There is no shortage of tea houses in Chicago. From the quick fix Argo Tea to the plethora of hotels offering high tea (which is wrong, by the way… high tea is a heavy lunch [think pasties, Northern Michigan folk] while afternoon tea is the ladies with biscuits affair), you can get this brewed beverage.
We love tea in our household. Paul is forever making tea and eating sandwiches in the afternoon. (You think I jest, but I do not.) I have had afternoon tea in plenty of places, including a surprising number of current and former British environs. Oddly enough, one of my favorites is Russian Tea Time downtown.
At Russian Tea Time, you’re not going to get the fancy interior with the harpist (the Drake) or the sweeping view (the Peninsula). What you will get is a crazy amount of food, exceptional service, and an easily accessible location. When you go to the hotels for tea, there are assorted sandwiches and sweets that each table can quibble over. At Russian Tea Time, everyone gets one of everything. So, there’s no need to wonder what that little bauble tasted like, you get your own!
I went with my sister and two cousins for a lovely ladies afternoon. (Don’t worry, boys! Russian Tea Time has manly teas as well.) I love the miniature nature of the foods at tea.
What We Ate
If you order full service, the food is presented on a three-tiered plate service, you start at the top and work your way down. Each person receives one of each item.
Scones: A raisin scone and a cranberry scone served with lemon whipped cream and raspberry jam. The cream is my favorite. It’s not as heavy as clotted cream (a tea staple), and mixes well with the jam.
Savories: There are three mini sandwiches—salmon with cream cheese and dill, roasted red pepper with cream cheese, and roast beef with sauerkraut and dressing (it is, after all Russian). The red pepper is my favorite. You also get a spring roll with peanut sauce, a potato piroshky (fried bun), and a quiche with sun dried tomatoes.
Sweets: There are a number of cookies, including sugar, cinnamon, and those weird hollow puffed meringue deals. Then, there is a Napoleon torte, a lemon cake, rugelach (a heavier filled croissant), and various candies.
What We Drank
Tea, of course! Not surprisingly, they have a vast selection, including black, oolong, green, white, and caffeine-free teas. Everyone chooses their own tea and gets their own pot with the little strainer for over your cup. The server pours your first cup and will bring more hot water, if needed. If you order the Russian house tea, it will come in a glass with an ornate (yet manly) stainless steel holder. The servers will come and bring refills of this tea until you can drink no more. It’s really a very lovely tea.
And, they also serve lunch and dinner. Wonderfully heavy Russian food. Perfect for before/after theatre comas.
Location: 77 E. Adams, across the street from the Art Institute (make a day of it!) Parking is garage only in this area, but it’s right off of the Adams/Wabash stop in the Loop.