New American cuisine served within the lush, feminine confines of what was once Green Room, Butter offers the West Loop a casual yet sophisticated dining experience.
Walking into Butter, Chicagoist got the sense that it looks to accomplish two things: 1) appeal to the hipsters while maintaining a dignity that best befits a chef who cut his teeth at The French Laundry and Le Francais; and 2) be a place to be seen but not so seen that everyone there is worried about winding up in some lame-ass social page of sorts.
What we mean is that it's comfortable. Butter is approachable. If Alinea is Angelina Jolie then Butter is Jennifer Aniston. Both are fantastic and (allegedly) have carnal knowledge of Brad Pitt's particulars but you really have to be of a certain constitution to handle that much sexiness. The same logic applies here: We loved Alinea but we'll be back at Butter before the month is out.
Chicagoist spoke with Executive Chef Ryan Poli, who graciously came out from the kitchen to visit with customers (an oft-forgotten touch of hospitality that goes a long way to making guests feel like royalty) and asked him who they most hope to attract and without hesitation he replied, "Women." We're not surprised. With its fabric-draped ceilings, backlit by pink and orange lighting, textured walls in amber, gold and red, not to mention the curious painting over the bar of a set of juicy red lips, Butter certainly sets a sexier environment for the ladies.
The most talked about female-friendly fixture has to be the bathroom: a cabinet in the restroom features every amenity a girl could want, plus we heard a rumor that Butter makes available pashmina scarves for those cooler evenings.
While it's inviting for women, Butter is not just another spot for gaggles of girls to gather and play out their very own Sex and The City fantasies. There was plenty of testosterone to be found; the men didn't look as though any minute they expected to be pelted by tampons. It's a fine date spot: intimate, slightly romantic without being obvious and fun.
The food was fantastic. Chicagoist adored everything from the truffle oil-tinged oyster crackers to the ceviche to the chocolate terrine. We opted out of the starter menu and went straight for the raw bar sampler ($69). A selection of East Coast oysters, stone crab claws, oyster shooters, Cherrystone clams, shrimp cocktail, and ceviche, it was a great treat. Almost.
Chicagoist hadn't the slightest clue that this sampler would be presented on a tower that took up the entire girth of our very small table for two. Not only that, the accompaniments came with a tower of their very own, leaving room for only a candle and two glasses of wine. It's a nice effect, and we applaud the effort, but they really need to find an alternative presentation for tables such as the one we were at.
Chicagoist tried two items from the featured entree page: Muscovy Duck (Roast Breast and Confit Leg Rillete) with Melted Leeks, Brussel Sprouts and Potato Foam ($25) and Slow Roasted Crispy Braised Belly Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Apples, Endive Marmalade and Apple Gastrique ($21). While Chicagoist is forever spoiled by Blackbird's Chef Paul Kahan and his pork belly presentation, Poli does a fantastic job with his and the caramelized apples made us happy. Overall, we were more excited by the duck and the melted leeks. Chicagoist was ridiculously excited about the melted leeks. We've clearly not had enough of them.
The service was spectacular; our server Julia answered every question we threw at her and recommended a fantastic Pinot Noir. We're still talking about how much we loved that bottle of wine. Chicagoist loves that she left us the cork, even though it means nothing in terms of judging a bottle of wine. It's a nice touch just the same.
Not a requirement but rather a suggestion: There is a slight chance you'll feel out of place without a little effort placed into your appearance. The customers aren't so trendy that it's obnoxious, but if you're the kind of person who worries about such things know that there was no shortage of boho-peasant chic and Prada bags the night Chicagoist was at Butter.
It wasn't a cheap night, either—Chicagoist split the bill between two people and including tip we each spent $137 bucks. But we drank quite a bit and there was that seafood sampler. You could probably get away with a cheaper evening there if you stick to a main course and one bottle of wine.
Butter is definitely worth your time and cash whether you've got ovaries or not.
Butter, 130 South Green Street, (312) 666-9813