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.