Summer is the time to enjoy the outdoors and all that comes with it. This of course includes a great meal. What if I told you there was a place where you could enjoy a great meal reminiscent of a cookout right in downtown Chicago?
FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar now open at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, “creates that comforting feeling of sitting around a campfire and eating delicious, yet simply prepared food, but with all of the amenities of a cosmopolitan restaurant,” says Executive Chef Leonard Ventura.
I had the opportunity to meet and chat with Chef Ventura about the restaurant and try the dinner menu. Arriving, my guest and I opted to sit on the patio. The space has a rustic look with much of the interior in wood and while contemporary, a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere.
Chef Leonard Ventura, a culinary industry veteran who has worked at a variety of hotels, and Chef de Cuisine Monketh M. Alaridi, most recently of Radisson Blu Mall of America’s FireLake, teamed up for this restaurant. I asked, in creating the menu, what did the process look like? Chef Ventura responded, “looking for the freshest/ seasonal produce, local meats and fish is a good part of it, we are fortunate to live in a big city like Chicago where it is much easier to find.” How much does the concept/atmosphere play a role? “During our recent renovation we added a rotisserie and smoker with just that in mind, both play a major part of our new FireLake DNA”, he said.
On the menu, dishes include Hunter Crusted Filet Mignon, Pan Roasted Salmon, High Plains Buffalo Burger, Spit Roasted Prime Rib, among others. I started with Beer Battered Eichten’s Cheese Curds, Pork Belly, and Popovers. The cheese curds had a great pull and smokey ketchup enhanced the flavor. The pork belly was tender, and the accompanying jalapeno creamed corn was pure goodness. If you like a hint of spice and roasted corn; you should definitely try it. The popovers are amazing and are a must. So light and airy. Complimentary to this pastry is the honey butter. Simply delicious. Next up, was the Roasted Bone Marrow. With parsley salad, bacon shallot jam, and crusty bread, it melted in your mouth and had a great smoky aftertaste. All definitely reminiscent of a campfire meal with distinct flavors for each dish.
Cherry, maple, apple, and mesquite woods are used on a rotating basis in the smoker for dishes such as the 24-hour slow-cooked brisket, wings, sausage, bacon, and mesquite smoked ribs.
I asked Chef, for someone who may not be familiar, how does the type of wood impact the flavor of the food? He responded saying, “apple wood has a mildly sweet fruity wood ideal for fish but can also give poultry a unique taste, cherry wood is a sweet wood that works well with spare ribs and we use maple wood which pairs well with Amish rotisserie chickens.”
While for the main course, I decided on the Mesquite Grilled Porterhouse joined by a cassoulet of duchess potatoes, Chef Ventura recommends the Spit Roasted Prime Rib. “It would be a wonderful choice, it is slowly roasted over a pit of charcoal and mesquite wood, any of our smoked meats will have you craving for more”
Do not forget about the drinks. Firelake teamed up with a local brewery to create a signature FireLake Brew. Light with citrus, grapefruit, and tropical flavors, it pairs well with the menu. It is also used in the cheese curd batter. Five specialty cocktails are also an option that complement the food as well.
What sets this dining experience apart from other places? I asked Chef Ventura. “Our casual atmosphere, specialty dishes and creative beverages cater to everyone” I agree with him. The atmosphere is great, and the food is delicious.
Open not just for lunch or dinner, weekend brunch offers signature items such as Bananas Foster Stuffed French Toast, FireLake Lox platter, and more. Diners will also have their choice of bottomless Mimosas or bottomless House Bloody Marys from 8:00am-2:00pm Saturdays and Sundays.
FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar is located at 221 N. Columbus Dr. Chicago, Il 60601. Lunch: Monday-Friday 11am to 4pm, Dinner: Monday to Friday 4pm-10pm, Saturday and Sunday 2pm-10pm, Weekend Brunch 8am- 2pm.
About Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago
Located on the first 18 floors of the 82-story Aqua Tower designed by internationally acclaimed, environmentally conscious architect Jeanne Gang, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago is a design-centric hotel that connects guests to Chicago through art, fashion and culture. The Streeterville hotel’s 334 chic rooms and suites are defined by clean lines, pops of color and modern furnishings, many of which offer stunning views of Lake Michigan and downtown Chicago. Dog-friendly rooms and services are available. Amenities include an 80,000-square-foot green roof and recreation deck featuring gardens and gazebos, an 8,000-square-foot, state-art-of-the-art fitness and spa facility, indoor lap pool, indoor basketball court, outdoor pools and hot tubs with cabanas, firepit and grill, 1/5-mile running trail and full-service business center. The hotel boasts close to 26,000 square feet of meeting room and event space, including an outdoor area. Its proximity to many of Chicago’s popular attractions, including Lake Michigan, Navy Pier, Millennium Park, Magnificent Mile and top museums, makes Radisson Blu the perfect choice for visitors of all types. For further information, please click here.