Bottlefork – Possibly My Favorite Chicago Restaurant

Bottlefork is a new endeavor by Kevin Hickey, former Executive Chef at the Four Seasons Chicago, and Rockit Ranch Productions.  The focus is on locally sourced ingredients and unique cocktails.  To really be part of the action,  sit at the bar and watch cocktails being made by the highly skilled bartenders, or ask for a seat a bit further down where you can see the kitchen team at work.  The space is really narrow, and can get very crowded, however I think that just adds to the atmosphere.

IMG_0654The menu includes a variety of small and large plates, with some interesting options.  I think the most unusual item might be the homemade spam!  I’m not sure about this one, but would love to hear from someone who has tried it!

We sampled several different dishes – my favorite of the evening was the potato gnocchi with mushrooms and fresh goat cheese.  The flavors were very balanced and the sauce was a nice complement to the dish.

It is hard to go wrong with a lobster po’boy especially when it is topped with crispy oysters!  The seafood was very fresh and perfectly cooked.  We also had the lamb ribs;  lamb is not always one of my favorites however these were very nicely done with a tangy sauce.

And what meal is not complete without tater tots; this high-end version is well worth the calories!

The wine menu has limited selections by the glass, however the options they do have are very good.  There were four choices for white, and of those three were something I would drink.

I went for a second visit and just had cocktails, which definitely did not disappoint!  We had fun watching the bartender make drinks and chatting with him about the different cocktails and what is most popular.  The focus of the bar menu is really their craft cocktails so stop in one night for a drink and try one, or a few.  My favorite so far is the Little Miss Dynamite!




The Berkshire Room – A Craft Cocktail Lounge

This is a relatively new addition to the Chicago bar scene, opening earlier this year in the Acme Hotel on Ohio.  This is a very intimate and classy cocktail lounge, serving unique hand-crafted cocktails. The menu includes a variety of house cocktails or you can create your own, which is the option I’d definitely recommend.  You choose your spirit, your flavor profile (fruity, spicy, sweet & sour, smokey) and the type of glass; from there the bartenders work their magic.

There is a also a good selection of craft beers and a well-rounded wine list.

They have a nice menu of small bites and desserts;  the Dealer’s Choice bar snacks are a fun way to start and go well with a variety of cocktails.  I’d recommend the Pulled Pork sliders if you want something more substantial.  They were so good we ended up getting a second order.

Unless you are going early,  you’ll probably want to make a reservation, as it gets crowded later in the evening.  This is a fun place for girls night out or a great option for a before or after dinner drink on a date.

Siena Tavern – A Hot Spot with Good Food!

This is definitely a hot spot in town right now, and actually has been for some time!  During happy hour the bar is packed and most nights you’ll likely need a reservation to get a table.  I’ve been several times and while I’ve read some less than stellar reviews, I have not been disappointed by anything I’ve tried, though some things are certainly better than others.

The service is very good; during my second visit one of our dishes was delayed due to a kitchen issue and the manager came over to apologize; we were having a “girls” night out so had not even really noticed.  Without even being asked,  they took the charge for that dish off the bill.  I consider that to be over and above service.  In general, both the wait and bar staff is very attentive, and knows the menu, including the wine list, well.

For an unusual salad I’d recommend the Farro Salad.  The mixture of Farro, marinated calamari, shrimp and vegetables is topped with a  mustard vinaigrette.

IMG_0430They have a good selection of pasta, most with a unique twist.  If you are a mushroom lover, I’d recommend the Pasta in a Jar.  The pizzas are also good and are a nice size for sharing; my favorite so far is the Prosciutto Pear.

I think the most unusual thing on the menu is the Coccoli, which is a combination of crispy dough, Stracchino cheese, prosciutto and truffle honey.  It is absolutely delicious and melts in your mouth.  Just be forewarned, it is very rich!

A tasty side dish is the Sticky Parmesan Potatoes; they taste much more interesting than the menu makes them sound.

While the 6 plus inches of snow and ground definitely mean that patio season has quite obviously ended, they do have a decent patio, which I’ll look forward to visiting again next summer!

