So much delicious food in Chicago and so little time to try it all, not to mention the calories I can’t afford.
We had to travel a bit to get this restaurant in the Logan Square area of Chicago, but it was worth it. It was already dark but still early evening, so we could see the beautiful lighting and artwork in the windows of the brick buildings along the Square. You don’t need to do any research to know that the neighborhood has several Starbucks, a farmer’s market on the weekends and a lot of strollers.
I had made the reservation for Giant months ago, as soon as they were named #6 of Bon Appetite’s America’s Best New Restaurants list. The 44-seat restaurant was packed.
We had excellent cocktails and delicious food here, and we could have easily been in the Mission or Hayes Valley, except that the mostly-hipster clientele was more mid-Western than mid-Market. The service was great, and we were even able to make friendly eye-contact with chef Ben Lustbader, because our table was situated near the kitchen area. Giant also has a kitchen bar, which looked like a fun place to be.
The food at Giant is American comfort food: onions rings, short ribs, pasta, and biscuits. Everything here is meant to be shared but the portions are small. The dishes are also reasonably priced, so even though we ordered a greater number of dishes than we might otherwise, the entire meal was very reasonable, by Bay Area standards.
The food was excellent but there were a couple of highlights. The sungold tomatoes with pancetta were great, but what wouldn’t be great with a giant slice of crispy fried pancetta in the middle. I may have to steal that pancetta idea this holiday season. Ken and I shared the short rib with sticky rice and the meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and full of flavor. AJ’s favorite was the housemade Saffron tagliatelle with king crab and chili butter. I am pretty sure we each could have consumed a plate of this pasta, which was just the right amount of spicy. The striped bass with olive, potato, and Italian sausage was cooked just right and was moist and tender. We even had dessert. AJ and Ken ordered the black and white babka with banana ice cream, pears and figs, and I had the vanilla cajeta ice cream with strawberry and pecans. (Babka is a yeast cake often made with chocolate or cinnamon. AJ looked it up on his phone before he ordered.) Both desserts were the perfect sweet endings to the meal.
If Giant were in SF, it would definitely be a favorite. If you happen to be in Chicago, the ride-share fare is worth the cost to see this pretty neighborhood and enjoy the great food.
Giant: 3209 W Armitage Ave, Chicago. Open at 5pm Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations are available through the website, using Reserve.com.
The rest of the restaurants we went to in Chicago were within walking distance of our downtown hotel, including GT Fish & Oysters where we met three of the Fongs for lunch. Going with them is always fun, because we can order more and experience a bigger portion of the menu.
GT Fish & Oyster is part of the Boka Restaurant Group, which also has The Girl and The Goat, which I will talk about next week. This is a bright airy restaurant, at least during the day, and had a cool and calm feel. It was the perfect place for us to have an unrushed and quiet lunch before the hullabaloo of the wedding events started for the Fongs that evening.
The menu was a fairly standard seafood lunch menu without surprises but there were a couple of standout dishes, and the $16 lunch combos were a good value. The oyster po’boys sliders were especially good, with plenty of crispy oyster. Hilary had her first crab roll, which was excellent, if a bit on the expensive side. Fortunately it was large and hearty, and she was kind enough to share. The fried onions that accompanied the crab roll were especially delicious to the fried food fanatics among us.
I did once again confirm that even when in the east, my personal preference is for west coast oysters. We had the recommended east coast oysters, but they weren’t as plump and juicy as the ones out here, and if I am going to have an oyster, I like them plump and juicy. The flavor of the east coaster was more concentrated, but I like the rich creamy texture of the bigger oysters. Perhaps this is what happens when you grow up enjoying Point Reyes oysters.
If you are looking for fish and chips in Chicago, I would definitely recommend GT Fish & Oyster, but you may want to stick with the oysters from left side of the country.
GT Fish & Oyster: 531 N Wells St, Chicago. Brunch Saturday to Sunday 10am–2:30pm, Lunch Tuesday to Friday 11:30am–2:30pm, Dinner Sunday to Wednesday 5pm–10pm, Dinner Thursday 4:30pm-10pm, Dinner Friday to Saturday 4:30pm–10pm. Reservations available on OpenTable.com.
We met the Yangs for breakfast at Beatrix Streeterville, which was perfect if you are looking for a bit more than a basic morning meal. What made the trip out of the hotel and into the cold worthwhile for us was the excellent coffee bar that uses beans from two Chicago roasters Intelligentsia and Metropolis, the fresh-squeezed juices which use locally sourced produce, and the delicious brown sugar bacon.
There are three Beatrix restaurants in Chicago, so it should be easy to find one. Beatrix is part of a huge group called Lettuce Entertain You, which has over 120 restaurants in 9 states, mostly in Chicago, but they are also in LA and Las Vegas. I have heard of and been to only one, Mon Ami Gabi in the the Paris Hotel in Vegas, which I remember more for the location than the food. As for Beatrix, the food was well worth skipping the included Embassy Suites breakfast and enjoying a quality breakfast without having to make a second stop for coffee.
Beatrix Streeterville: 671 N St Clair St, Chicago. Restaurant open Monday to Friday 7am – 9pm, Saturday 8am-10pm, Sunday 8am-9pm. Coffee and Bakery open Monday to Friday at 7am, Weekends at 8am. Reservations are available on OpenTable.com.