Greetings. I grew up in a Chicago 'burb, but left when I was 18, and though I get back from time to time for family visits, I hardly ever manage to go out when I'm there. So though it's my hometown, I'm at a loss about: Where to have dinner on my birthday in August. I will be staying at a hotel near the Art Inst for an academic conference, but don't think that would be the right neighborhood to eat in as I figure everything nearby will be overpriced, pretentious and/or touristy (but correct me if I'm wrong). It's not a problem to take the El or a cab to some other part of town, but it should be reasonably accessible from any points in the city. (Two folks will be coming from the south side, two from Evanston.) Here are qualities I'm seeking:
-Quiet enough for people to converse without shouting -- we'll be a party of 8, most likely
-Good, fresh food with options for the four vegetarians in the group (farm-to-table place, maybe?)
-Special/festive in any of a number of ways -- trendy joint or great ethnic hole-in-the-wall or outdoor garden ...
-Not super expensive / super-trendy -- under $50 pp including wine
- Takes (and honors) reservations (and isn't too hung up to accommodate a change if the size of the party grows or shrinks by one or two 24 hours in advance)
The kind of thing I've enjoyed when I've taken a bunch of friends to dinner for my birthday (that's the European custom and I think it's so nice, I've adopted it) here in NYC, have included: Elias Corner (grilled fish in the garden in a Greek nabe in Queens); Bombay Talkie (tarted-up Indian "street food"); the outdoor garden at Moustache (Middle Eastern); tapas at Boqueria (too loud, it turned out, but delicious); Grand Pho (my fave Vietnamese place in Chinatown).
I'll have one other night in the city and would be happy to hear recommendations for a nice, suitable-for-veggies place for just my partner and me -- but the birthday group is the more pressing question.
THANKS! I'm looking forward to finally having a chance to sample some Chicago chow.