We just got back from our Chicago trip. Here is the run-down of our dining experience, which was overall better than I expected since every restaurant in Chicago seems to get mixed reviews online. To provide context, we (my husband and friends who we went with) all enjoy upscale and trendy dining, but we do not expect every place or every meal to meet a Norman's or French Laundry standard.
When we got into town, we had a snack at Fox & Obel - truffle parmesan fries with truffled bernaise sauce. Very tasty.
I had dinner with a friend who lives in Chicago, who I hadn't seen in seven years. She said she prefers the pizza at My Pie, but in the interest of an authentic Chicago experience for me, we went to Gino's East. With the pizza taking 45 minutes to prepare, it gave us a great opportunity to catch up. We had deep dish spinach and cheese, which was extremely good, very rich flavors. I liked that the crust seemed to have a little bit of corn meal in it. This made for interesting taste and texture. We also split a pineapple and cheese thin crust. The thin crust one was bland and tasteless, and the pineapple chunks were far too big.
For breakfast, the wife of our friend couple and I went to American Girl Cafe. Even though we didn't have kids with us, we had a great time, and the food was surprisingly exceptional. They brought cinnamon buns to the table, which were very tasty, but I have had softer. I had the best french toast I have ever had. It had caramelized apples on top, with just a hint of marmelade in the sauce, and fresh whipped cream. I didn't even have to put syrup on it - syrup would have actually detracted from the flavors. The accompanying breakfast sausage was typical. My friend had the most amazing quiche either of us had ever had, with its fluffy, whipped texture, and outstanding breakfast potatoes.
We had lunch at Bandera, which was also exceptional. We started with queso and chips. This was the most unusual queso I have ever had. The conistency was like fresh, homemade pimiento cheese, and had the faintest taste like that (which normally I do not like), but there was something unique about it and we ate the whole thing. It was quite good. For entrees, we both ordered the spinach and chicken enchiladas. The enchilada was very good, spinach was fresh, and had two sauces - a red and a green. It was accompanied by cilantro rice, which I always love, and cucumber salad in a champagne vinegarette, which was our favorite part of the meal.
For dinner, we ate at Trattoria No. 10 before seeing Wicked (which was fantastic!). I had rigatoni with chicken, caramelized onions, walnuts, and goat cheese. DH had tortellini with kobe beef cheeks. It was only a step above Olive Garden, but that was good enough for being right by the theater.
DH and I had breakfast at Grand Lux Cafe. I have had dinner at the one in Las Vegas before, so I was excited to try breakfast there. I had chicken tenders with waffles, with a pecan honey butter. It was exceptional. DH had a belgian waffle with blueberries. The waffles were truly great, tasted like beignets (which GLC also serves, but we did not have any).
We skipped lunch because breakfast was so big. For dinner, we were on a dinner cruise with my husband's firm. It was typical banquet food - london broil, cilantro salmon, pumpkin ravioli - and was all good.
We had breakfast at Orange. Neat place off the beaten path. I had one of their custom juices - cucumber/watermelon/pear. It was heavier on cucumber than I expected, and was not cold, but it was still good, and I appreciated the novelty of it. I had coconut infused french toast kabobs with strawberries and pineapples (yes, I love french toast or anything with cinnamon for breakfast). Not as good as the french toast at American Girl Cafe, but for me, the novelty of new foods can make up for (a little) falling short on taste. DH had the pan seared oatmeal/apple bake. He enjoyed it because he likes oatmeal. It was a little earthy for me.
This was my first trip to Chicago, and I'm looking forward to going back!