Lettuce Entertain You enterprises runs a stable of "concept" restaurants, but lest you group them in with soulless corporate pap like Applebee's, take a look at Mon Ami Gabi. While the restaurant has outposts in Vegas, Oak Brook
and Maryland, the Chicago location seems touched by the singular personality of executive chef and restaurant namesake Gabino Sotelino.
Located in the Belden Stratford Apartments, a swank marble and chandeliered landmark palace, the restaurant is full of dark woods, gilded accents and leather banquettes. With large plate glass windows overlooking Lincoln Park, Mon Ami provides a perfect nook for swooning lovebirds to enjoy a quiet dinner; the cozy, French-style bar offers a great place to lay back and throw down some Pernod or dream of forbidden Absinthe.
Bistro standards like frisee salad, French onion soup and thick, juicy steaks are spot-on, but it's the seafood that really makes a splash. Eschewing pomp and circumstance in the form of overwrought sauces, flaky skate comes topped with a simple, brown butter-lemon sauce, and crouton-encrusted trout grenobloise tastes as if it was just pulled from the river by a cunning fly fisherman. Appetizers range from $5-$12, and entrees from $15-$25.
Average cost: $10-$20