acquired some non-chain restaurants worth visiting. Among our favorites, with ambiance suitable for an anniversary dinner, are David's Bistro (in Antioch), Inovasi in Lake Bluff (which is tapas, but not Spanish), and Twin Oaks Country Inn in Wilmot WI (warning: the link is for a site about the restaurant; they don't have their own website).

In the city, but close to public transportation: You can never go wrong (IMHO) at Marigold, a fine dining Indian restaurant near Broadway and Lawrence in Uptown. We also are very fond of Deleece near the Sheridan stop on the Red Line, Turquoise, a Turkish place in Roscoe Village (near the Addison stop on the Brown Line), Erwin on Halsted south of Belmont, and Jack's on Halsted, right at Belmont and Halsted.

These are all the sort of places where the food is most important (and quite delicious), but the ambiance is quite nice as well. You will spend comfortably less than $200 at any of these places, even with drinks.
posted by DrGail at 4:48 PM on February 21, 2011

I haven't been there in a while, but mk has never disappointed me. The food was awesome and it's got a very understated, casual "fancy" vibe that I really like, and doesn't try to be all up its own ass about fine dining.

As far as patrad's Michelin list goes, I have been to and was severely let down by Naha. And some friends recently went to Topolobampo and had a crappy experience.
posted by phunniemee at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2011

I haven't been there, but there's a restaurant Michael in the 'burbs that is said to be superb.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:21 PM on February 21, 2011

This might be a different direction than you're interested in because it's not very formal (you see people dressed up, but also people in jeans), but I love Ethiopian Diamond for special meals. My husband and I consider it one of our favorite date places in Chicago. The food is absolutely delicious and they have live music on weekends.
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:34 PM on February 21, 2011

My aforementioned foodie brother went to Nightwood the other night, for his birthday, and pronounced it "lovely." His lady friend is a fish-atarian, so even though the homepage talks about pork and chicken and hunks of meat and such, the menu seems to have a lot of great non-meat options.

She had picked the place as a surprise, and apparently it went over quite well.
posted by Madamina at 6:22 PM on February 21, 2011

Best answer: LTHForum is always an invaluable resource for food in Chicago. Maybe look over their Great Neighborhood Restaurants list?

Looks like Avec might fit the bill if you're looking for tapas.
posted by kmz at 7:31 PM on February 21, 2011

Best answer: Mercat A La Planxa in the South Loop area of Downtown's pretty good for tapas. Has a pretty romantic-y vibe last time I went with my brother (slightly awkward as our waiter thought we were on a date...)
posted by astapasta24 at 9:14 PM on February 21, 2011

Hopleaf is a nice place on the north side (so closer to where you're staying) which is a very nice, but comfortable and informal, Belgian-centric gastropub. Mussels are a specialty, and the beer list is known to be one of the best in the city. Entrees (last time I got a great beef brisket with mustard and baked pasta) are around $20 in the upper range, with smaller plates on the menu too. The venue is loud with conversation, but not overly so.

I'd second Nightwood, great staff and food, but farther from where you are by quite a ways.
posted by ism at 11:31 PM on February 21, 2011

I'm a huge fan of the Publican. Fantastic for what it does, which is pork, beer and shellfish.
posted by Carillon at 12:31 AM on February 22, 2011

I'll second the suggestion of Avec, with the caveat that it's not a quiet, intimate place; the seating is at communal tables that seat eight, so you will almost certainly be sharing your table with someone. The 22nd is a Tuesday, at least, so it won't be nearly as busy as it is on the weekends. And the food is phenomenal. I have never once been disappointed by a dish I ate there.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:06 AM on February 22, 2011

Came in here to suggest Mercat A La Planxa, but instead, I shall second it. Excellent Tapas, lovely ambience, great winelist
posted by darsh at 6:38 AM on February 22, 2011

Don't do Hopleaf if you want to eat at all near dinner time. It's CRAZY busy and not that romantic (although the food is great). I'm writing this in my apartment above Hopleaf, so I know of what I speak.

I would suggest Le Colonial, downtown - French/Asian fusion. Delicious and super romantic.
posted by agregoli at 6:28 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Semiramis is a lovely Persian restaurant. It's right off the Brown line (Rockwell on the northwest end), so you could get there easily from downtown. The food is delicious, service is nice and personal, and the ambiance is romantic. It's not too expensive at all, and I think it is BYOB.

(Hey, agregoli! We're very close neighbors--I'm on the corner of Foster and Clark!)
posted by swingbraid at 9:21 PM on February 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great suggestions. We looked through some of the websites last night, and we're thinking of heading to the Purple Pig. So many fantastic looking restaurants. It makes me realize some of what I'm missing back home. You guys are so lucky to live so close to so much great food.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:27 PM on February 23, 2011

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