Trendy, Upscale, & Urban, Chicago Style…
Hello from Chicago. I am in the windy city on business. I know I’ve said before that I would not mix business with my blog, but as long as I don’t say where I work and why I’m here, then I’m safe. Since Chicago has so many wonderful restaurants, how could I not resist blogging about some of them?
Before I start, I’d like to say a few words about Chicago. Chicago is the perpetual construction city. It’s always under construction somewhere in Chicago. The winters are so long and brutal here that the city spends most of its time digging and plowing its way out of the snow or repairing all the damage caused by all the digging and plowing. Even with all the construction, it’s an amazing city.
As I was walking home from dinner, it started to rain. Not a heavy rain, a slow droplet type of rain that seemed to want to take its time. Just like Chicagoians. Never stressed; never rushed; never overdone. As I walked, I passed by many eateries and cocktail bars. Chicagoians (Chicagoites? Who knows?) love cocktail bars. These slightly trendy, somewhat expensive, and comfortably urban water holes were filled with slightly trendy, somewhat wealthy, and oh-so-comfortably urban people sipping pomegranate melon martinis and home-made limoncello.
Ah I love Chicago. How can you not love a city where the people aren’t afraid to look you in the face? where no one is in a rush? where they wash the sidewalks each night? where traffic actually stops for you when you step in the road to cross the street? I’d be dead 100 times over if I tried that stunt in South Jersey or Philly. And to top it all off, they have some amazing restaurants.
Since I was traveling alone today and I arrived at the hotel too early to get a room, I decided to stroll around the city. I took a short stroll to Michigan Avenue, sauntered down a few side streets, and suddenly I was standing in front of Ben Pao’s. They had a sign outside extolling some tasty looking lunch specials so I decided to go in.
The inside was expansive with a pretty nice sized bar too, but it screamed of restaurant chain. (A quick Google search later on proved me right. It’s a Lettuce Entertain You venue.) I decided to sit at a table in the bar. The bartender quickly whisked over to my seat offering to make me a libation. I settled for the iced green tea, which was a real treat. ($2.75 with free refills. I had two.)
I decided to go ahead, ignore the lunch bundles, and order the Chow Fun Noodles with the Local Phoenix Brand Tofu ($10.95). What an excellent choice. It was light and fresh and the tofu was cooked perfectly. One thing you gotta say for LEY – when they do it right, they really do it right. Not only did I feel good, so did my expense account.
For dinner I picked the Kinzie Chophouse. I love the Kinzie Chophouse. I’ve been coming to Chicago for over 20 years and no trip to Chicago would be complete without a trip to Kinzie. I’ve eaten there back in the day when they had the green shuttered windows. (Gee, I’m old.) Anyway, the steaks are phenomenal, the service is always top-notch, and the drink specials are pretty reasonable.
Since they were advertising a special three-course for $20 menu on their website, I had already decided what I was ordering. I started with a nice, local brew, Honker’s Ale ($5.75). It was amberish and crisp and slightly hoppy. (Aren’t you impressed by my knowledge of beer terminology?) I then ordered the Chophouse Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing (there goes my eating healthy), the Filet Medallions & Scallops, and the Hot Buttered Rum Cheesecake. All for $20. Boy was I excited.
The main meal consisted of two huge filet medallions in a tangy and yet savory dried cherry demi glace and two nice sized seared scallops on a tomato basil polenta cake. The filets were cooked to perfection and fork tender. The nicely sized scallops were wonderful, too, although my one scallop could have been seared just a tad more. (A minor complaint at best.) The polenta was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. The flavors went well together and I mixed and matched pieces to create different taste sensations.
I had a cup of decaf coffee with my hot buttered rum cheesecake. I was in heaven. The cheesecake was both dense and creamy, with a lovely hint of buttered rum. It wasn’t hot but it was still “Mmmmmmmmm.”
If you live in Chicago, you gotta go to this place. They’ve got a vibrant bar scene with some amazing food and drink prices. They run weekly specials so you can spend a lot or spend a little. Trust me, you’ll go back again and again. I wish I could. Once a year just isn’t enough.