Blu 47 is closed due to a fire.
Once muse to blues legends like Koko Taylor and Otis Clay, Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood fell on hard times over the past couple years. But by way of a masterfully constructed American cafe, the district is now seeing foot-traffic unlike anything since the days of Marshall Thompson. Nestled beside the Jamaican Consulate in a two-story building without any identifiable sign, finding Blu 47 off busy Martin Luther King Drive can be a bit difficult, but experiencing one of the sharpest American bistros in the city will amply reward those who are patient.
Everything about Blu 47 says, "cool." From indigo overtones to the warm spherical lights that lounge from the vaulted ceiling, it's clear that Blu is a place to see and be seen. Meticulously outfitted crowds shmooze to piped-in jazz, while servers whisk cocktails and rattle-off dinner specials at speeds that are casual but by no means lackadaisical. Tables are a bit cramped so expect to hear drips of your neighbors' conversations, and restrooms are so far away they may as well be in another building. But these are minor quibbles that fall to wayside when a restaurant is this good.
Starting with the "free" stuff, Blu 47 serves some of the tastiest bread on the planet: soft and buttery with an almost pretzel-like flavor. You'll go through several slices over the course of your meal. The grilled chicken "lollipops" in a creamy pesto sauce double as both an excellent appetizer and a place to dunk one's bread. At less than $10, it's hard to go wrong. Entrees come alive as traditional soul food and modern American panache meld into items as classically hip as wasabi-glazed salmon and steak roulade au poivre. Lamb chops served in juicy gravy over vegetables make for a divine dining experience (the least gamey lamb anywhere) and the soupy duck jambalaya has a kick to it that practically cries out for being dunked in by bread. Most entrees hover in the $20 range, though some go as high as $25. Desserts are pretty limited but Blu does offer admirable, if standard, renditions of tiramisu and chocolate cake.
The Spartan lounge has an elevated performance area jazz on Thursday nights. And when musicians play, they're never intrusive, which is always a plus.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Adam White