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Aug 25, 2009 06:03 PM

Thoughts on The Gage

Long story short - coming back to Chicago (see previous posts including Alinea, Trotters, Moto, TRU, North Pond, Spiaggia, etc) to take my little sister to the U2 show for her birthday. Plans/Reservations as they stand:

Friday -
Breakfast/Bakery - Sweet Mandy B's versus Orange, depending on arrival time.
Lunch - Blackbird
Cubs/Reds game
Dinner - L2O

Saturday -
Breakfast - Orange (if we don't get there day one) vs. Lula Cafe
Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk
Lunch - Frontera Brunch (reservations at noon)
Dinner - Thinking Avec, but would prefer something in easy walking distance from Millenium Park as we'll be dropping the car there for the day and walking to Soldier for the show.

How does The Gage stack up in terms of quality of preparation, presentation, etc? Any MUST haves or MUST misses? Anything better in the area that we should check out instead?

Thanks in Advance.

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  1. Great choices uhockey. My only thought about Sat dinner is Soldier Field is not exactly easy walking distance from Millennium Park. So it might make better sense to cab it to Avec, and then cab it to Soldier Field.

    As for The Gage, it is different from all the places you have lined up. It is a gastropub in spirit, with hearty, creative food. Personal faves include the fried chicken liver (hearty batter and silky smooth interior), curry mussels (best treatment for steamed mussels aside from the Portuguese chorizo version), duck/foie gras rillete (a cradiologist's nightmare), haddock/crab cake, goat cheese risotto, the house made sausages, and fish & chips. I never have room for dessert there, and usually get a nice digestive.

    Another place that is really outstanding is Mercat a la Planxa. 'Hounds here are mixed (see threads) but it is my favorite tapas place. It is Catalonian, so a little different from the regular tapas, the room is fantastic, and it is good for a party crowd. I love the pimientos de padron (fried peppers with sea salt), dates with almonds, the pulpo con patatas (cooked confit style), the short ribs flatbread, and anything ala planxa. They have a good mix of seafood and meats. The hamachi and lamb chops are stand outs. One thing though is portions are small, and could be pricey. Esp the ala planxa meat items.

    Well, i would still push for Avec. But if you think logistics is an issue, The Gage or Mercat are great choices.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ms. chow

      Walking distance is relative.....we once walked from Central Park to Momofuku noodle because we called and the deepfried sweetbreads were on the menu. ;-) I believe that is something like 3 miles. It was worth it. :-)

      I think we might give Gage a go since we'll already be sampling Kahan's cooking at Blackbird (FYI, Blackbird's e-mail/phone staff are some of the most responsive and accomidating people I've dealt with - second only to Guy Savoy and TFL, actually)

      1. re: uhockey

        True, it is relative. Gage would be a fun prelude to U2. The owners ARE from Ireland.

        Blackbird and Avec are worlds different, except for the cramped narrow space, and noise level. But, more reason to come back.

        1. re: uhockey

          Just an FYI: You can always take the #14 Michigan Ave bus to get to Soldier Field from the Gage. And it is only a 1.2 mile walk. So not far in the least bit.

          I'd go Gage over Avec. But both are good choices

      2. the gage is very good in terms of level of cooking. but the presentation is nothing compare to fine dining restaurants. however, if you are comparing the gage with avec, i would say the two are about equal in terms of presentation. avec would win out slightly in terms of having bolder flavors and more exotic dishes. but the gage is certainly solid for a fusion gastropub. i love the duck rillette and the goat cheese risotto. the curry fries is also good (and an interesting concept). i would stick to the french/fusion sounding items and stay away from items like "prime burgers," which IMHO are a bit overpriced. fyi, both the gage and avec are quite loud. but avec has communal tables and the gage feels a tad more fine-dining with the table cloths and everything.

        4 Replies
        1. re: mountsac

          Go to The Gage. The food is always good and the staff is very friendly.
          If it's still on the menu, get "coffee and doughnuts" for dessert. The best dessert I've ever had and we've eaten just about everywhere in Chicago.
          Be sure and talk to Billy Lawless(owner). Last time I did, he comped me a scotch!

          1. re: hoppy2468

            If you go to Gage, be sure to order one of the potato sides - my fav is with brie. And take advantage of the fine ales!

            1. re: bsnprf

              I don't drink, but sis does.

              The Poutine, Duck Rillettes, Chicken livers, and Brussels Sprouts sound excellent.

              1. re: uhockey

                my partner likes the beet salad

        2. The Gage - there's really nothing to speak of in terms of presentation. The food's good, not great, but I've generally been very happy with my few meals there . . . it's more upscale than The Grafton and Irish Oak, the Irish pubs owned singularly by the father and son who jointly own The Gage. I wouldn't begin to compare it to Avec though. I'd cab it from Avec to Soldier Field, or at least nearby - it's not that far.

          As for Mercat, they have many of the standards you'll find at other tapas places so I don't find it particularly unusual. It's a grand, attractive room and while I enjoyed my meal there, I found the portions to be extremely small, especially for the price.

          I'm not a Sweet Mandy B's fan (and I didn't think they offered breakfast, just a few pastries and sweets). I find everything to be overly sweet and nothing better than what you would prepare at home.

          I've always liked Lula, but haven't been there in a while and I'm not sure how the opening of their new restaurant, Nightwood, has affected Lula, if at all.

          3 Replies
          1. re: BRB

            uhockey, what are you looking for when it comes to presentation? Artful composition like TRU or Avenues? What-you-see-is-not-what-you-get like Alinea? Gage is a pub, so the presentation tends to rustic, altough upscale. The fish & chips is wrapped in the local Irish community paper. A very playfuI thought. Condiments are served in small, white ceramic cups. They don't just plop down the bottle of ketchup or mustard. Well, the malt vinegar is in its bottle. They have a fondness for Staub pots. The risotto and brie potato comes in those little pots.

            Lula is great as ever. Again, i'm probably biased since it is my favorite place. With Nightwood open, you can see the pride in Lula's staff. Nothing has sufferred because of that. Chef Hammel now shuttles back and forth between the 2 places. But what chef/owner with more than 1 restaurant doesn't?

            1. re: ms. chow

              Looking for a place we can get in and out of in 90 minutes that has solid food without lots of processed garbage ingredients, decently good service, something "different," and that we can't get back home - The Gage seems to fill that bill, though I imagine Publican and Avec would, as well.

              1. re: uhockey

                All 3 can get you out in time. The Gage is a great choice, esp if you want to be closer to Soldier Field. If i have to rank the 3, it would be Avec, Publican, Gage. But again, not being able to make it somewhere this time, just gives another good reason to come back and enjoy our fair city.

          2. Yum. Your plans sound delicious. I am one of many Chicago Hounds who will be wishing that we were accompanying you around the city!

            The only restaurant that seems to be an incongruous choice is Orange. I like Orange's brunch just fine but it is not markedly better than most decent breakfast places in most big cities. That said, Lula Cafe is an excellent choice and Sweet Mandy B's is worth a stop at any time of day, although their real strength is cupcakes and cakes, not traditional breakfast pastries. Too bad you aren't staying through Sunday -- you could try the brunch at The Publican and report back!

            The Gage is a really fun spot. Great menu -- especially the creative entree salads (I love the rabbit salad). Enjoy.