14th And Michigan Is Suddenly A Restaurant Hotspot
By Anthony Todd in Food on Aug 6, 2012 5:20PM
We lived in the South Loop for years - trust us, it's never been a great restaurant destination. There are occasional exceptions like Acadia and solid standbys like South Coast Sushi, but for anyone living south of Roosevelt, interesting food is hard to come by. That has changed in less than a month. Not one, not two, but three restaurants have all opened at the intersection of 14th and Michigan.
The first one we heard about was City Tavern, the new restaurant from Chef Kendal Duque of the Chicago Firehouse. The same restaurant group just opened an 18th century-themed tavern across the street in the former Grace O'Malley's location. You won't recognize it - the Irish decor has been replaced with cool blue wallpaper, dark wood paneling and a cozy lounge with a fireplace. The cocktail program, designed by Chicago veteran Peter Vestinos, sticks to the 18th century theme and leans heavily on rums, ports and madeira. It's a welcome addition to the Chicago cocktail scene, where rum often gets short shrift. The menu is reminiscent of Duque's work at Sepia - solid, hearty fare, well executed with some foodie twists. Plus, almost everything on the menu is under $20. 1416 S. Michigan Avenue.
Next on the list: Alain's. There isn't much information out about this restaurant yet - Grubstreet tried, unsuccessfully, to get anything out of their website - but it soft-opened last week. It's got a Chicago Bear (Israel Idonije) as a backer and the namesake chef, Alain Njike, has a distinguished resume that includes stints at Charlie Trotters and Nomi. The restaurant is particularly vague about the food, claiming that the menu will "offer an infusion of the eclectic tastes of Chef Njike's palate." This led Grubstreet and others to assume, since the website also mentioned the Chef's "Camaroon Heritage" and "French appreciation" that the restaurant would be some sort of fusion. But Thrillist published a menu that looks entirely generic and certainly has no hint of anything African. We'll keep an eye on this one. 1355 S. Michigan Avenue.
Last, but not least: Square One. This chic new wine bar also opened last week with a gorgeous design and a crazy system of wine-dispensing machines. Eater reported that customers can request a card from the bartender and pop it into machines that pour out 10 different rotating varietals. When you're done, you pay the amount accumulated on the card; sort of like foodlife for wine lovers. There are some small bites on the menu, but we suspect that the wine will be the draw - there isn't another wine-focused spot in the neighborhood, and the gimmicky machines will bring in everyone in the neighborhood at least once. 1400 S. Michigan Avenue.