Thursday, May 03, 2007


Dmarks tagged me with a restaurant meme. How fun, I love to eat. The mission is to name my five favorite places to eat in Chicago. I wanted to mention places that I haven’t talked about a lot already so my apologies to Ethiopian Diamond and Hema’s Kitchen which are easily my favorite places for a meal out. The places I chose for this run a little more expensive than my typical dining experiences (Alice and Friends is pretty close though) but they are worth the extra cash for the quality and atmosphere. My price approximations include appetizers but no desserts or drinks and I always round up.

1. Green Zebra
I wanted to do something special for New Years, 2006 and I searched high and low for a restaurant where I could go and enjoy a fabulous meal. Most of the fancy gourmet type restaurants in Chicago have prix fixe menus for New Years. As a vegetarian, I can’t eat most prix fixe menus. However, Green Zebra is a vegetarian dream. The décor is minimalist and very modern. There are clean lines and dim lights that really set the mood well. The menu changes seasonally and, although I have only been once, every time I look at the menu I want to rush over and eat as much as possible. The wine pairing with dinner was also excellent. If only I could spend $30 a person on a regular basis this would be my most frequent spot.

2. Alice and Friends which doesn't have it's own website so metromix has to do
I have never had “meat” as delicious as that at Alice and Friends. They really do something special with that soy protein. Meat eaters always agree too it isn’t just a veggie opinion. Their specialty is Korean food and everything I ate was delicious. The prices are very reasonable I think about $20 per person. The only drawback is that the place is absolutely tiny and it can be hard to get table at peak hours. You also can end up eating relatively close to someone. If you go during the week it shouldn’t be a problem. The atmosphere is really quaint and adorable and, if not full, can be very comfortable.

3. La Fonda Metromix has done it again
This place is simply delicious. While it does register high on the price scale $30 a person I think it is well worth it. Plus they give you chips and salsa and portions are huge so an appetizer isn’t necessary (although totally delicious). While they have only one vegetarian entrée it is easily one of the more delicious entrees I have ever had. They also have many a vegetarian appetizer so a veggie could have one or two of those and make a delicious meal thus not having to order the same thing over and over. The service was wonderful and the setting very modern without being sterile. You may need a reservation during peak hours but you may not.

4. Frontera Grill/Topolobampo
Do I need to say anything other than Rick Bayless? I think not. This duo of restaurants is a veritable dining experience. The sauces and flavors are fantastic. However, I do prefer my guacamole. Frontera is the cheaper of the two $35 while Topolobampo (where I haven’t actually eaten) is about $45. This is another one that is a little sparse on the vegetarian side. It depends on the menu they are sporting at the time. They usually have one thing at one of the two restaurants, sometimes more. However, I would check what they will be serving before going if you are not a meat eater. You’re going to plop down some cash so you better plan to enjoy your meal selections. Reservations are highly suggested if not required.

5. Geja’s Café
Geja’s is a veritable dining experience. It is widely recognized as one of the most romantic restaurants in Chicago and I would have to agree. You’re going to be treated to a four course meal so go hungry. This is a fondue restaurant so if communal cooking isn’t your thing, skip it. The meal will average about $35 a person (unless you take a veggie when it will be $20) but, as wine flights are a must, plan for around $70 each. Getting a booth is an extra special treat. You can’t reserve them so the best way to manage is to make a 5pm reservation (when they open) and be the first ones there. There are only two two-seater booths so arriving as early as four may not be a bad idea. Sitting at a table isn’t at all bad either though, so don’t feel pressed to go the extra mile. You will first get a salad, then a cheese fondue (MMMMM cheese) with fruit and breads for dipping, the third course is an oil fondue where you are served a tray of your selected meats and vegetables (or just vegetables if you are me), eight delectable dipping sauces, and instructions on how long various things take to cook. The final course is a flaming chocolate fondue with sweeter fruits, cakes, and marshmallows for dipping. I’ve went here once for a romantic Christmas dinner and the second time made my parents take me cause I knew it would be fun and they paid. Oh, an extra perk is that no kids under 10 are allowed.

So there are my top five “special” dining places in Chicago. Anyone who wants to participate in this meme can feel free.


Jeff Roberts said...

"fondue restaurant"...brings back bad memories of one where I gave up roasting tiny pieces of meat, flagged down a waiter and ordered off the dessert menu. :-)

Travis said...

Those all sound delicious.

RastaManErn said...

Metromix is great. I think I still have reviews online.

Last I recall, the staff at Topolo needed to be shot. The food was great, but hustling me away from my table in a half-filled restaurant after 50 minutes was not cool. I had a reservation, too.

Re: Fondue... The Swiss will tell you that mixing fondues and fruit in a fondue are probably not the best things for your stomach. So, make sure to have plenty of kirsch on hand, especially for the cheese. =P

Blondie said...

OK, so clearly I don't eat out enough because I've never been to any of those restaurants. But now I know where to go! My favorite restaurant in Chicago is Cafe Ba Ba Reeba--love those tapas!

CS said...

These all sund great. There is not a single good resturant in my own county, but fortunately there are a few in the next one over. Maybe someday we'll prgress beyond fast food and southern cooking places here...

Natalie said...

Jeff- While I always lose a few pieces of food in the fondue pot, I always manage to have a good time. Sorry you didn't.

Travis- They most certainly are.

Ern- I never had a bad tummy after Geja's but it is a good thing to know. The staff at Frontera was fast moving but I didn't feel rushed. with Topolo being more expensive I would be extremely pissed if they didn't let me chill.

Blondie- I love Ba Ba Reeba also, however I think I may have played it out after a solid year of bi-weekly meals.

CS- If htere are no restaurants in your county I think your job is to open one. Then again that is probably one of the hardest things to do ever so never mind.

dmarks said...

Awesome. What a list. It also shows that it is an entirely alien city to me now. In early adulthood, I thought "On my own. Now I will go to Chicago a lot". Did not happen.

Eve said...

Yum! I love El Presidente on Ashland at Wrightwood (best chilaquiles ever! and open 24 hours) and West Town Tavern (I think it's on North), which has awesome husband and wife chefs.

Nicole Tan said...

Geja's Cafe sounds so good!! CHEESE FONDUE??? Drooolllll

thanks for doing the tag..hope you had fun! and thanks for emailing me that you did it..will update you on my list too!! feel free to tell me if you know of anyone doing this tag..thanks

velverse said...

Wow.. nicely done Natalie.
Really, no offence, but I always tot vegeterian food is always quite boring. But you really open my eyes wide about things and proven me wrong :)

I saw the green zebra site and fell in love with the place like instantly :) Really nice recommendations.

Not to mention the others like Alice and Friends. Geja Cafe is like a super wow for me. Cheese fondue eh... I never tried it before. But I can already imagine and my saliva seems like dripping :)

Thanks for doing the tag. You really open me to a whole new world of food and dining :D

Natalie said...

Dmarks- There is always time. Plus I know all the good spots.

Eve- I haven't been to those places but have heard of them. I'll have to go!

Nicole- Thanks for starting it! Definitely a fun one. Cheese fondue is just fantastic!

Velverse- I'm glad you did because your comment let me notice my green zebra link wasn't working so I fixed it. I looked at the menu again just now. I might have to save up some money MMMMM.

velverse said...

Hehehe.... Yeah, the pictures look good huh. So does it look that good in real too?

sexy said...