A group of us went to The Gage for after work drinks and dinner. Located on Michigan Avenue across from Millennium Park, the restaurant is ideally situated for entertaining out-of-town guests, work associates, or friends. It’s close to the El, easy to hail a cab out front, and Michigan Avenue is “that big street” tourists can find without too much trouble.
The interior has completely tiled walls (so a bit noisy), a lovely wood bar, and tables that are not sitting right on top of each other (a bonus in more jovial establishments). I hate to use the word “gastro” in describing any restaurant, but The Gage is a gastropub on steroids. (Quaint and charming like a gastropub but in actuality a pretty large restaurant.)
What We Ate
We each ordered an app and then shared:
- Scotch egg: Served with mustard, this is a most traditional version of this dish. (I did a Scotch egg recipe a while ago, but this one was pretty darn good.)
- Fondue: A melted brie pot with long, crispy toasts. Because one of our group can’t eat wheat, our server brought us an additional plate of apple slices.
- Tartare of Bison: A quail egg, capers, a bit of gouda, and rosemary mustard vinaigrette. It’s chopped up raw meat, you can’t really go wrong (unless we all got ill afterward—which we did not).
- Ragout with gnocchi: Now, I can’t remember if the ragout was made of lamb, mutton, or some sort of game meat. But this was fantastic. The small, pillow gnocchi was served on the side so perfect for sharing.
- Cured salmon: Caraway mustard, cucumber, caviar, and vollkornbrot (that’s a German rye bread) which we had off the plate. Tasty, but when is smoked salmon not tasty?
Three of us ordered the special of the evening—a cold watermelon soup with crab. They did the “here’s your shallow bowl of crab, now we pour the soup over it” thing. It was good, but weird. We all agreed that the consistency of the soup was not what we expected (a bit thicker than we thought it should be). I was convinced that there was lemongrass or something oddly Asian going on in the soup, but others weren’t so sure. It was interesting, I’m just not sure I would order it again. And, I must admit, I don’t remember what everyone else ordered.
I had the Gage burger which is topped with a local camembert, melted onion marmalade, lettuce, tomato, and onion. It comes with a side of fries to which I added an order of curry gravy for dipping. The burger was lovely and way too much food after all of the other business, but still a really good burger.
My companions ordered the locally crafted sausage plate (I think he won hands down on best order of the evening), the halibut special (a bit on the small side with the veggies and other bits under the fish for presentation), ribeye (with a parsley, garlic, and tomato paste on top), and scallops (in cocoa butter).
If reading the above descriptions makes you think, “Hmmm, there is very little in the way of veg-friendly fare.” You’d be correct. There are exactly two main courses on the menu that are completely vegetarian (a stew and a risotto). There are plenty of salads, but if you’re vegan, this might be a tough place to dine.
Yes, we finished up with a few desserts. The ice cream, although simple, had some lovely flavors (which change seasonally). And, there was another seasonal specialty that involved spicy pepper. (In a dessert, I know!)
What We Drank
We had cocktails at the bar before sitting down. And, then had a round of cocktails with dinner. There was the Gage cocktail (Grey Goose La Poire, elderflower liqueur, and moscato) and this rum concoction that I ordered that was very, very rummy. I also had a glass of wine with dinner. They give you a side carafe so don’t feel bad about getting wine by the glass. The wine list is large, but a bit pricey. I don’t think they have a bottle for less than $45. They have a decent (but not extensive) list of beers on draft and by the bottle. But, the real draw is their liquor list. It’s healthy, that’s all I’m saying. (They also offer whiskey flights and seasonal cocktails.)
Location: 24 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Because they are on Michigan Avenue, they cannot offer valet parking, and obviously, street parking anywhere near the restaurant is impossible. You can valet at the University Club around the corner on Monroe, and there are plenty of garages nearby. But, if you don’t like paying through the nose, I’d recommend taxi or public transport.