I met two former coworkers for dinner and drinks one evening. Since they work a bit south, I wanted to pick something that was easier to get to than the standard North side fare. So, I went with Tribute, the newish restaurant in the Essex Inn on Michigan Avenue.
Stop, I know. I was hesitant as well. If you’re unfamiliar, the Essex has a great location (right next to the really grand Hilton across for Grant Park) and that’s about all it has going for it. Oh wait, it’s pretty inexpensive as far as Chicago hotels are concerned. But, Tribute has a new chef so I thought it might be worth a try.
The room itself makes the best use of the windows facing Michigan Avenue. The bar is in the center, with the tables making an L shape around the room. It has an open, light wood, modern feel. Unfortunately, it also smells like a swimming pool (which I thought was on the roof, so I’m guessing an over abundance of cleaning solution?). And, the music on the Monday night we went was pretty hard core early 1990s.
What We Ate
Appetizers: Soup of the day (called beautiful soup on the menu) and truffle fries (which were fries with truffle salt and roasted garlic mayo). Besides the fries, the other appetizers on the menu aren’t really a sharing bunch.
Main course: One of my dining companions ordered Pete’s Fried Chicken which is served with Southern-style greens, sweet creamed corn, and a honey glazed biscuit. The dish came out piping hot. But, the really cool thing is their rule on substitution. Kind of an anything goes deal. Don’t like the creamed corn (and who does, really?), swap it out with something more to your liking.
My other colleague and I both ordered the shrimp and grits which consisted of a plate of white grits with blackened gulf shrimp, bacon, and scallion cream. The menu description doesn’t really do it justice as there were also bits of sausage or chorizo in my grits as well as plenty of greenery on top. I actually really enjoyed the dish. It was savory and creamy. The shrimp was NOT overcooked, so that made me happy.
What We Drank
Sooooo, they have three wines on tap and also sell wine by the glass and bottle. I’m not sure if I am comfortable yet ordering wine from a keg, but I guess I’ve had plenty of wine in a box (thank you Australia) and wine in a jug (thank you grandmother). So, I should probably just get used to the idea that with technology and innovation comes watching a bartender draw wine like he’d draw a beer.
When I was at the bar waiting, I ordered my typical vodka/cranberry. After naming three vodkas and being told that they didn’t have any of them, the bartender gave me a French vodka. (And, nope, I had never heard of it before this evening.) But, that’s OK because it tasted like rum. Rum and cranberry … not really a fan. Now, had I seen the cocktail menu, I might have ventured out in that territory. But, the bartender was too busy talking to the wait staff to really be bothered with me or the two other lonely people at the hotel bar.
So, I guess that really does sum it up: Tribute is a hotel restaurant and bar. Decent food (a bit overpriced), decent location, but it’s hard to get around the transient, loneliness of a drab and odd little hotel.
Location: 800 S. Michigan Avenue on the ground floor of the Essex Inn. Valet parking at the hotel for restaurant patrons is $14 for the evening.