|Subject: Chicago restaurants|
I lived in Chicago for 18 years, having moved to NY in January. I have been going back and forth these last few months and I would like to make some suggestions to this discussions about some of my favorite places to eat. I am very lucky that one of my best friends has a local cable tv show which is about the great restaurants that the city has to offer, and he takes me all over the city to try out new restaurants and also to attend wine dinners and special events throughout the city. What a great friend to have! He also has a web site where he publishes menus of various Chcago restaurants. If anyone is interested, I can email it to you privately, as it may cross the boundaries of promoting a commericial concern if I post it now. Anyway, on to some of my favorites, some of which are off of the beaten path a bit. For amazing, high-end, expensive, Mexican food, try two restaurants which are owned by Frontera Grill/Topolobambo alumni, and in my opinion are better than the original, and not as pricey. Chilpancingo (on Ontario St. in River West) is new, big, and very good. The owner/chef, Generoso Bahena also owns a smaller restaurant, Ixcapuzalco, on a hard to get to stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, which is also quite good. I believe that both places accept the Transmedia/Idine card, which should make the prices more reasonable. A second, smaller, and similiar place, is called Salpicon, and it is in the Old Town Neighborhood, near the Second City Comedy Troupe. I like this place even more than the other two, as it is a truly fantastic dining experience. For Vietnamese food, I strongly second the recommendation that was made here earlier for Pasteur, on North Broadway. It is far from downtown, and hard to get two, but it is very good, and has a nice atmosphere. The food is of similiar quality to the best stuff that you will find in the smaller, family restaurants on nearby Argyle Street, which is the Vietnamese neighborhood, but it has some of the nice atmosphere that one finds at the downtown places such as Le Colonial. For great Italian food, at two of the city's newer restaurants, try Settimana Cafe, on Division in Wicker Park, or Finestra, in Andersonville. Both are excellent, and may not be as crowded as some of the other better known places such as Mia Francesca, Tuscany, Coco Pazzo, etc. Another nice choice in the River North area is called Trattoria Parma. It is reasonably priced, and not that crowded. It is way better than Maggiano's, which a block away, and is an overhyped tourist trap, in my opinion. If you get up to Evanston, there are many great places, headed by Oceanique (seafood, French style), and Va Pensiero, (great, expensive Italian). For great bbq at very reasonable prices, in a bar/music club, check out the Smokedaddy, on West Division. No atmosphere, but a great time, especially if you like the music. (blues/jazz, depending on the night).
I have eaten in most of the elevated, expensive spots, (Spiaggia, Charlie Trotter's, Carlos, Everest, Ritz Carlton Dining Room, Vong, Arun, Prarie, Trio, Coco Pazzo, Blackbird, Marche, Grace, Les Nomades, D'Vine, OneSixtyBlue, Aubriot, McCormack and Schmicks, Trattoria 10, Plaza Tavern, Ambria, Mon Ami Gabi, Atlantique, etc., just to name a few._) so if anyone wants a detailed review, I will be happy to do so. I like to use the Chicago Reader for suggestions on new and interesting ethnic spots, and Chicago Magazine for the more traditional and expensive ones.
Enjoy Chicago, it is one great town.
Jonathan Chimene New York