Chicagoans love a corner bar. We also love our comfort food. The industry-weathered visionaries behind Tavern at the Park have carefully merged our affections into a refined restaurant with an extensive drink list, haute-American cuisine and stunning downtown views. Nestled into the northern edge of Millennium Park, this eatery takes a thread from Chicago's architectural fiber. The interior is heady with mahogany, from exposed beam ceilings and a granite-topped bar to the artfully crafted handrails framing the impressively wide staircase. Although the place benefits from detailed lighting fixtures, fireplaces and columns, the striking views make it a must, as every seat in the restaurant boasts a clear sight line to Millennium Park. Plans for a rooftop deck are in the works, a project that could result in one of the best dining views downtown.
Tavern at the Park's menu boasts sliders made from filet mignon, crab cake or a sirloin burger. Other appetizers include a Portuguese take on mussels and a rotisserie chicken fondue. For the main meal, try the slow-roasted prime rib, brick chicken or scallop risotto with fresh strawberries, aged balsamic and parmesan. The innovative dessert menu includes Cookies and Cream Fondue and Fried Banana Splits. Want to eat lunch in the park itself? Grab a box lunch with a hot or cold sandwich, chips, pickle and choice of coleslaw or fresh fruit for $8.95-$9.95. Of course, they couldn't call it a tavern without booze, and the drink menu here indulges every taste. Over fifty bottles—mostly from California vineyards—fill the wine list, but the clever takes on classic cocktails are the true draw. The most outlandish is the Cloud Gate Martini, a deal for only $199. Why so pricey? Inspired by the restaurant's view of the bean-shaped "Cloud Gate" sculpture, top-tier vodka and champagne mingle with sour juices in a glass rimmed with edible silver, garnished with a sterling bean pendant designed by luxury jeweler Elsa Peretti.
A 32-seat patio with a view of Millennium Park (it's on Randolph Street) is also open.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: K. Tighe