Monday, December 24, 2012

Sloopin Top Ten of 2012: #6 - City Tavern

2012 is almost over and with that we fired up our google analytics account to see which stories had the most views during the year.  With that said, look for posts daily counting down our top ten stories of 2012.

#6:  City Tavern Comes to Old Grace O'Malley's Space
It was a big year for new restaurants in the Sloop and City Tavern was one of the shinning stars.

Way back in 2011 we were pondering what may come of the old Grace O'Malley's space.  Mainstay Hospitality, who also operate the Chicago Firehouse and Wabash Tap, mentioned that they had plans for this space, but wouldn't give up much information.

Image from City Tavern Facebook Page
Fast forward to April and Chicago Magazine had the scoop on the new restaurant:
Like time, the history trend marches on. Mainstay Hospitality, the company that owns Chicago Firehouse and Wabash Tap, plans to open the “18th-century tavernesque” City Tavern (1416 S. Michigan Ave.; no phone yet) in early May in the space formerly occupied by Grace O’Malley’s. Kendal Duque, the chef at Chicago Firehouse and the opening chef at Sepia, will create the menu.
While the opening date dragged on a little bit, the doors finally opened in June.  While there were a couple minor issues (it was pretty damn loud inside the space), the restaurant was widely praised.  We had an amazing Salmon entree that still has us drooling.

But then something strange happened.  Kendall Duque, the long time chef at Chicago Firehouse and the brains behind City Tavern, was no longer at the helm.  It was all pretty sudden and surprising.  However, Duque was replaced by Jackie Shen (previously of Red Light, Chicago Cut), a well respected chef in Chicago.

As far as we can tell City Tavern hasn't missed a beat.  The place tends to be packed on the weekends and things appear to be well.  It probably doesn't hurt that they also won a prestigious Michellin Bib Gourmand rating in November.  

All in all a solid addition to the Sloop!  Now if we can just figure out what's going on next door!


Paul Botts said...

My wife and I are big fans of City Tavern and go there regularly. Unfortunately though the noise level when it's full is more than just an issue, it's a serious problem. At peak dinner time it gets really quite amazing, like few other restaurants I've ever been in -- literally difficult to have a conversation with someone sitting right next to you let alone with anyone across a table. Also I have a close relative with partial hearing loss for whom City Tavern might as well be the middle of a hurricane...and oddly they refuse to turn off the ambient music which would at least help the situation a bit.

So with regret we've had to swear off the place for weekend dinners. We go either for weekend brunch (which is excellent) or when we can be certain of being able to sit up front at the two little cocktail tables by the front windows. (Basically only early in the week as far as dinner.)

It's a real shame because the food is excellent and the place looks great and the prices are quite reasonable for the quality you get. If they could bring the ambient noise level down to just "loud" we'd be pitching the place to everyone we know.

Anonymous said...

Paul - happy holidays to you. I have commented about City Tavern in another post that this is exactly what this area is missing. I love this restaurant (food and searvice), but also it is the only restaurant in the South Loop (minus sports bar Scout) that has a real buzz going like a restaurant in the West Loop or River North. I understand that we just don't have the type of 'crowd' that supports many of these as those restaurants are packed during the weekdays as well, but we do need more. I would say we could use one or two more near Michigan between 13/14th and at least 3-4 of these in Motor Row.

Anonymous said...

Ate there several times. The salmon dinner is very good