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Posts Tagged ‘river north’

D.C. “Fete Select TV” Crenshaw, NBC5 Street Team

After a disappointing experience at the grand opening of the new restaurant Epic, in the downtown River North area of Chicago, I was a little hesitant to return for dinner.  The event that evening was far too crowded and a little unorganized that left me pondering the concept of the new hot spot.  I didn’t know whether they it was a club or a restaurant, so I decided to go back and check it out, after receiving a sincere message from their Maitre De.

Upon arrival, I again had the same thoughts.  Is this a club or a restaurant? But as soon as we were seated in the main dining area, the concept became very clear.  The downstairs bar area provides more of a lounge atmosphere with hip music, couches and hi top bar seating.   The upstairs space is where the feasting takes place.  The entire place is massive complete with four levels, including a rooftop terrace.  Epic’s design is simple and straightforward.  The architecture has a loft like appearance with elements of exposed brick, steel and concrete.  It didn’t wow me, but it got my attention.

Epic’s dinner menu is filled with beef, chicken, pork and fish entrées.  Seafood items plaster most of the appetizer section and they have a nice selection of salads and side dishes to choose from.  Since I’m a connoisseur of lamb shanks, I opted for the “Spiced Lamb Shank” entrée.   Our waiter assured me that their lamb shank would be right up there with the best that I’ve had.  Well, I wouldn’t necessarily give it those props, but it was definitely tender and succulent.  The combination of spices complemented the shank and the lamb jus was pungently flavorful without sweetness.  My dinner guests enjoyed the “Chilean Sea Bass” and “Salt Crusted Market Fish For Two” entrées.  The presentations for both dishes were done well.  The “Brussels Sprouts” side dish prepared with bacon, honey and chestnuts tempted my taste buds.  The sweet and savory combination helped me forget that I was eating brussels sprouts for a moment, but sprouts are sprouts.

Dinner was capped with dessert.  The “Chocolate” and “Pumpkin & White Chocolate” desserts were sampled.  The former consisted of flourless cake, mousse and hot fudge, and the latter was made with toasted white chocolate cake, roasted pumpkin ice cream and chestnut caramel.  Both desserts were solid, but didn’t have me licking the plate.  The service started off a little slow, but picked up as the dinner progressed.  The atmosphere was festive, which helped the cocktails to flow more readily, although, I wouldn’t recommend Epic for a quiet evening at dinner.  Expect to drop $50 per person on dinner before getting your keys back from the valet and be prepared to hang out for after dinner cocktails in the downstairs bar area.  Overall Epic’s cuisine was solid with a good atmosphere and decent service.  My final “Tru” rating is TTt.

   To view my “Tru” rating system for Epic visit www.efete.net/blog.html.
 

 

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D.C. “Fete Select TV” Crenshaw, NBC5 Street Team

Upscale tends to be the trend in sports bars these days.  Or at least the hope is to attract a more sophisticated and trendy crowd that would typically choose a hipper environment to spend their Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.    The new River North sports bar, Bull and Bear, not only lures the hipsters, but attracts businessmen and women during the lunch hour.91101

The name Bull and Bear obviously recognizes two of Chicago’s major sports teams, but also refers to the financial world and appeals to the CBOT crowd.  The restaurant has a nice layout and designs, but can get a little too close for comfort when crowded.  After talking with a few friends about the menu, I wanted to see if their food matched the upscale vibe.  Well, let’s just say that it didn’t measure up.

The Bull and Bear menu has a ton of starters, salads, main courses, sides and short order options.  There are a plethera of burgers and sandwiches to choose from as well as a few non bar food entrees.  The “Onion Tower” and “Sweet Potato Fries” were typical.  Nothing great, but nothing bad about either dish.  The “Lobster Bisque” was deemed to be a signature item and would have been if it wasn’t served luke warm.    The “Double Cut Grilled Pork Chop” was a little dry and didn’t live up to the waitresses billing,  but my dining guest really enjoyed his “Pulled Hammy” pork sliders.  We were graciously served with a sampling of all of their desserts, which consisted of a chocolate chip cookie draped in vanilla ice cream, cinnamon doughnut holes with three different dipping sauces, peanut butter bread pudding, and a “Thrilla in Vanilla” shake with Filandia Vodka and Godiva Dark Vanilla Royale.  They were all savory, but I wouldn’t necessarily have paired peanut butter and bread pudding together.  The service started off sketchy, due to a mishap with my reservation, but the owner and waitress attempted to make up for it.  Don’t expect upscale service during crowded nights though, because it is still, however, a sports bar.

A unique feature to Bull and Bear are their 5 premiere booths with Personal Table Taps.  Each booth has two taps (1 domestic, 1 import) that dispenses beer, which is recorded on a meter at the table.  The goal is to allow guests to pay-as-they-pour and enjoy a no-wait standard of service.  This feature should be a big hit for beer lovers.

Bull and Bear has only been open for about 3 weeks, so they may still be working out the kinks.  Although they didn’t meet my dining experience expectations for what they deem as an “exclusive luxury sports bar”, I may give them another shot once the madd rush dies down.

Bull and Bear is located 431 N. Wells St.  For more information log onto www.bullbearbar.com.  Also watch Fete Select TV on www.efete.net to check out the newest and hottest restaurants in Chicago.

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Right Zed Fed

Dave Leonard, NBC5 Street Team, (Video)

“Free food??? I’m there!!!” This was my reply when I got the invite from my good friend at the Burnham hotel for one of the pre-grand openings of the stylish restaurant/bar and lounge, Zed 451. 

Located in the heart of the River North part of downtown, Zed 451 has a very busy atmosphere from the moment you walk through the door.  There are several rooms inside, both upstairs and downstairs bustling with hosts and hostesses, servers and patrons.  The eye-catching wood decor gives you a warm, inviting feeling with several large fireplaces…almost like you’re stepping into a huge ski lodge.  The first room you see is the bar and lounge with it’s cool intimate lighting and music…great place to unwind after a hard days work.  A huge wine storage area partially fills the space with an assortment of wines from all over the world.

The main dining area was overwhelming with the surrounding all-you-can-eat harvest bars that included the freshest of food items including: cheeses, soups, salads, and fruits.  If you’re not careful, you can easily fill up quick in this area and not have enough room for the main course.   

After nibbling on a few appetizers from the Harvest Bar, it was time for the real deal.  The main course set up at Zed 451 is very similar to Fogo De Chao.  Instead of a red and green coaster, you place a stone on your table to alert the chefs that you are ready to eat.  One by one they start to bring several meat, fish, and poultry selections for you to choose from until you can’t eat another bite.

Far be it for me to be the restaurant critic — not to mention that beggars can’t be choosy — but I have to be honest and say I was a tad bit underwhelmed by some of the food.  With the exception of the chimichurri chicken wings and the citrus-glazed salmon, a lot of the steak portions left a little to be desired.  Perhaps it was me being greedy, but the portions didn’t come as frequent as I would have hoped, and the near nail in the coffin was the restaurant running out of the chocolate desserts.

All in all, my experience at Zed 451 was good and the staff was very friendly and attentive.  For a new hotspot, I would definitely recommend and give it another try.

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