If you’re like me, it’s hard to think about cuisine when crushing heat has Chicago in its grasp. However, I did find a worthwhile excuse when I learned Allium, Kevin Hickey’s restaurant at the Four Seasons, planned to offer everything on their draft beer and specialty cocktail menu at half-price if the temperature hit 90 degrees. I quickly snagged a reservation and dashed from the safety of my air conditioned cocoon.
The cocktails here range from fruity concoctions like the vivid Purple Haze with lychee and candied hibiscus to the Cool Cucumber with its balance of basil, ginger beer and vodka. The drinks are inventive, refreshing and definitely worth the price. However, if you come for the beer selection, be warned that it’s rather small and lacking in adventurous local choices. I personally feel a nice pour of Daisy Cutter would go well with the richness of the menu (hint, hint).
If you’re truly hungry, order a Chicago Style Hot Dog or Aged Ribeye from the entrées. You won’t be disappointed by the quality. However, if you want to explore the range of flavors in Hickey’s farm-to-fingertip menu, then choose from the snacks and smaller items.
The warm burrata cheese and crab fritters are already favorites of mine, but on this trip I decided to start with a golden beet salad topped with kale and silvers of smoky chilies. The salad was joyous mix of texture and tastes that satisfied without filling me up. The gnocchi mixed with chanterelle mushrooms, freeze-dried corn and bits of crab, provided spoonful after spoonful of savory sweet fulfillment. I got greedy with the addition of cheese curd mashed potatos — they had a stick-to-the-ribs goodness that would work better on a cold Winter’s night.
The Lavosh is a must-order item at Allium. It has a fun presentation, you’re repeatedly encouraged by staff to make a mess when eating it, and it hits that balance of savory fulfillment and caloric lightness. The first time I had Lavosh here, it was dotted with toasted pepitas. The toppings shifted for Summer to a salty Kickapoo Cheese with herbs from the rooftop garden. I like both versions and look forward to more seasonal changes.
Allium offers small, bite-sized portion of dessert for a few dollars per item. I wish more restaurants would do this because I’m often too stuffed to consider sweets by that point. The macaroons are excellent as are the pretzel caramels, and I’m more than a little intrigued by the bag of donut holes. However, I was told you really haven’t been to Allium until you’ve tried the Miso Butterscotch Shake. I agree. Salty and sweet have never been so happy to co-exist as they have in this cool, frothy and sophisticated classic. The dollop of real whipped cream on top? Pure decadence.
Keep an eye on the thermometer! Allium is offering their 90 degree special throughout the Summer. Daily announcements are made on the @AlliumChicago Twitter account.
120 East Delaware Place
Chicago, IL 60611