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  WINDY CITY TIMES

FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2020-09-03

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When a concept is reinvented at the same spot, it can be a risky undertaking.

The Midwest-focused FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar ( 221 N. Columbus Dr.; FireLakeChicago.com ) is housed in the same spot, in the iconic Aqua Tower, that formerly featured the Italian spot Filini, which I thought was fantastic.

As for FireLake—it's just as fabulous, if not more so.

Sitting outside ( on a rare cooler day this summer ) was an absolute delight, complete with a friend—and a couple neighbors who brought their pets ( with one having an especially obedient beagle mix ).

Chef Mike Alaridi's cuisine has something for everyone. The honey-and-garlic roasted pork belly I ordered was accompanied by jalapeno creamed corn that added the slightest delightful kick to the perfectly cooked meat. My friend ordered the roasted bone marrow ( that came up with parsley salad, bacon shallot jam and crusty bread ) that she and I found sublimely creamy and tasty; the jam managed to heighten the flavor profile even more. ( Another appetizer I eyed was the rotisserie baby cauliflower that came with grated parmesan cheese and brown garlic butter sauce ).

Entree items cover several categories, including grilled/mesquite items, handcrafted sandwiches, rotisserie ( hickory ) offerings and house specialties—quite possibly a nightmare for the indecisive. However, our dishes were dreamy, including my pan-roasted salmon, accompanied by lemon-kalamata risotto and smoked tomato-fennel jam. ( By the way, don't skip the skillet cornbread, which comes with whipped honey butter. )

My dining companion really liked her cider fish and chips, but that adoration wasn't close to what she felt for the beer-battered cheese curds—possibly the best both of us ever had. They were fried to perfection: crispy and not oily. In fact, my friend said the curds were "10 times better than a mozzarella stick." I certainly didn't disagree.

If you somehow have room for dessert, order one ( or even get one to go instead, like I did ). The fruit tart is incredible, but somehow the chocolate bomb—consisting of a chocolate flourless cake with chocolate ganache and mousse—managed to top it. This dessert is, in a word, heavenly.

There was only one "meh" aspect. The drink ( sangria ) that started things was memorable—because it was the only aspect of the experience that didn't meet as high a standard as the rest of the experience. The drink wasn't bad; it just wasn't amazing.

However, I highly recommend checking out FireLake. The relaxing atmosphere and incredible dishes certainly make ( re )visiting this spot worthwhile.


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