At The Press Room (1134 W. Washington Blvd..; www.pressroomchicago.com ), a lot of patrons may encounter the unexpected.
The West Loop restaurantwhich is only open Wednesday through Sunday eveningshas undergone quite the change. Now, it's an intimate basement speakeasy with influences that span everything from the 1920s to goth.
The Press Room's building (which it shares with Solo Salon Washington and The Publishing House B&B) is filled with history. It was constructed in 1909 as the Free Methodist Publishing House, and later became a casket factory, and then a holography museum. Given its first incarnation, the name "Press Room" makes perfect sense.
As for Executive Chef Jeff Williams' cuisine, it's described as "New American." It's an intriguing and possibly perplexing description for some, but the term indicates fusion of U.S. cooking techniques with global components.
And the menu is a potpourri of native and global items, for sure. Shared-plate offerings include oysters (East and West coasts), hamachi crudo (a raw-fish preparation that includes leche de tigre, saffron aioli and strawberry), Mexican-style chorizo, steak tartare and a wonderful cheese-and-charcuterie board (that includes everything from duck salami and jamon serrano to aged gouda to housemade gherkins).
In this day and ageand with so many vegetarians and vegans in the city, at leastit's nice to see a section of the menu devoted completely to vegetables. Selections include fried Brussels sprouts; kale Caesar salad; broccoli (with seaweed aioli, soy glaze and candied peanuts); and delectable but risky shishito peppers (with mascarpone cream that can soothe the pain from the occasional spicy pod).
The Press Room also excels with its pasta dishes. My dining companion really liked the gnocchi sardi, with eggplant, sun-dried tomato, corn, melrose peppers and sesame. I gravitated toward the tagliatelle pork sugo, and loved my choice; the pasta was cooked very well, as was the braised porkand the hazelnuts added a nice textural layer.
Dessert selections are limited, but tasty. We chose Italian doughnuts (zeppoles)and who can say no to fried dough balls?
Drink selections are plentiful, and many of the cocktail offerings are tempting. I thoroughly enjoyed the Jungle Bird (black rum, campari, pineapple lime) while my companion opted for refreshing virgin mojitos.
Overall, there aren't too many menu choices (regarding food, at least)but when everything is done well, what The Press Room offers is certainly more than good enough. Definitely check out this spot with your friends or a datebut you might want to leave the kids at home.
COVID protocols: Patrons are required to wear masks inside, unless eating or drinking (per Chicago rules). In addition, tables are cleaned/disinfected between guests' visits. Menus are handed out, though; you may just want to access the website and have that available on your phone when you visit (and have that flashlight app handy as well).
Note: This visit was arranged.