While first impressions are important, they can also be misleading, and it takes a thorough exploration to get the full flavor of The Red Canary, the self-professed "gastro-lounge" in River West
The whole place is easy on the eyes, and no room in the massive, two-level establishment is more attractive than the cavernous front bar area, which boasts a crystal chandelier, framed photographs of flappers and comely, friendly servers clad in ruby red dresses. The seating alternates between speakeasy-like booths and tucked-away areas reminiscent of Victorian parlors, but while your eyes are swept away to an older (if ambiguous) era, your ears get pummeled by pulsing house music.
Touring the rest of the space, though - the chic dining area, the dimly-lit upstairs lounge, even the long hallway to the attendant-monitored bathroom area - it becomes clear the anachronism is that front room. However, the well-coiffed patrons, who flood the place in ever-increasing numbers as the evening wears on, don't appear overly-concerned with this aesthetic inconsistency, instead concentrating on their quest for phone numbers.
Although the bulk of The Red Canary's efforts are image-related, it also tries to please taste buds, too. Most of the menu is a series of small ($5-$11), medium ($8-$14) and large plates ($10-$24), with upscale comfort food like buttermilk fried quail and barbecued pork belly. Flatbreads, cheeses and sandwiches (including the rarely-seen lobster roll, New England's Chicago dog), as well as desserts, are also offered.
There are the requisite elaborate cocktails - although, sugar-heavy and liquor-light, they're a bit disappointing. Bottle service is also available, as well as a good wine list and beer, including six different five-liter kegs.
The back patio bears special mentioning. For all the attention given to the inside decor, the 2,000-square-foot expanse, bordered by ivy-covered brick walls, may be the gastro-lounge's highlight.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Alexander Hough