Rarely will you see a restaurant revamp as total as the one at Tied House ( 3157 N. Southport Ave.; www.tiedhousechicago.com/ ).
Next door to the popular spot Schubas Tavern, Tied House occupies the spot where Harmony Grill used to beand it features a more upscale decor ( including a huge fireplace in the outdoor patio area ) and cuisine.
As with many Chicago restaurants, there is history steeped in this spot. A "tied house" used to sell beverages connected with a particular brewery in exchange for a fee ( so they were "tied" to said brewery )with many local spots connected to Milwaukee-based Schlitz. Tied House still features a Schlitz facade.
The restaurant, which opened in late February, is spacious and has a lot of "clean lines," as they would say. There are 60 feet of sliding doors and a 25-foot bar in this 12,000-square-foot spot ( including the full basement ).
And the staff! Former Everest Pastry Chef Debbie Gold is the executive chef of Tied House, and Ryan Carbone ( formerly of Dusek's ) and Chuck Woods ( who used to work at Girl and the Goat ) are the sous chefs.. ( By the way, according to a widely circulated report, women represent only 19 percent of chefs and 7 percent of head chefs across the culinary worldwhich is absolutely shameful. )
As for the cuisine and service, they're both pretty impressive at this high end-yet-approachable restaurant. ( Our server, who resembled Mark Consuelos, was extremely affable and made sure every patron's need was tended toeven if it was finding out a hashtag or keeping water in an ice bucket. )
Even the bread service was a step above that of most restaurants. Guests can select from Parker House rolls, seeded rye bread or honey-oat porridge bread that can come with bone-marrow butter, chicken-liver mousse, green-tomato marmalade, whipped lardo or creme fraiche honeycomb in addition to the dairy butter.
The rest of the menu is divided into "Vegetable," "Sea" and "Land." However, there is nothing standard beyond those category names. For example, one selection in the first category is maitake mushroom, a delicious and earthy dish that comes with farm egg, broth and shoyu. ( Yes, I know a mushroom isn't technically considered a vegetable, but in any event... )
Other dishes are just as enticing and complex. My friend loved her beeswax-aged mackerel, which came with leek, yellow beet, horseradish and duck sauce. I chose the milk-braised pork ( with cabbage, salsify and apple ) and it was absolutely deliciousalthough it was a bit too fatty for me. ( A little fat goes a long way. ) And don't go anywhere without trying the chocolate mousse, which comes with cocoa nibs; the deconstructed wedding cake, to me, was merely okay.
Among some of the other dishes I'm dying to try on a return visit are the monkfish, lamb rack and short rib. However, with a spring menu likely to debut within the next month, some of these items may not be around too longor, simply, some of the vegetables that accompany them may change.
One other note: If you dare, you can try a dive-bar special here: a shot of Malort. Rarely does anyone have anything good to say about this drinkand I can add my name to that list. However, I can say that I tried it ( and it was followed by my firstand last"Malort face" ). However, the actual cocktail I got ( and they're numbered one through six ) was very tasty.
If you hear about Tied House reaping awards within a year, don't be surprised.
Dining Out for Life
The annual event known as Dining Out for Life Chicago will take place Thursday, April 26.
This year, up to 75 local restaurants ( including Big Chicks, Urban Belly, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, The Dearborn and others ) will donate all or a portion of their proceeds to HIV/AIDS-service organization TPAN ( Test Positive Aware Network ). The event returns to Chicago after a three-year absence.
Dining Out For Life started in 1991 and is now an international fundraising event raising awareness and over $4.2 million in vital funds and for those affected by and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. See https://www.diningoutforlife.com/chicago.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.