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Rittergut is Ritter-GOOD!

By John DiGilio in Food on Nov 7, 2011 8:20PM

2011_11_7Rittergut.jpg Ritter-what? One of the Loop's newest eateries may have an odd name, but don't let it throw you. Rittergut Wine Bar & Social Club is worth a visit. This hidden gem is a fresh and welcome addition to the downtown dining scene with a great menu and an amazing selection of wines. You may choke on the moniker, but the food and drink go down quite nicely.

Nestled in the corridor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (between the 10 and 30 South Wacker Towers), Rittergut is almost hidden from street traffic. You almost have to stumble upon it to even know it is there. A roomy interior drenched in dark tones and stone accents, the coziness of the restaurant makes it the perfect place to sit and meander over a meal or in which to slowly savor a bold glass of vino. There is an actual wine tasting bar within Rittergut that makes for a playful addition to its ambience. It is even available for groups and private tastings.

Rittergut's menu offers lunch, dinner and wine tasting options, as well as cheese samplings and charcuterie selections. The prices may seem a little on the higher side, but this is not fast food. It is a dining experience. Lunch time sandwiches run from about eight dollars for the grilled cheese to $12 for the bacon cheeseburger made from Wagyu beef. The soups and basic salads all come in at under a ten-spot. Entrees, regardless of meal, are priced between $12 and $24 dollars with a full selection of fish and meat dishes to tempt you. When you are ready to add that warm-fuzzy-feeling to your meal, Rittergut features a selection of wines by the glass that spans four menu pages!

We decided to put Rittergut to the test with a casual weekday lunch visit. The service was warm and attentive and the vibe was just perfect for a dreary, cold autumn day. We were looking to shake off the pre-winter doldrums and this felt like the place to do it. We paired their grilled cheese sandwich with a cup of the roasted red pepper soup. The sandwich was cooked to a golden brown and was oozing with cheesy goodness. This was not your ordinary grilled cheese, however. It contained a creamy French comte that, although bold at first bite, left a subtle sweetness on the tastebuds. The thick soup with a dollop of sweet corn salsa stirred in was the perfect accompaniment to the sandwich. We also took our waiter's suggestion and tried the pan seared grouper. Served with potatoes, spinach, and San Marzano tomatoes, it was wonderfully light and flaky. It melted in our mouths. By the time we got done sampling, we had no room left for dessert. Next time!

The next time you are in the Loop and are craving something delicious that is a little less rushed, stop and savor the flavors of Rittergut Wine Bar & Social Club. It is a little oasis in the midst of a bustling business district that begs you to slow down, even if just briefly. Sample enough of those wines and you may soon wonder why you were even in such a hurry in the first place. Isn't that what a good meal should do?

Rittergut Wine Bar & Social Club is located at 10 S. Wacker Dr.