Ronnie Hicks, if not considered a national treasure, should at least be seen as a local one.
Hicks is one of a rotating line-up of blues artists at the weekend brunch at River Roast ( 315 N. LaSalle St.; RiverRoastChicago.com ). I'm sure the other musicians sound great, but it's hard to top the vibe Hicks put out on the day my friend and I attendthanks to his substantial set list of R&B classics from acts such as Sam Cooke, The Commodores and Otis Redding. ( Many attendees, including myself, ended up singing alongnot too loudlyor, at the least, tapping their feet. )
Of course, the music is just part of the allure: River Roast has a pretty impressive culinary menu as well. The local beets salad is a rather tasty concoction that will especially appeal to those who like those particular root vegetables. I also really liked the shrimp-and-crab toast that's topped with avocado.
The mascarpone French toast was a solid item, but wasn't revolutionary in concept or execution. But the items that give River Roast its name were spectacular, as usual. A whole chicken was brought to our tableside ( prompting a guy at another table to say "That's so cool" ) and the server sliced the piping-hot bird for usand it was just as tasty ( and succulent ) as advertised. ( Some of the other roasts include fish, beef, pork and the "boatload of veggies." )
The only possible caveat is the price. The chicken ( which serves two ) is $39 and the pork roast ( also for two ) is $43; throw in a couple appetizers and a cocktail, and the bill could be more than you might expect.
Other places have their own musical brunches. ( For example, the House of Blues has a legendary gospel event every Sunday. ) However, those venues will have to work hard to top the music-and-cuisine combo at River Roastespecially during summer, when people can listen to great music and enjoy the view of the Chicago River.