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KaffeeKlatsch

Suggestions for Dining in Downtown Chicago

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After 25 years (I started at 14)in the restaurant/hotel business, I became a high school business teacher. In late January, I was able to transfer into the perfect teaching position for me. I am now working as the culinary arts teacher at a high school career center.

In May, I will be taking 16 students and 3 additional chaperones to the National Restaurant Show in Chicago. My original plan was to book a meal at Frontera Grill for about 4 pm. This would allow my students about 4 hours at the show and a nice meal. This is their senior trip and an opportunity for them to have a unique culinary experience.

I have heard from the restaurant that the latest they can book us is 2 pm. This would not allow them enough time at the show. It's a one day trip for us, about a 3-hour drive each way.

I'm looking for suggestions for an alternative dining experience. My budget is around $50.00 per person.

Margarita

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I might recommend something with an open kitchen where they can see the food as it is prepared. While a chain, Bandera is on Michigan Avenue across from Nordstrom so it would give them the pleasure of seeing the food come out and be in the middle of the activity of Michigan Avenue. Another open kitchen is Wildfire in River North. Also if I recall, Scoozi, also in River North, is another where you can see the kitchen and wood fired oven action. Another thought is Quartino's at Ontario and State which is another in River North. They serve small plates and shared portions of some really terrific dishes. One other idea is to contact Kendall College on Goose Island to see if their dining room is open that day and if they can have the number of people you are bringing. This would allow them to see a culinary school plus interface with their students who work the room.

I will try to think of other affordable, but nice places you might consider.


Edited by JBailey (log)

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What day of the week will it be, Saturday?

I wonder if you could arrange something with the folks at Avec. They don't normally take reservations, but they open at 3:30. It's an open kitchen in a small space with a great menu.

Mercat a la Planxa can generally handle large groups and it has nearly the same "celebrity chef" status as Frontera. Their whole suckling pig dinner is a pretty unique experience, if you can get most of the party on board. When we did it, we had a vegetarian in our group and they were happy to serve them tapas from the regular menu.

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I might recommend something with an open kitchen where they can see the food as it is prepared. While a chain, Bandera is on Michigan Avenue across from Nordstrom so it would give them the pleasure of seeing the food come out and be in the middle of the activity of Michigan Avenue.

I used to work for Houston's (Hillstone Restaurant Group, the same people who own Bandera) and I can't imagine they'd be willing to accomodate a large group. They're quite the dicks about not taking reservations. Plus their food is fairly generic.

What about Graham Elliot? The food is upscale yet playful - something that I imagine teenage cooks might get a kick out of. I know this is probably on the very high side of your price point, but I also know that Graham Elliot does some charity work. Maybe if you were to call and explain your situation, they might be able to work with you on a modified tasting menu.

I like the idea of Avec as well, though I personally couldn't imagine going to a wine bar and not drinking wine. BTW, I haven't been since the fire. Do they have an open kitchen now?

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Avec has always had an open kitchen...it's right behind the bar.

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But even sitting at the bar, you can't see much of what's going on in the kitchen at Avec. It's not like, say, North Pond or Sable, where you can see just about the entire kitchen from much of the dining room.

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I just sat there the other night and watched everything either on the stove or going into the ovens...10 feet away from me. I've been there dozens of times, I've watched them cook on plenty of occasions.


Edited by jesteinf (log)

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Huh? For reference, there's an excellent photo of the restaurant on their website at www.avecrestaurant.com I ate there and sat around the middle of the bar, and the view looked exactly like the photo. All I could see was those two stainless-fronted things (I think one is a refrigerator and the other I'm not sure), and the only people I could see were servers. I guess maybe if you just happen to have the one bar seat right in front of the walk-through space between the two stainless things, you can see through to the stove, but from where I sat, I couldn't see a thing cooking. There's no way even half of a group of 20 could possibly have a view of what's cooking from the dining room.


Edited by nsxtasy (log)

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Although there is no open kitchen, you might want to check out Blue 13 in River North. Fun dining experience with starters such as "Lobster Pizza" and their Beef tartar is amazing! Entrees may include Waygu short rib, and the venison is awesome too! You should just be able to slide in at around $50 a person if no "adult" beverages are ordered. Check out their website, we love it! Also, the place is small so 20 people will likely fill about 1/2 the restaurant or more, unique (flash tattoo art on the walls), and the food is really good. Just like others have suggested, perhaps you can cut a deal with them to lower the costs and perhaps provide the crew with a small tour of the kitchen.

Cheers...

Todd in Chicago

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Huh? For reference, there's an excellent photo of the restaurant on their website at www.avecrestaurant.com I ate there and sat around the middle of the bar, and the view looked exactly like the photo. All I could see was those two stainless-fronted things (I think one is a refrigerator and the other I'm not sure), and the only people I could see were servers. I guess maybe if you just happen to have the one bar seat right in front of the walk-through space between the two stainless things, you can see through to the stove, but from where I sat, I couldn't see a thing cooking. There's no way even half of a group of 20 could possibly have a view of what's cooking from the dining room.

You haven't been since the fire then, I assume. See here.

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You haven't been since the fire then, I assume. See here.

No, I haven't. Looks like they changed it around since I've been there, but they haven't updated the photo on their website since then.

(I guess Josh has been there dozens of times since they re-opened! :biggrin: )


Edited by nsxtasy (log)

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Even before the fire you could watch the kitchen cook from several seats at the bar. I guess it's even easier to see now. We've belabored this point enough.

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Very odd. My last post didn't show up yesterday.

Thank you for the suggestions. There are some great ones here that I will be researching this week.

We will be heading over on a Monday. Normally not a good day to dine out, but most restaurants will be open because of the NRA show. My students are high school seniors from Elkhart, IN. Elkhart's claim to fame was spending a year as the face of the recession. MSNBC had reporters living here for one year because Elkhart had the distinction of the highest unemployment rate in the country. These kids worked hard to raise the money for their senior trip, and this is what we're doing. I want to expose them to opportunities at the show and to a culinary experience they've never even imagined.

I appreciate the help you've given me in trying to plan something for them.

Margarita

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