i'm visiting chicago next week and have 2 nights in town and want to make the most of it. i'm staying at the palmer house hilton, but willing to go anywhere easily accessible via the el and/or walking and/or short cab ride (10-15min).
i'm from toronto, and know that mexican and thai food in chicago is probably a lot better than back home, and on other visits to chicago have tried a couple of small mexican and thai restaurants (friends took me so i don't remember the names).
this time around, i had hoped to try Topolobampo but couldn't get a reservation. is the wait at Frontera grill very long? dinner #1 will be next friday night with friends, one of which is vegetarian (no meat or fish/seafood). the budget is around $50 per person, or maybe a better gauge is mains around $20. would Salpicon be a good choice instead of Topo? other places i had considered were Green Zebra, Avec (but they don't have reservations and i wasn't sure about the veggie options) and North Pond (is it too expensive?). i don't mind having to wait for a good restaurant (and grab drinks first there or elsewhere) but want to be sure it's worth it.
for dinner #2, i may be dining solo, or with a couple ppl (no vegetarians). is there any sort of molecular gastronomy dinner that wouldn't break the bank for a sat. night? would it be better to try frontera grill on sat. night and eat at the bar if i am alone? i also came across some sites for foodie tours such as http://www.chicagodinearound.com, does anyone have experience with this, and would it be suitable for a solo diner? budget if dining alone is higher, i'd even do a tasting menu.
i did some searching on the board, there's so much info it got sort of overwhelming, any help would be greatly appreciated!