Maybe it's because I just saw a Chicago Cubs game before writing this review/profile, but Ballyhoo Hospitality Group has hit a home run with new spot Walton Street Kitchen + Bar/Lounge (912 N. State St.; http://www.waltonstreetchicago.com/).
Chicago-based, award-winning design group 555 International is behind the interior design of the two-level spacewhich is a study in contrasts. The atmospheric lounge is a dark ( it took a few minutes for my eyes to adapt ) spot which makes you feel like you''re in a mansion library; the second-floor restaurant is cool, airy and a little bit retro. By the way, if you're lucky enough to sit next to the open windows on a nice day, that enhances the experience even more.
I would return to either one of these spots separatelysomething I don't think I've ever written about a space. The lounge is the perfect place to wind down after a long day at workand Jim and Max ( the staffers there when I visited ) made things even more pleasant by being extremely knowledgeable about the 37 ( ! ) pages of drinks. There's even an introductory drink called the "bartender's handshake," although I absolutely adored the amaro sour I ordered. ( My friend also really liked her drink. )
Things even got better upstairsand for an appetizer, one could hardly do better than ordering the roasted king crab ( $32 ), a massive meat-filled item that comes with a sambal cocktail glaze, citrus conserva and tobiko ( flying fish roe ). It's simply divine.
The menu feels familiar, but is diverseand items are consistently cooked perfectly. Other appetizers include pizza rolls, potato skins, lamb bacon skewers, hamachi crudo and more. Main dishes range from spaghetti and clams, to roasted sunchokes ( with white-corn grits ), to wild salmon. I had a pork chop with a side of charred cauliflower, and could not have been happier. Also, a shout-out has to go to server Tamsen, who was as helpful as the duo was in the lounge.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.
Chicago Gourmet marks
another successful year
Bon Appetit once again presented Chicago Gourmet for the masses in Millennium Park this year Sept. 26-30.
Things kicked off with an Italian Feast on the Symphony Center Stage on Sept. 26. On Sept. 27, at River Roast, a "Blues, Booze & Bites" event was held; Sept. 28 marked the popular Hamburger Hop on the Harris Theater rooftop, feeding the attendees who braved the rain.
Sept. 29 attendees sipped an opening toast with Sam Toia, the president and CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, a variety of celebrity chefs and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spoke of his recent ordinance that allows landlords to rent their spaces for pop-up restaurants.
This year, music was in the air with a "Rock the Fork" theme, music pop-ups and playlists created especially for the events. The music did not distract from the long lines of sampling on the Millennium Park lawn, especially the Supreme Lobster & Seafood Co.'s usual mob of people craving a taste at its pavilion. Some standouts that were worth the wait were the brisket sandwiches from Old Crow Smokehouse and the sheer variety of samples at the Mexican Tasting Pavilion. To wash it down, there were many wines to try, along with mixed cocktails.
There were live cooking demos, book-signings and many vendor booths to occupy the bustling sold-out crowd on the weekend.
The Gran Cru closed the festivities Sept. 30 at the Harris Theatre rooftop, with more unpredictable weather and excellent food.
Save Sept. 27-29, 2019, for another packed Chicago Gourmet schedule, with information at ChicagoGourmet.org .