Chicago-style beef & pizza disappoint in the Grove.
Coconut Grove has long been a magnet for drifters. It's easy to stop by for a beer and fall in love with the colorful, quirky neighborhood. But for a Chicago-themed eatery that plopped down in the ungainly spot that once housed Don Quixote, it has been a tough transition. Since the place opened three months ago, innovations have included a new management team (our lithe hostess made sure to tell us how bad the old one was.) and menu, but I'm not sure the latter was for the better. I’m told you can buy classic Chicago dogs at the next-door bakery, but it was closed both evenings I stopped in. The vast menu detours to the Caribbean and beyond with such odd offerings as mango crab cakes, Jamaican-grilled chicken wings, battered and fried pepper jack cheese and a range of pastas. There’s even a black bean veggie burger and a coconut cream-sauced vegetable stew over Spanish rice. This is one transplant in the throes of an identity crisis.
Ambiance: With a facade weighted with curly-cued wrought iron and faux marble, Chicago’s Steakhouse looks more like a Moorish castle than a Windy City meat emporium. Inside, the red crushed velvet booths, black Formica tabletops and towering ceilings create an eery, haunted-house look. Murals of shiny Chicago skyscrapers do little to lighten the dank feel.
- Perfectly adequate golf ball-sized crab cakes, slightly burned and served with a heavy orange dressing
- A well priced generic wine with most markups less than double retail and lots of by-the-glass options
What Didn’t Work
- Chicago’s barbecue - generic ribs and such slathered in a thick, sweet, dark sauce that tastes like a doctored bottled version
- Great-looking New York strip lacking any flavor but for salt
- Gloppy and flagging Caesar salad
- Spicy chicken wings with arthritic carrot sticks and a dense blue cheese dressing
- Deep dish pizza with overly sweet tomato sauce, gobs of cheese and a crust as tough as shoe leather
- Chocolate cake with “raspberry” sauce with a commercial flavor and a thick strawberry gel
The exterior of Chicago's Steakhouse and Tavern in Coconut Grove.