Nellcote – Small Plates on Randolph Street

My first visit to Nellcôte involved drinks only, rather late at night, and while a great representation of their hip bar scene, it certainly was not a fair assessment of the restaurant. So while it took nearly a year, I decided it was time for a return trip to sample the food! I have to say, I’m glad I finally got around to it!    The restaurant itself is a neat space, with ornate decor.  They have a nice bar, and a good-sized bar area with high top tables.  It’s a nice spot for a date, or dinner with a small group of people.

The menu is designed around small plates;  with a good selection of unique dishes.  3 to 4 plates plus desert is plenty for two people unless you are really hungry!  The food presentation is beautiful!  While it was tempting to order one of everything, we refrained and stuck with just a few.  First was the Fennel Sausage Pizza – It had a nice crisp crust and the sausage was very flavorful.

Next was the Potato Gnocchi with lamb.   I’m not always a huge fan of lamb, but this was a great combination!  The dish is pretty rich, however the portion size is prefect.

They have a good selection of wines by the glass; our server was quite knowledgable about the wine list and was happy to let us taste some of the by the glass selections.

Dessert was a difficult choice; in the end we opted for the Chocolate Parfait, which turned out to be very different from what I was expecting.  It was a bit more like a chocolate mousse, with different types of chocolate.  It was decadent, but not too rich and very delicious.  I wanted to switch from my white wine to something that would be a better compliment to the dessert, so asked the server for a recommendation.  She suggested a sparking red wine that paired exceptionally well with the chocolate.

I woud definitely make another trip back to try some of the other menu options and further explore the wine list.

Ada St. – A Unique Spot in Noble Square

I had heard about this place a few times before I decided to try it, and have to say, it definitely lived up to the reputation is has developed!  I’m not sure they are really in the Noble Square neighborhood, so I’d suggest a map, or some good directions to find your way to Ada Street.

photo (4)

The menu is small plates, definitely designed for sharing.  There is a good variety, however if you are not into trying unusual food combos, you may have a difficult time with the menu.  The flavors are unique and the combinations are creative.

We ordered several plates to share.  The polenta fries where a great way to start – nice a crispy with a great chipotle dipping sauce.  My other two favorites were the Seared Octopus and the Diver Scallops.  The seafood in both was excellent and the mix of flavors were outstanding.  The menu changes seasonally; some of the main ingredients stay consistent over time, however the preparation changes.

They have a nice wine list with good variety and many options you don’t typically find.  We decided to let the bartender select a bottle of wine for us; we described what we wanted – something Chardonnay like, but not too oakey and not fruity.  He was spot-on with his choice!  Overall, the service is outstanding.

While we did not partake, the menu also includes a great selection of unique cocktails; there are definitely a few I’d like to go back and try on another visit.

Ada St. is not someplace for those on a budget – we spent nearly $100 per person, including tax and tip (no dessert), however we did have two bottles of wine!  They will let you take wine home if you pay the corkage fee, which was out intent, however it didn’t quite turn out that way!  The food and service is well worth the price.

They recently changed their policy to only take reservations between 5:30 and 6:30pm and then after that it is first come, first served.  This is a pretty small space, so I’d recommend going early unless you want to wait for a pretty long time.

Untitled – It really is a Speakeasy

OK, I guess it is not a true speakeasy since they can legally sell alcohol!  What it is, is a really unique space with a great atmosphere.  It is divided up into several rooms – including the Whiskey Library and the Champagne room.

While I’m not a whiskey drinker they are reported to have one of the best whiskey selections in Chicago (over 300 choices according to their website).  Some of the group I was with who like to indulge confirmed that it is definitely a spot for whiskey tasting.

The menu is a combination of small and large plates with a lot of variety, and is designed for sharing.   All of the dishes we tried were good, however nothing was really outstanding.  The food came out almost all at once, and the service was just average (it was a very  busy Saturday night).  The menu also have very, very limited choices for true vegetarians.

The atmosphere is fantastic, however be forewarned it can be very, very noisy depending on what room you are in; noisy to the point where it is difficult to carry on a conversation with anyone other than the person next to you.  The show is great – really entertaining!  If you want to see it, I recommend booking dinner reservations and requesting the main room.

I’d go back more for the atmosphere than the food.  It’s a good choice for a fun group night out!