Dining Room, Oyster Bar + Institution: Inside Shaw’s Crab House

Dining Room, Oyster Bar & Institution: Inside Shaw's Crab House

“Either you’re an oyster bar guest or a dining room guest,” says John Gurgone, General Manager at Shaw’s Crab House.

Shaw’s is the 31-year-old Chicago institution known for its simply steamed seafood, and as John points out, the restaurant offers two distinctive but equally iconic experiences. On one hand, there’s the dining room: 330 seats, white tablecloths, 17 servers at a given time, reservations strongly recommended. This is where tourists come in after architectural tours and where locals gather for business lunches or to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries.

The oyster bar is a separate room entirely, with around 95 seats available exclusively for walk-ins — a mix of bar seats, high-tops, and casual wood tables. Oysters, predictably, are the main event: the centerpiece of the room is an oyster shucking station, where at any given time 12 varieties are served (six East Coast, six West Coast).

Otherwise, the menus are largely the same, but it’s the vibrant atmosphere that sets it apart: a live band plays jazz and blues music every Sunday through Thursday. Here’s how the two spaces work together. Continue Reading

Oil Have What He’s Drinking: 10 Stunning Oil-Accented Cocktails

There’s an age-old scientific truism that oil and water don’t mix. The same is true of oil and liquor. But that hasn’t stopped crafty bartenders from figuring out creative ways to incorporate a colorful cornucopia of oils into their cocktails. From fat-washing liquors to flambéing citrus rinds and beyond, here are 10 stunning oil-accented cocktails.

The Blanchard, Chicago, Illinois
This is not your same-old-same-old Old Fashioned. Head barman Arunas Bruzas mixes Old Forester Special Reserve Bourbon, vanilla and lavender fume, and aromatic bitters. To complete the creation, he fires up an orange peel. This releases the rind’s zesty oils while reinforcing the bourbon’s smoky elements. Make a reservation at The Blanchard.

Oil-Accented Cocktails

Mourad, San Francisco, California
The Umami + Mint had us at umami (no offense, mint). White tequila is shaken with lemon juice, agave, ‘cumber rounds, mint leaves, and a touch of toasted sesame oil to add the “fifth taste.” It’s served in a double rocks glass with a bewitching ribbon of cucumber that’s sure to inspire you to shoot an Instagram before you take a sip. Make a reservation at Mourad.

Oil-Accented Cocktails

Tarallucci e Vino, New York, New York
The Caprese salad, now in cocktail form – minus the mozzarella. Head bartender Akram Bouchette muddles together cherry tomatoes, basil, simple syrup, and lemon juice before adding olive oil and grappa. Shaken with ice and strained, the pinkish potable comes garnished with cherry tomatoes and viridian basil leaves. Make a reservation at Tarallucci e Vino.

Oil-Accented Cocktails

Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago, Illinois
Beverage director Julian Cox gives a tiki twisted nod to the cult film Friday with his Aloha Felicia cocktail. It changes seasonally, but currently features rum, coconut cream, pineapple, lime, Thai basil, and lemongrass essential oil. The results mash together the sensibilities of the West Indies and the Far East. Make a reservation at Three Dots and a Dash.

Oil-Accented Cocktails

Il Porcellino, Chicago, Illinois
Screech would surely approve. The Saved by the Basil is a complex cocktail sporting Manzanilla fino sherry, lemon juice, Dimmi (an Italian aperitif infused with licorice, rhubarb, vanilla, ginseng, and more), strawberry, dehydrated orange, and a house-made cordial enriched with basil essential oil. Make a reservation at Il Porcellino.

Oil-Accented CocktailsContinue Reading

Perfect G&Ts: 11 Top Gin and Tonics to Beat the August Heat

During the mercury spiking summer months and the still steamy early days of autumn, humble gin and tonics are the quintessential heat-beaters. The effervescence lifts you up and the nuanced sharpness of the tonic cuts through the humidity, while a complex arrangement of botanicals works to sooth your frazzled nerves. Here are 11 top gin and tonics that go beyond a simple mixture of Schweppes and Beefeater.

Amada, New York, New York
G&T goes DIY at Amada. Guests pair a variety of gins – such as Gin Mare from Spain and Brooklyn’s Dorothy Parker – with their choice of tonics. To complete the personalization, they choose from an array of garnishes, including lemon, Arbequina olives, fennel, grapefruit, licorice, kumquat, kiwi, and basil. The drinks are served Spanish style in giant goblets. Make a reservation at Amada.

top gin and tonics

Indique, Washington, D.C.
Cocktail crafter Carlie Steiner worked with executive chef K.N. Vinod to create a series of Subcontinent styled sips. One of their greatest collaborations is her tonic infused with housemade garam masala, a customizable mixture of spices used as a seasoning in many Indian dishes. Vinod’s version features cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander seed, star anise, and black pepper, which match up well with the botanicals in gin. The resulting G&T is cooling but still slightly spicy. Make a reservation at Indique.

Top gin and tonics

Zaytinya, Washington, D.C.
The flavors of the Aegean come alive in this creative G&T. The bar team combines rose petal and cucumber-accented Hendrick’s gin with lime juice, cardamom syrup, cooling cucumber juice, and a spice-rich Mediterranean tonic to create a cocktail called the Juniperus. Take a sip, close your eyes, and you’ll swear you’re on a beach on Mikonos. Make a reservation at Zaytinya.

