Not too long ago, I sang the praises of "Red Sauce Sundays" at The Smith Restaurant + Bar (400 N. Clark St.; https://thesmithrestaurant.com/location/chicago/).
Starting at 5 p.m. each Sunday, this ultimate comfort meal features a chicken parm dinner for two (Caesar salad, chicken parm, rigatoni "a la vodka," parmesan garlic flatbread and rainbow cookies) for only $45. Plus, there are drink specials such as half-priced Chianti by the glass, carafe or big carafe.
However, how would a weekday lunch at The Smith work? Honestly, I had my concerns. After all, The Smith calls itself a "casual American brasserie," but the menu shows several Italian dishes, and the spot even dabbles in Korean (vegetable bibimbap).
I knew The Smith had a handle on Italian dishes, given the delightful "Red Sauce" dish. However, The Smith definitely succeeds on several levels.
My dining companion and I started with something I had never thought of trying: kettle chips topped with blue cheese sauce. Now, for me, a little blue cheese goes a long way; as long as I had a lot of chip compared to relatively little sauce, this combo worked for me. My friend (who decided to go old-school with his drink and order a Shirley Temple) really liked this appetizer. We also opted for skillet-roasted mac 'n cheese, which turned out to be a pretty solid dish as well.
When it came to entrees, my friend and I went two very different routes. He had a grilled chicken sandwichwhich he actually said was one of the best such sandwiches he's ever had (and he's been to many restaurants and cafes). The combination of burrata, tomato jam and basil aioli apparently took this sandwich to another level, judging by the smile on my friend's face.
Having grown up in the South, I thought the shrimp and grits sounded appealingand this entree turned out to be pretty impressive. The (thankfully, not spicy) jalapeno-cheddar grits served as a rectangular boat that supported the tasty shrimp, asparagus, leeks and scampi butter.(We didn't get around to the vegetable bibimbapbut maybe I'll sample it next time.)
And PLEASE do not skimp on dessert. I highly recommend the Quarter Pounders (three giant homemade chocolate-chunk cookies, for $8), which you will undoubtedly take home, microwave and enjoy with a tall glass of very cold milkpreferably disconnected from society.
COVID protocols: The Smith pretty much looks like it did before the pandemic, although it's now in one of those districts where the street has been (possibly permanently) cordoned off for dining. There's also a hand-sanitizer station when you enter the venuealthough it was empty when we arrived.