I am going to Chicago for a few days.. I'm looking for a uniquely Chicago dining experience (maybe two). Can someone recommend a fine dining type place? Where would you go if you had never been to Chicago for dining?
I haven't personally been there yet, so take this with a grain of salt, but I'm intrigued by Achatz's new(ish) NEXT restaurant. Looks like the current menu is called "The Hunt" and is centered around game meats - sounds awesome to me. I've had a great meal at Blackbird. Bayless's restaurants are typically good; if you don't want to go all out with one of his, Xoco is an interesting stop for lunch. The wait sucked when I went, but the suckling pig torta was killer. That was shortly after they opened so not sure what the scene is like now.
Off the beaten path, up in one of the neighborhoods (a lovely, very European/German/Bosnian neighborhood to spend a little time in, by the way,) right off the Western Avenue stop on the Brown Line train, is Elizabeth. It's pricey and advance tickets are required, but if you're looking for something very special and unique, I'd suggest checking it out. I've not eaten there but I've eaten the chef's food once before and it was wonderful. She's a forager and hunter as well as a self-taught chef. There are three levels of "tasting" menus each night.
There are a ton of reviews of it out there. Here's one but if you google "Elizabeth restaurant Chicago" you will find many more.
Here are a few other good choices:
-North Pond Restaurant - Bruce Sherman's place. Ate there years ago and it was fantastic.
-The Publican - one of Paul Kahan's places (of Blackbird fame). The website doesn't seem to be working at the moment but I just called and they are still open. Very chartcuterie oriented.
-girl and the goat - opened by Stephanie Izzard, who won a season of Top Chef (can't remember which).
Of course there are plenty more places, and the suggestions above are great also.
If you do make your way out to Elizabeth, you should walk a block north and a block east to the heart of the neighborhood, which is called Lincoln Square and is well worth a visit for a number of reasons. There is a very nice collection of independent shops and restaurants of all kinds, including a kitchen shop and a European apothecary that carries all manner of imported toiletries and herbal remedies, beautifully displayed.
Across from the square itself is Gene's Sausage Shop and deli.
Just thinking about how wonderful it smells in there is making my mouth water.