Elate may be located in a hotel (Felix), smack dab in River North
, the city's Grand Central for pricy and pretentiousness, but this restaurant and bar is setting a trend for eco-consciousness and wallet friendliness that could turn Dodge on its head.
To begin with, a funky decor leans toward the earthy and rustic. Wooden tables from reclaimed wood and metal invite conversation and ease, while the granite counter bar provides uncomplicated refuge for the businessman taking it easy over a New Holland brew and the paper.
Next up, cuisine that's been plucked from local sources, such as the Green City Market, along with innovative chef Gabe Boyer, gives the menu a back-to-the-basics sensibility. Forget the old days of fried potato skins drenched in sour cream and bacon. Snacks here, such as tuna tartare ($8) and the hibachi chicken wings ($7), de-boned prior to serving, do homage to gourmet, not gluttony.
Other eco-friendly initiatives include the Natura water system that saves on bottles, as well as recycling and kitchen-composting programs. For Chef Boyer, who worked at L20 and Tru, composting makes a world of difference. "You can't imagine the amount of waste in fine dining," he says.
Small plates like spinach salad skewer with molten egg, chicharron pork rinds and crema ($9) and octopus pastrami ($11) encourage sharing. And when folks share things, they tend to talk more, which is part of the master plan. "That's how I designed the food, for people to talk about it," says owner Anthony Fiore. "Not just to fill up on steak and mashed potatoes."
Imagine food designed for sociability, not just for stuffing into one's mouth while watching the game. Sounds alien for this neck of the woods, but if Elate leads the pack, Chicago may be pulled into the Jamie Oliver-esque 21st century, kicking and screaming.
For lunch, the vegetarian black bean burger ($10) and Italian pork ($11) offer solid midday deals, whilst breakfast items such as whipped smoked salmon on a bagel ($13) and creme brulee pancakes ($12) offer a break from the usual culprits.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Marla Seidell