I was invited to a media dinner here a few weeks back and was excited since I'd heard good things. The restaurant space is large and may get larger since the owners have the building to expand throughout. The main floor is where the majority of dining occurs and the bar is big if you're not lucky enough to have a table reserved.
The décor is interesting and has a lot of character. I was told the inspiration was Hemingway but I haven't read, "A Farewell to Arms" in a long time nor does it evoke Key West! Personally, I think it looks like a large den where each knick-knack, book or painting has a story behind it from some past adventure.
I have to say something about the crowd before I get in to the food. On my first visit I wasn't thrown in to the mix of people. The second time, I ate here was upstairs at the bar. It feels like the Epic crowd is chasing the next "cool" place to be. I was surrounded by a mid-20 something group feeling the vibe - ie bumping in to everyone, STAND STILL! - yet, you knew someone would drop their drink and break a glass at some point - they did.
Then the mid-50 year old guy group in clothes only the 20 something's should be wearing materialized and "Johnny Big Time" ordered his round and finished with his drink - a Bacardi Limon and Diet. I shit you not, I nearly choked on my food. THANKFULLY, the bartender informed the gentleman that they didn't have Bacardi Limon.
I had to share...weird stuff happens around me.
The food, the first time I dined, was good and the variety was typical of most "small plate" menus, some have argued it's uncreative. We were well fed with Goat Cheese Croquettes, Bacon Wrapped Dates, Charcuterie and Pate, Asparagus Flatbread, Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Seared Scallops, Steak & Eggs, Asparagus with Farm Egg, Short Ribs, Moroccan Vegetables and the Deviled Egg.
They rolled out the carpet of food and the highlights at the time were the Moroccan vegetables, the Scallops and I enjoyed the whimsy play on Steak & Eggs. The deviled egg was also good and spicy. The cocktails were mediocre at best but I don't think I would go here for the cocktails considering their beer list is fairly solid.
My second visit for food was rather inconsistent considering my first experience and it wasn't the crowd around me. The Deviled Egg was spici-ER, and the flatbread didn't have the oomph of flavor like the first. The Chorizo Brandade was a mix of meat and potato but I felt like it would have been better if there had been more texture of the chorizo - I know it supposed to be smooth but it didn't work.
The Bacon wrapped Dates were also good but the sauce is so hidden you might not realize there is red pepper sauce until the third date. The Scallops while cooked correctly but also didn't have enough flavor around it to be more than just a scallop.
I felt as if they knew to put their best foot forward when serving media but the inconsistent second visit left me wondering is the attention to detail more on the liquor and "club" vibe or the food.
This is one of those places where the owners will tell you we opened a restaurant to serve food we want to eat. As opposed to...? I get what they're saying but if this is how they like to eat makes me wonder if they should have spent more time cooking in the kitchen.
I'm still interested in trying out some of their burgers but it's not something I'll rush out and do. I wouldn't cringe from Hubbard Inn if a group of friends were in town or going but I'm also not about to take a date.
110 W. Hubbard, Chicago, IL
Reservations are a good idea! - 312-222-1331
Mon-Fri - 11am-2am
Sat - 11am-3am