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Chicago is chock-full of amazing dining options. How lucky are we to live in a city where you can find every type of cuisine, at many different price points, and in many different neighborhoods? You probably have favorites that are your go-to places. Trying someplace new is tricky because restaurants are noisy these days! Many restaurants play music so loud that it is impossible to hear or understand your dining companions. On top of that, many restaurants have acoustics that don’t favor conversation and a quiet meal. Here are some restaurant recommendations for spots that offer great food, serene atmospheres, and reasonable noise levels. Please note, they are not low-priced options. While they are not the most expensive spots in Chicago, they fit the bill for a very nice night out. Also, for the quietest dining experience, consider dining early in the evening and choosing less-crowded weeknights.

In Alphabetical order:
Acanto, on Michigan Avenue across from Millennium Park, features
authentic Italian food, an award-winning wine list featuring selections from each of Italy’s
twenty regions, and an inviting, conversation-friendly dining experience. My favorite dish
from the oft-changing menu is the rigatoni with lamb ragu. Dining at Acanto feels like
dining in the lovely home of someone with excellent taste. The design is warm, with red
tones and leather and a back-lit wall of bottles. In 2016, Acanto received a 3-Star rating
in the World of Fine Wine “World’s Best Wine List,” and a 2-Glass “Best of Award of
Excellent” rating in Wine Spectator Magazine.
18 S. Michigan Ave. 312-578-0763
Bistro Zinc
I’ve only been to Paris once, but the charming Bistro Zinc reminds me of
my trip there. Moderately-priced classic & contemporary French food is served amid the
ambiance of tile floors, tin ceilings, and a beautifully handcrafted zinc bar. I’ve eaten
here often and especially love the onion tart appetizer. Bistro Zinc also offers an
extensive selection of French wines by the bottle and glass, plus French aperitifs and
1131 N. State St. 312-337-1131
Formento’s is a large place and some dining areas are quieter than
others. I ate there recently and their staff couldn’t have been friendlier and emphasized
to me that any diner should let them know they want a quiet spot and they would do
their best to accommodate. It is located on Randolph Street in the West Loop. Like
Acanto, they offer delicious Italian food, with an array of dishes such as house-made
pastas, delicate antipasti and wood-fired fish and steak. Their pork tenderloin wrapped
in prosciutto and served
with swiss chard
was fantastic. The world-class wine program
offers guests more than 300 varietals from Italy.
925 W. Randolph St. 312-690-7295
Le Colonial
 The décor of Le Colonial takes you back in time and away in place.
The authentic Vietnamese cuisine is offered in two separate dining areas. The first-floor
dining room is adorned with louvered shutters, woven rattan chairs, potted palms, slow-
moving ceiling fans and nostalgic black and white photos of turn-of-the century life in
Saigon. The upstairs lounge includes a spacious, fully stocked mahogany bar, plush
couches for enjoying light fare, dining tables, and a veranda, for keeping warm in winter
and cool in summer. The food is unique, beautifully prepared and delicious. The menu is
extensive, so you might need a few visits to find your favorite dishes.
937 N. Rush St. 312-255-0088
mk is a city classic for special occasions and has been for over 15 years. The
menu features both Italian and French flavors, with locally sourced foods starring in
every dish. Dr. Ullauri rates their Bass as the best fish she has ever had. The wine list is
extensive and global. The dining room skylights and artwork set a soft, romantic tone,
and the service is impeccable.
868 N. Franklin St. 312-482-9179
The Pump Room
The Pump Room might be quite different from days past, but it is
still very special. The décor is warm, contemporary and inviting. You will swoon over the
light fixtures before you even see a menu. 2011 James Beard award winner Jean-
Georges Vongerichten, who has earned 3 Michelin stars, created the new menu. Re-
invented classics and new creations that are regional in flavor preside. I had the
Carmelized Filet Mignon and couldn’t have been happier.
1301 N. State Pkwy. 312-229-6740
Even in a quiet restaurant, good hearing habits can enhance your dining experience. It
helps to let those you are dining with know you need their help and accommodation.
Ask for what you need, whether it is for people to slow down, speak louder, or look at
you while they are speaking. Gentle reminders and humor can’t hurt. At the table, sit
with your back against the wall, if possible, and try not to sit near any stereo speakers,
televisions, the bar, or any other parts of the room that seem noisy. Think strategically
about the people next to you – aim for those who will fill you in on any missed items if
necessary. Finally, remember that even people without hearing difficulties don’t hear
everything, every time. So, give yourself a break and allow for some imperfect
Bon Appetit!