What Millennium Park needed, people would always say, was a reasonably priced, unthreatening New American restaurant with a vaguely steakhouse pedigree and huge viewing windows. Well, imagine our surprise when that exact thing materialized in the form of Tavern at the Park, which opened a few days ago. The restaurant is run by the Keefer’s people and Chef John Hogan. About the cuisine he’s serving at the Tavern, Hogan says, “For me, it’s about taking the old, rusty wheel out of the shed and polishing it up a bit. My style is keeping food unfussy, but making it taste as good as it possibly can.”
Mmm, rust, our favorite. But okay, how does his vision get translated to the actual menu? We wanted to say “near-sightedly”, but then we realized we didn’t know what that would imply. Certainly, the names of the dishes invoke the classics, especially in the entrée section: there’s chicken pot pie ($17), chicken Milanese ($19), and double cut pork chop ($19). But dig beneath the surface and Hogan’s latent sophistication reveals itself. The pot pie is made with braised chicken, wild mushrooms, thyme, and Madeira wine. Note that the diner is not overburdened with the type of wild mushroom involved - its enumeration would dictate a completely different restaurant concept. Also, that double cut pork chop is grilled with a cherry cola BBQ sauce, which is certainly a tad off the beaten path.
Do you remember last week when we discussed the mini-burger trend? Well, sure enough, Tavern has a few sliders of its own on offer, including a filet mignon with bleu cheese crust ($15), crab cakes with remoulade sauce ($13), and of course, sirloin burger with American cheese ($10). Each comes four to a plate, and is served with shoestring fries.
Anyway, a unequivocally positive development for M. Park. Maybe next time they could serve food past 10pm though!
[Photo: and now you know exactly where it is]