By Russ Kramer, Corporate Chef
Have you heard about the Side Door yet? It’s an “American gastropub focusing on roasted meats and shareable plates”, as described by Lawry’s Executive Chef, Victor Newgren on a recent WGN Lunchbreak segment.
Side Door is a concept developed by Lawry’s – a contemporary take on their rich history. It shares the same address with the famous Prime Rib brand at 100 East Ontario, but you (literally) enter through a side entrance on Rush Street.
For those of you who haven’t thought about Lawry’s lately, quite a lot has happened over the years. 2014 marks its 40th year in Chicago, and there are Lawry’s locations in Beverly Hills, Dallas, Vegas, Singapore and Japan. Beverly Hills celebrated its 75th year in business last year, and the Vegas restaurant just won an Open Table Diners’ Choice this year. All is well in Lawryland.
Gastro by Design
Part of the charm of the Gastropub is a casual environment. There are no dress codes or formal dressed waiters – just high end food, stellar drinks and communal conversation. Some Gastropubs have a minimalist contemporary feel to them with lots of bright light and community table seating, where others may have a more rustic feel to them, with wood trimmed walls and rich leather booths.
The first Side Door opened in 2009 in Corona Del Mar, positioned adjacent to Lawry’s sister restaurant, Five Crowns, fashioned after an authentic English country inn. (Five Crowns’ history dates back to 1936 – it was once the hot spot for movie stars.) The Chicago location has an open “display kitchen” and is more rustic, with an almost speakeasy feel to it. A perfect setting for casual intimate fare and camaraderie.
Gastropubs and Gastrolounges have been around longer than you may think; England is credited with opening the first Gastropub in 1991. (They didn’t hit Chicago until the early 2000’s.) The difference between them is, pubs, focus on beers, and lounges supposedly focus more on cocktails. The Chicago Bar Project further subdivided the category to include “Gastroraunts” – read their post to find out why. Side Door’s focus leans toward “craft beers” and “barrel aged spirits”.
Where the lines of distinction may blur on alcohol, the food is always high end quality at digestible prices. Yesteryear bar menus (i.e. mozzarella sticks, nachos and fried mushrooms) are replaced with today’s gourmet bites and contemporary cuisines.
Side Door’s menu is superb. Served on wood cutting boards, their roasted meat boards are filled with beef short rib, lamb top round and prime sirloin. Opposite of charcuterie, which is cold, (they have that too), the meat boards are hot.
Side Door makes their own pastrami from Creekstone Farms premium black Angus beef, offer killer burgers and Lawry’s famous prime rib on sandwiches.They also have take out service and live jazz every Tuesday night.
The Side Door is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 4:30-11 on Saturdays and Sundays. No reservations required. Look for the “Red Key” on Rush.