First, there was nothing. And then, there were two Kosher lunch options in and around downtown! Spertus Cafe in the South Loop got a lot of press when it opened a few weeks ago, what with its soaring location in the Spertus Institute and its erstwhile association with Wolfgang Puck, while Metro Klub in the West Loop has gotten a quieter reception since it opened last August. They’re both lunch-only, both fleishig (meat as opposed to dairy), and they’re both cafe style; so how to choose between them? Let’s go to the menus.
Metro Klub is roommates with Dine at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, and has more restaurant-ish aspirations than Spertus. Metro Klub’s menu includes four entrees, a feature Spertus’ menu lacks. Of course, they’re not all that exciting: both the seared Atlantic salmon and the grilled chicken breast come with caramelized leeks, wild mushrooms, green beans, Yukon potatoes, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil for $16. Honestly, they couldn’t even vary a single ingredient between the two dishes? In fact, Metro’s menu is quite boring on the whole, not getting any wilder than a tomato basil bruschetta for $6. Its saving grace, though is the availability of beef frye, a Kosher approximation of bacon. For a buck, you can add the workaround to a burger or a turkey club. We’d imagine this is the only restaurant that serves beef frye south of Devon, so it might be worth a visit for that alone.
Spertus Cafe’s menu is much more fashion forward, as you’d expect from a Puck enterprise. Options include salads (a Thai Beef Salad has ginger spiced beef, peppercress, banana pepper rings and lemongrass vinaigrette for $8), sandwiches (albacore tuna is fancied up with chive dressing, butter lettuce and sprouts on a baguette for $4.50), and even sushi (a sampler comes with half a mock California roll, half a spicy tuna roll, half a salmon roll, edamame and Japanese cucumber salad for a suspiciously reasonable $4.50)
Of course, just because a menu sounds better doesn’t mean the food tastes better. Everything at Spertus is prepared in advance, and David Tamarkin found it “cold [and] lifeless.” Meanwhile, some Chowhounders thought the offerings at Metro Klub were quite good, if a little expensive. Neither one seems to hold much interest for the treyf set, although the atmosphere at Spertus has won plaudits, and the beef frye at Metro Klub is endlessly intriguing. But for the faithful, (lunch) times are good.