Recently I had the pleasure of trying out three restaurants: One, an old favorite, another a birthday-celebrating brunch spot, and finally a brand-new Americana destination that just opened April 30. If there were leftovers, I’d surely share them, especially those amazing bacon donuts (read on!) but instead I thought I’d serve up my experience with some photos to whet your appetite for new venues.
First up was Mercat a la Planxa, the South Loop restaurant that offers a taste of Barcelona and is within minutes of the Hilton, Grant Park, and Columbia College. Run by Chef Jose Garces (one of only six Iron Chefs America), Mercat was named one of Esquire magazine’s best new restaurants of 2008 and the excitement carries on four years later with his distinctive tapas-styled plates. Chef de Cuisine Cory Morris led us through an extensive chef’s tasting beginning with charcuterie and cheeses to the main courses of fresh lobster, streaks and chops, each paired with a complimentary wine taste. The meal was finished with a round of decadent chocolate croquettes. Soon, Mercat will open its 60-seat outdoor patio while the private dining spaces on the second tier seat around 30 and offer an unparalleled birdseye look at the restaurant and private views of the Michigan Avenue landscape.
Porkchop is one of Randolph Street’s newest residents. Known as the West Loop’s only late night BBQ and whiskey spot, Porkchop also offers a fabulous Southern brunch complete with pulled pork eggs benedict, a classic chicken ‘n waffles feast, strawberry French toast and some amazing homemade bacon glazed doughnuts. The atmosphere is another coup with evocative artwork, a panel of forested wallpaper and a row of rustic saws separating the kitchen. Porkchop celebrates its one-year anniversary on Saturday, May 19 with $1 select whiskey shots and draft beers plus complimentary small bites.
From the south we move to sunny California with Westmont’s newest fine dining establishment Bakersfield. The elegant space just opened on April 30 on the heels of sister property Standard Market across the street. Both offer a “celebration of food,” which was widely apparent in Bakersfield’s vast array of offerings. We recommend the Thai shrimp appetizer, 96-hour marinated Cajun Ribeye, and fried Oreos for dessert. The 7,500-square foot property seats 175 comfortably inside with another 48 people allowed on the fully furnished patio complete with fireplace, fire pit and communal table.
One calendar item to note: The Chopping Block hosts a special event for professional and corporate event planners on Thursday May 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In this hands-on event, you’ll receive info on the recreational cooking school located in the Merchandise Mart, tour the extensive kitchens, prepare a meal, and learn how the facility can offer a unique activity space for your guests and clients. Space is limited so e-mail Lisa@thechoppingblock.net or call 312.644.6489 to reserve your spot.
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