Before taking a bite of anything at South Branch Tavern & Grille (100 S. Wacker Dr.; www.southbranchchicago.com/&, patrons are likely to be impressed.
The reason lies in the picturesque views surrounding the spot.
Ensconced near some of the most impressive buildings in the Loop and situated next to an arm of the Chicago River, there are many aspects of scenery (ranging from skyscrapers to boats to people) to absorb while enjoying food and drink with friends. Of course, more views are to be had outside on the charming patio of this decade-old spot.
Regarding its cuisine, South Branch's is generally described as contemporary American; however, Managing Partner Juan Hernandez told Windy City Times it's "more than" that. The menu confirms that: Although you'll find Nashville hot chicken, New England clam chowder and other U.S. items, there are also tuna poke nachos, Korean BBQ protein bowl and even Impossible quesadillas. (Also, for those who like spice, there's no shortage of heat here, as some dishes come with wasabi, sriracha and even housemade spicy bread-and-butter pickles.)
Executive Chef Josh Haske acquits himself admirably by solidly handling the wide range of items on the menu. My dining companion and I chose the crispy (and delicious) Brussels sprouts that are served with bacon lardons and smokey honey aioli. And the previously mentioned tuna poke nachos are addictiveas long as you don't consume too many of the jalapenos (another spicy element that may challenge those with low heat tolerance).
Regarding entrees, my friend really enjoyed his skirt-steak wrap, commenting that the meat was cooked perfectly. On my end, the shrimp scampi certainly workeda light yet filling dish that was beautifully presented. We both tried the lobster roll; I thought it was a solid dish that was one of the better such sandwiches I've had in this city.
And if you have room for dessert, definitely give it a try. There are only two selections, but the itemsa peanut-butter Snickers pie; and chocolate-chip cookie dough with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauceare certainly decadent. They're the perfect cappers to what should be an enjoyable culinary experience.
By the way, South Branch is only open for lunch and dinner during the week. As Hernandez said, "There isn't much traffic around here on the weekends," so brunch isn't a possibility. However, the space is open for eventsso definitely that in mind.
COVID protocols: Patrons are required to wear masks inside (per Chicago rules). In addition, tables are cleaned/disinfected between guests' visits and there are QR menus on the tables.
Note: This visit was arranged.