Fans of outdoor eating have nothing to sweat now that Earls Kitchen has arrived in Chicago offering guests a three season al fresco dining option.
Yes, you heard it right--even though this is Chicago--guests can bask (and dine) outdoors for a good part of the year on Earls outdoor patio.
Earls, a family-owned Canadian company, understands how to keep things cool (or hot) both inside and outside.
The secret: a sophisticated system of overhead heating elements and strategically placed fire pits to take the chill out of the air on cool days--and a series of over-sized umbrellas offering shade on warm days.
Earls Kitchen + Bar (1538 N. Clybourn) is located in the equally hot NewCity development in Lincoln Park.
This is their first Chicago location but they are not new to the restaurant business. The family-run business started in 1982 and now has 65 restaurants mostly in Canada with three more coming soon.
Since opening last fall, Earls Chicago has become a popular spot to hangout with its welcoming atmosphere, fun cocktails and creative menu focusing on fresh, in-season ingredients and globally-inspired dishes.
Yesterday, on a perfect 100% sunny Chicago day, we headed to Earls for a preview of their seasonal menu and drinks.
We were greeted by an artful tray of drinks capped with floating clouds of meringue (housemade, by the way). The cocktail is a twist on an Earls classic. The slushy lemon concoction, made with vanilla vodka, limoncello and topped with caramelized meringue foam, is the perfect summer refresher.
The cocktail paired well with Earls Tuna Tostadas--a chili rubbed albacore tuna that offers a nice jolt of hot then is dressed down with cooling, cilantro aioli, avocado and jicama slaw--served on crisp corn tortillas--a real show-stopper.
Another yummy starter is Earls Warm Spinach + Three Cheese Dip. The creamy blend of three cheeses and artichoke with a dash of Worcestershire sauce is topped with fresh chives and crumbled feta--all heaped onto a crunchy bruschetta.
The drink menu features cocktails, wines by the glass or bottle; local beers including Half Acre, Revolution, Begyle, Metropolitan and Goose Island along with other beers on draft or by the bottle. I would like to see even more local brews added to the menu--but since this is the first Chicago location for Earls--I'll give them more time.
A creative mix of cocktails--many of which change with the seasons--are all beautifully presented including the Moscow Mule ($8) made with Smirnoff vodka, ginger and fresh lime, served in an ice cold copper mug--just as it should be. Other cocktails include: the the Bees Knees made with aviation gin, cointreau, honey, fresh lemon, angostura bitters; the Cherry Long Island ($10) with skyy vanilla vodka, bombay sapphire gin, bacardi white rum, espolon blanco tequila, lemon and fentiman’s cherry cola and others.
If I had to pick a favorite it would be, hands down (or bottoms up), Earls Makers Mark Old Fashioned.
The beautifully presented Old-Fashioned comes together with Maker's Mark bourbon, demerara syrup and root beer bitters for a hint of flavour, with an orange zest to garnish--finished with a trendy Luxardo cherry--all for $12.
Sushi lovers will want to try Earls popular Dynamite Rolls with shrimp, mango and avocado sushi, sriracha mayonnaise, black sesame, unagi maple.
Earls offers a variety of burgers--all made from 100% Creekstone Farms Black Angus hand formed beef burgers and free of antibiotics with no added hormones.
The full menu offers a selection of starters, salads, soups, entrees and desserts. Popular dishes, in addition to their signature burgers, include: Santa Fe Chicken Salad, Chimichurri Skirt Steak, Bibimbap, Steaks and more.
The patio areas comfortably seat over 100, on sofas or at tables. An adjoining bar can also be opened to the outdoors. The interior space is warm and welcoming but when you have a chance to soak up the great outdoors on Earls 3-season patio--I see no reason to go inside.
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