I just got back from an extended stay in Chicago, partly to celebrate my daughter's college graduation and grad school admission, and partly on business. My daughter and I enjoyed the trip very much, arts, architecture, and of course, food.
* Flamingo's Seafood in Mt. Prospect: We got there at 9pm and they are closing the shop, although the web site says it opens till 11pm. We returned the car the next morning, so did not have a chance to try it.
* Topolobampo: We did a lunch, and the wait is short, the price reasonable. The food is certainly tasty, quite different from what we get in SF. Yet I doubt I will repeat if I live locally. I would compare it to Yang Sing and Slanted Door in SF (for Chinese & Vietnamese), where food is good, but we just move on to other places with more Chinese and Vietnamese clients.
* Spring: Great experience to celebrate my daughter's graduation, with friendly and relaxed service. We had coconut soup and scallop ravioli for appetizer, and both were very good. For main dish, we had black cod and Barramundi. Between the two I like Barramundi less, but it's because of my own taste. I love Asian food, but it stops in China, Japan and Vietnam. The barramundi is "Thai influenced", kind of sweet for me. The black cod, on the other hand, is excellent. My daughter reported the dessert is good, which I did not taste (I just do not care for sweet).
* More casual: Deep dish pizza, Italian beef, all very enjoyable.
* Surprise: After disappoited at Flamingo's, we drove around and had noodles at a simple Chinese place nereby. It is actually quite good, comparable to SF china town (although China town is not the best place for Chinese in SF).
After my daughter left town, I was basically on my own, on the business portion of the trip. Keep in mind that I was on expense account, so I watched cost less closely.
* Cafe Spiaggia: I went solo and found the food very good. The only surprise is that the pasta portion is quite substantial. There is no way I can have both a pasta and main dish, which is common in Italian Italian (vs.American Italian) places in SF.
* Blackbird: I went with a co-worker and found the food very good. I had the sweetbread appetizer and sturgeon for main dish, and both were excellent.
* Mercat a la Planxa: Now this is my overall favorite. I went twice, once with a large group of co-workers and once by myself. I enjoyed everything I tasted, and that's at least 10 dishes. If I have to pick one favorite, it's their fava beans, which happens to be in season. This is the first time I had cooked Hamachi, and it is as good as in sushi (wow!). Highly recommended.
Thanks to everyone for great recommendations. I do notice it is quite expensive. It's fine this time, as we are mostly on business, plus some celebration meals. Now that my daughter got into grad school at U. of Chicago, I know I will visit your city many times in the future. I will visit the board more often to get some ideas for my future trips when I am on more moderate budget.