The Grid ( 351 W. Hubbard St.; TheGridChicago.com ) is among the new crop of River North restaurants ( Municipal, Blackfinn Ameripub ) to incorporate a Chicago theme.
As one might guess, this eatery is modeled on the city's grid system, as evidenced by a decor that shows what appears to be screens throughout the restaurant. Yes, it's a gimmickbut it works.
Thankfully, the contemporary American cuisine also works well, overall. The cocktails are named after areas of Chicago, and the drink I had ( the Hubbard Street ) was one of the best I've had in recent memory. ( Unfortunately, as of last week, it was not listed on an online menu that includes items such as the Little Village, The Gold Coast and Argyle Street. )
Assistant general manager Noah recommended several dishes, so my guest and I decided to try the blue crab cracker and the smoking steak tartare. While the former dish did not work too well for me ( the chili aioli seemed to overwhelm the crab ), the tartare definitely worked for me as a visual and gustatory delight.
That continued with my sandwich: the "Explorateur," a combination of Angus beef, cheese, maple pork belly and lettuce. I was a little concerned about one meat's flavor being lost in the other, but that was certainly not the case as they complemented each other perfectly. My guest had the fried chicken-and-oyster sandwich ( with sweet chili, bok choy and peanuts ), which he also seemed to enjoy. By the way, The Grid has a pretty impressive list of entrees, ranging from braised butternut squash to salmon to pork steak.
There are also desserts ( again, not listed online ). Items include donuts ( and it's the sauces that make that dessert ) as well as a tasty coconut cream pie, among others.
Unfortunately, the wood-fired oven was not ready so we could not sample the pizzas. However, the combinations look quite tempting, such as one with smoked chicken, fig and blue cheese.
When asked if the location is problematic ( considering it's a bit far from tourist-saturated Michigan Avenue ), Borden replied that The Grid is located very close to well-known spots such as Merchandise Mart and the tony gym the East Bank Club.
I'm not sure if people will want to indulge in pizza and beer right after working out, but The Grid definitely deserves a shot. ( Also, be sure to say hello to server Natalie, a friendly blonde who is simultaneously efficient and accommodating. )
Jellyfish, take two: Windy City Times recently reviewed the trendy pan-Asian eatery Jellyfish ( 1009 N. Rush St.; www.jellyfishchicago.com ), but a subsequent visit warrants deeming this eatery a "must-visit." When my guest ( who had just come from Japan ) had no complaints, that should recommend it right there.
From the edamame to the spicy crab mini-tacos to the signature rolls ( the Fire & Snow is especially delightful ) to the taro funnel cakes, Jellyfish has it down pat. Also, the Sizzling Stone ( where patrons cook wagyu tableside ) is something that should be tried.