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Friday, June 24, 2005

Charlie Trotter's - Chicago - Restaurant Review

posted by snekse

Chicago-Trotters1
Originally uploaded by snekse.
What can I say, Charlie Trotter's was excellent. There is a lot of chatter on several forums about how Trotter's isn't what it used to be or that it's not as relevant in today's epicurean world. I've never dined here before, but I think Trotter's food is just as relevant as other place we've been.

Their service staff was friendly and well heeled without being pretentious, which is not all that common. Certainly the only place during our stay in Chicago that was able to provide that kind of service.

The food was simple and elegant with several points of interest. Not cutting edge, but that's not what Trotter's is about. They're not going to put something in front of you that hasn't been put through the paces.

There were 2 really interesting and nice additions to our meal that made it especially memorable and delightful.

The first was the beverage pairing. A selection of unique non-alcoholic beverages, most of them made fresh, that have been specifically paired to go with the menus. This was the first time we've ever had such a pairing. I must say, we both thought they were a great addition and I would highly recommend trying such an accompaniment at least once. They did a fantastic job on matching each drink with each course. The highlight of the pairing was the Pinot Noir Juice. We downed a total of 3 glasses - what can we say, they kept pouring, we kept drinking.

The other addition that made my wife glow was when we realized we had been given an extra dessert course that was not on the menu. She is a dessert freak, so there are few and far more direct paths to her heart.

Which leads me to another unusual note about this restaurant. When you open the menu there is just 2 pages and not a single appetizer, entree or dessert to choose from. Instead there are just 2 pre-fixe menus to pick from: The Grand Degustation and The Vegetable Degustation (There is one additional menu available if you reserve the Chef's Kitchen Table, more on that later). Since we wanted to try as many things as possible, I got the Vegetable menu and my wife got the Grand menu; We switched plates half-way through each course.

After our meal we asked for a tour of the kitchen. This was our first kitchen tour and it was a lot of fun. The first thing you notice is the kitchen table because you almost walk right into it. It's exactly as it sounds - a table planted right smack in the middle of their kitchen. This give diners a chance to be part of the action while enjoying a specially prepared menu.

They then took us through the pastry station and gave us the run down on how they operate. They have no coolers in the building. Everything is brought in fresh every day. This is somewhat exaggerated though. My understanding is that they get most of their stuff brought in partially prepped from Trotter's ToGo, his catering/"Boston Market-esque" carry-out restaurant. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Finally, they took us down the "Hot Line" where they do all of the cooking of, you guessed it, hot items. It was amazing, just walking right behind these guys busy cooking up lamb or whatnot, all while squeezing through about a 3 foot walkway.

On our cab ride home, we both felt that Trotter's was the best meal we had in Chicago and were eagerly waiting to see if TRU could top it. Did it? Stay tuned to find out....

*** UPDATE ***
The verdict is in. We thought TRU was the best restaurant in Chicago out of all the places we tried.

Rating: 91

Charlie Trotter's - Make a Reservation
Chicago, IL (Armitage & Halsted)

816 West Armitage
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 248-6228

Hours of Operation
Monday: Occasionally open on Mondays - Call for info
Tuesday - Thursday: Seatings at 6:00pm & 9:00pm
Friday - Saturday: Seatings at 6:00pm & 9:00pm
Sunday: Closed

RELATED LINKS:
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Alinea - Chicago
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Blackbird - Chicago
RESTAURANT REVIEW: TRU - Chicago
Twenty years of Charlie Trotter
The Charlie Trotter Cookbooks
Charlie Trotter's in Chicago

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