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Snacks and A Show at the Drawing Room

By Anthony Todd in Food on Sep 11, 2009 5:00PM

At least among our limited circle of friends, the Drawing Room is a restaurant masked by confusion. Despite their intense PR efforts over the past couple of years, some seemed unsure about what, exactly, the Drawing Room is. “Isn’t that just a nightclub?” “I have no idea where that place is, and I’ve walked past it a thousand times!” “Isn’t that, like, a hidden strip club?” Admittedly, the last one was a bit of a stretch. We had visited Le Colonial, their upstairs neighbor, at least 10 times without noticing the entrance and staircase leading down to the basement restaurant. We’re very glad that streak has finally been broken. The Drawing Room is a gem of a place; small and cozy, beautifully designed, offering interesting, well-priced food and amazing cocktails.

While a future “Properly Sauced” will focus more closely on The Drawing Room's cocktail offerings, suffice it to say that they give the Violet Hour a run for their money. We know, it’s heresy, but it’s true. Our favorite cocktail, the “Nooner,” is a surprising combination of brandy, maple syrup and ginger, and goes down so nicely it’s like drinking smooth jazz in liquid form. The “Lost in Translation,” made with the eponymous movie’s featured Suntori Yamazaki 12 year scotch, green-tea syrup, yuzu, grapefruit and basil, was a close second, and a rarely-successful scotch cocktail. The best part of the entire Drawing Room experience is their tableside cocktail service. For no additional cost, one of their mixologists (in our case, head cocktailer Charles Joly) will come to your table and mix your cocktails. For those of us who love mixing, this is heaven itself - you can observe technique, ask questions about ingredients and get to talk to some of Chicago’s best mixers. It makes the $12 cocktail (lately becoming a restaurant standard) much more bearable.

Don’t think The Drawing Room is all about the cocktails. With Shawn McClain (of Green Zebra and Custom House) acting as their consulting chef, the food selection at The Drawing Room is small but choice. The entire menu is made up of varying sizes of small plates, the most expensive priced at $17. When we eat at restaurants that offer “small plates” we usually expect to order a ton of dishes - but we were surprised at the generous portions of some of the offerings. Their unique take on a hamburger is made with braised beef short rib and served in a “do it yourself” format, accompanied by a variety of fixins.’ The short rib, cooked to tender perfection, falls apart just as a burger would but brings much more flavor to the dish. The “Meat and Potatoes” offers a well-grilled sliced flank steak, and their “Fish and Chips” consists of respectably constructed Salt Cod Croquettes, offered with preserved lemon aioli.

Our suggestion - go for the cocktails and have a few snacks, not a full meal. It keeps the price down to a reasonable level, and you still get to try (and share) some of the great food. We suggest weekday evenings, when The Drawing Room is much quieter. Bring friends, order a few rounds of drinks and enjoy the show.

The Drawing Room is located at 937 N. Rush Street. Reservations are recommended.