Hotel restaurants often disappoint with a fairly bland, inoffensive atmosphere and an even safer menu designed to appeal to the masses. On the first point, 312 Chicago, located adjacent to the Hotel Allegro
, comes up short as well. Sure, it's clean, classy, and adequate – with mahogany shelves, walls full of wine and even a bookshelf to drive home the upper-class hero mood – but it's nothing new, and nothing that really blows you away. The menu, though, ventures into much more exciting territory, offering dependable yet artisan meals for reasonable Loop
Let's start with breakfast: Certainly not a time of day usually associated with seafood, but how can you resist a heaping of smoked salmon on a bagel ($11) with the possibility of capers and cream cheese to start your day? The rest of the menu becomes a sort of Italian-American hybrid. For the hungrier lunchtime folk, the goat cheese tortelloni ($17) topped with wild mushroom ragu fills you up quickly and warmly. The dinner menu is quite similar to the lunch menu – just slightly more expensive and with a few more options (including another seafood delicacy, shellfish stew with Maine lobster in saffron broth). And no, the wine shelves aren't just for show – a five-page list should provide enough selection for the most devoted of oenophiles.
Located in close proximity to the financial and theater districts, the crowd at 312 varies from tourists to statesmen to bankers to just about anyone except dirt-cheap hipsters, which helps keep the restaurant from any sort of aristocratic snootiness. Because of its generous hours, especially on the weekends, the dining room is usually pretty rocking before and after the theaters open.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Andy Seifert
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Dana needs a movie-themed martini to get through "Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage."
Allison Levitt, 7/29/07
This eco-minded pastry chef crafts elegant, simple sweets at 312 Chicago.
Haute Eats at the Hotel Restaurant, 8/7/06
This ain't your grandparent's hotel dining.