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What's cooking in Chicago in 2008?


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Interesting that you would put Blackbird at only 2 stars. To me, it is the epitome of the 3 star (NYTimes) place. That is, I find the food, the cooking to be some of the best in Chicago. Blackbird is mostly about the ingredients, but there's some creativity too. What I think Blackbird is sorely lacking, hugely, is any of the comforts or luxuries that would equal fine dining. The place is about as loud as OHare and half as comfortable. The servers, I've found are very knowledgeable and friendly, but the staff to eater ratio is absurdly low. But here's the thing, the cost of a dinner at Blackbird, I think, is very reasonable. Paul Kahan has made compromises, but I'd rather he made them the way he did, in favor of the food.

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Interesting that you would put Blackbird at only 2 stars. To me, it is the epitome of the 3 star (NYTimes) place. That is, I find the food, the cooking to be some of the best in Chicago. Blackbird is mostly about the ingredients, but there's some creativity too. What I think Blackbird is sorely lacking, hugely, is any of the comforts or luxuries that would equal fine dining. The place is about as loud as OHare and half as comfortable. The servers, I've found are very knowledgeable and friendly, but the staff to eater ratio is absurdly low. But here's the thing, the cost of a dinner at Blackbird, I think, is very reasonable. Paul Kahan has made compromises, but I'd rather he made them the way he did, in favor of the food.

 

The lighting is fucking terrible in that room too.

 

EDIT: this is NeroW, I forgot I was at guajolote's house.

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Guest Aaron T
Interesting that you would put Blackbird at only 2 stars. To me, it is the epitome of the 3 star (NYTimes) place. That is, I find the food, the cooking to be some of the best in Chicago. Blackbird is mostly about the ingredients, but there's some creativity too. What I think Blackbird is sorely lacking, hugely, is any of the comforts or luxuries that would equal fine dining. The place is about as loud as OHare and half as comfortable. The servers, I've found are very knowledgeable and friendly, but the staff to eater ratio is absurdly low. But here's the thing, the cost of a dinner at Blackbird, I think, is very reasonable. Paul Kahan has made compromises, but I'd rather he made them the way he did, in favor of the food.

 

I guess it is the border of NYT 2 and 3 stars, but I was using 2 stars not in the "neighborhood plus" kind of way. To me this was 2 stars if Eleven Madison and Picholine are 3 stars. This was at the top of the 2 star category in that it delivers on its proffer, it was delicious, priced right, but is in the 2 star category due to the lack of luxury in other ways. It does have table cloths and the amuse and mignardes were both classy touches. In that sense it does straddle categories so it does have some luxuries.

 

I would eat here again, although would be curious to try Avec next door too. 2 stars was not meant to be a criticism, merely a reflection of my perception of its ambitions.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks to a tip from VitalInformation, had a great, light meal at Mado on Saturday night. They are focused on local ingredients and house-made charcouterie.

 

Had eaten at Hot Doug's in the mid-afternoon so a meal comprising of a bunch of their small plates was perfect.

  • coddled egg with summer vegetables
  • smoked steelhead trout with beets and purslane
  • tuna poached in olive oil with garbanzos, red onion, and parsley
  • summer squash escabeche
  • house-cured tessa on toasted baguette
  • house-cured salame
They were out of the farro with lamb shank that sounded very good.

 

The tessa was boring, with no real pork flavor but all of the rest of the dishes were very good. The coddled egg was probably the best of the bunch: perfectly cooked.

 

Dessert included a gateau Basque (with home-made strawberry jam) and something they called "migas" which was tiny cubes of bread sauteed in olive oil, tossed with smoked paprika and then covered in dark chocolate (sort of a bark).

 

The place is a steal right now because it is BYO. We laughed out loud at the bill because it was incredibly cheap.

 

Mado

1647 N Milwaukee Ave

(773) 342-2340

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  • 3 weeks later...
My favorite place is 160 Blue. A little pricier than blackbird, but noticeably better.

 

After eating at both places last week, I reverse myself, and Blackbird is now better. One SixtyBlue isn't busy enough for the sourcing to be pristine.

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  • 8 months later...
I am going to be in Chicago tonight, and I will have a couple hours free to get dinner on my own. Anyplace particularly worthy within a few blocks of the Loop near the river?

 

Thanks

 

If you're going to be alone, go to Avec and sit at the bar (you may have to go a bit on the early side to avoid a long wait). Depending on where in the loop you're coming from it's either a good walk or a short cab ride. You could also do A Mano, which is just north of the river on Dearborn. I think most of the menu has gone a bit downhill lately, but their pizzas are still excellent.

 

If you want to head towards Michigan Ave, I would recommend either The Gage (gastropub) or Mercat a la Planxa (tapas).

 

Avec

www.avecrestaurant.com

615 W. Randolph

(312) 377-2002

 

A MANO Trattoria

www.amanochicago.com

335 N. Dearborn St

(312) 629-3500

 

The Gage

www.thegagechicago.com

24 S Michigan Ave

(312) 372-4243

 

Mercat a la Planxa

www.mercatchicago.com

638 Michagan Ave.

(312) 765-0524

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