Afficianados of '20s style and the Prairie School will adore the interior of Chicago's North Pond, which is perfect in every detail. Except for the open kitchen running the length of the inside room. I truly fail to see the appeal of the open kitchen movement. Unless your chefs are practicing for a major aesthetic culinary competition, or you want to prove how sanitary your kitchen practices are (and that's damning with faint praise indeed), there seems to be no reason for it. At North Pond the interior room is clearly the schlub area, so if you make a reservation be sure to specify that you want the outer room, which has windows/French doors open to the outside in summer and a cozy fireplace in winter. In what is supposed to be a sophisticated dining experience, the last thing you want is to look at is your frat-boy-esque line chefs at work, or peering out in smug colloquy over the diners.
The food they produce is mostly excellent. North Pond has been lauded for its seasonal New American dishes and commitment to seafood sustainability. The poached egg and asparagus appetizer was divine. I expected the spinach and sheep's milk ricotta pithivier (a savory pastry; we had to ask) to be overwhelmingly rich and cheesy but it was surprisingly subtle. There was a slight fall from the highest standard with a few entrees. All the side dishes were marvelous, but my father's duck was chewy. My snapper was perfectly cooked on the inside but the plank cooking method had blackened the outside, which doesn't work so well with this fish, and especially if they're going to be stingy with the (delicious but scant) mango sauce. The folks raved about the French press decaf coffee, and desserts are inventive, with almost too many ingredients to take in.
Except to leave lightened in the wallet. We paid about $70 a person including wine. A good special-occasion destination for those in the Chicago area.