This is a couple week belated, but I wanted to make a quick trip report. Chicago continues to be my favorite food city, and the recommendations from the Chowhound community continue to provide spot on advice. We thoroughly enjoyed all of our meals. I won't go through the details of every meal, but only make brief mention of a couple of the standouts.
Old Town Social--I love charcuterie, and the 5 we sampled at Old Town Social were outstanding. I am hyper critical of pastrami, and this example did not disappoint. The right balance of salt, smoke, spice and a hint of sweet. When I saw the lamb salame on the menu, I was worried that it might be a little too strongly flavored. I was wrong...it had just the right amount of funk that a good salame should have. The pork belly rueben is a dish not be missed.
Girl and the Goat--A really fun space. Enjoyed the energy in the room. For being as popular and "trendy" as this place is, I was encouraged by how friendly and relaxed the service was. A couple of standout dishes were the pretzel bread with honey mustard and thousand island. This is bread that I have no problem paying extra for. For as much hype as the pig face has gotten, I was not disappointed.
Sable--Excellent examples of how to execute what can be a kitschy concept. Bacon Jam with Brie cheese might have taken years off my life, but wow was this good. Completely over the top, but so, so, so good. Duck Fat Steak Fries--one of the best examples I've tasted. This may be heresy, but these blew Hot Doug's out of the water (and I loved Hot Doug’s). The cocktails lived up to the hype.
El Ideas--One of the best dining experiences I've ever had. The combination of the excellent food paired with the interaction with the chefs was awesome. A couple of standout courses were the potato (ice cream and french fries???), the chicken (you had me at Benton's Ham gravy), and the white chocolate (celery for dessert--it shouldn't work, but it's awesome). The level of food in such a casual environment is my ideal of fine dining. To be able to hear the inspiration of how a dish is conceptualized and executed from the chef who did it brought a whole new level of appreciation for their food. It's like we were backstage at a concert with the lead singer giving us an in-depth history of each song. The only comparable experience I've had was E by Jose Andres in Las Vegas. A wonderful meal and well worth every penny. I cannot recommend this experience highly enough.
Thanks again to the Chicago Chowhounders. Without your insight, I wouldn't find these great dining spots.