Top gin and tonics

Restaurant Eve, Alexandria, Virginia
Bar star Todd Thrasher spent nine months perfecting his homemade tonic. He infuses the deep brown syrup with cinchona bark powder containing the tonic’s trademark quinine, honey, yuzu, lemongrass, and lavender grown in the restaurant’s garden. The mixer is paired with the tippler’s gin of choice and arrives in a Collins glass. Make a reservation at Restaurant Eve.

Top gin and tonics

Boqueria–Flatiron District, New York, New York
The bartenders place a premium on a tip top, top-notch tonic, so they make their own in-house. The base syrup features cinchona bark for a wallop of quinine, as well as bitter Gentian root, allspice berries, orange zest, lime juice, and cane sugar. Ultimately, the tonic has a rich earthen vibe with spicy undertones and a little bite. Mix it with your choice of gin and then, “Salud!” Make a reservation at Boqueria-Flatiron District.

top gin and tonicsContinue Reading

Afternoon Delight: Top High Tea Restaurants

Whether it’s the iconic three-tiered silver tray with canapés and white-glove service or something fresh like al fresco iced brews and a “TeaJ” in lieu of a harp, afternoon tea is getting pinkies and thumbs up. Boston Public Library has even gone so far as to cancel its lunch service to make space for sippers all week long, and dads can get in on the game with boozy brews and heavier snacks like s’mores with maple-smoked bacon at another seaside hotel in that historic city. Blame it on an urge to celebrate British traditions with all of this Brexit talk — the union of savory and sweet in the afternoon will always win on this side of the pond at one of these top high tea restaurants.

The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library, Boston, Massachusetts
Tea is just as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach at Boston Public Library, where the historic McKim Building, circa 1895, was declared a U.S. national historic landmark in 1986. The Courtyard Restaurant overlooks an open-air Italianate courtyard with a vaulted ceiling and ornate chandelier originally installed over a grand staircase in the 1950s, and the aesthetic was completed with the installation of a marble floor in the nineties. “Enjoying tea in the restaurant is transportive,” says manager Akiko Yamagata. “Sitting in the serene dining room in a historic building, one’s imagination takes hold, into a different time and its customs — just like reading a captivating novel.” The extensive menu — which changes several times a year — is just as captivating and features blends from Massachusetts-based outfit MEM Tea Imports, including the popular Wedding Blend, a fruity, flowery, and herbaceous green. Make a reservation at The Courtyard Restaurant at the Boston Public Library.

High Tea Restaurants

 Pavilion at The Langham, Chicago, Illinois
Pavilion at the Langham in Chicago, truly brings a tradition from across the pond to the shores of Lake Michigan with its Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood — which first debuted at the Langham in London in 1865. Sweet and savory bites like artichoke and melted leek quiche, a grilled asparagus sandwich with petite lettuce salad, pickled mustard seeds, and fresh ricotta, lemon-cherry scones with grapefruit marmalade and blackberry jam, and chocolate verrine with dark chocolate brownie and milk chocolate mousse are served much the same way they were more than a century ago. The Pavilion serves up 25 blends including five blends exclusive to the Langham, including a fruity rhubarb for kids. Make a reservation at Pavilion at The Langham.

High Tea Restaurants

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia
It’s no surprise that being in British Columbia the folks at Butchart Gardens would honor the British tradition of teatime — but what is unique is the way in which they incorporate West Coast flair. Both executive chef Travis Hansen and pastry chef Keith Tran — both of whom have worked at the Gardens for more than 25 years each — pride themselves on signature items such as locally smoked wild salmon, curried Cowichan Valley chicken salad, and candied ginger scones from an old family recipe. Summer is an especially ideal time to visit the Gardens for another reason, says sommelier and dining room manager Dave Lane, who notes that the Backyard Flight program is a “must-try. We’re extremely fortunate to be surrounded by wineries and orchards that provide us with world-class wines, spirits, and liquors, and every year we pick the best to pair with our teas to showcase the terroir and character of the growing conditions. It’s a unique experience not found anywhere else.” Make a reservation at Butchart Gardens.

High Tea Restaurants

Modern Tea, Chicago, Illinois
A tradition gets a makeover at Modern Tea in Chicago, where the Radisson’s swanky lobby with couches and a gold-plated mirror puts a new spin on live music from a jazz or string quartet with a “TeaJ.” There are eight Rishi teas from which to choose (available over ice when the mercury climbs) and outside seating for al fresco dining featuring sweets from the hotel’s new pastry chef Caroline Kolaja. One of her specialties is a basil passion tart, though she also admits to having a penchant for cake batter ice cream — her first industry job was as a Ben & Jerry’s scooper in high school. Make a reservation at Modern Tea.

High Tea Restaurants

Pembroke Room, New York, New York
Good things come in threes at the Pembroke Room, which features three styles of service: the classic, the Pembroke Royal, and the Lowell Imperial. Each includes a selection of more than 20 Dammann Frères fine French tea varieties, classic finger sandwiches (curry chicken, cucumber and watercress, lobster roll) a dill, egg, and cornichon salad, caviar blinis with goat cheese, scones, petit fours, and more. But the latter two options give you a chance to enhance your experience with a glass of rosé, port, or sherry as part of the Pembroke, and Champagne and caviar with the Lowell Imperial. Look for further enhancements starting in September, when the space will get a spruce-up with new furnishings, carpet, window treatments, and design elements meant to keep the spirit of the room while maintaining the tradition of classic elegance that’s been the setting for generations of bridal bashes and baby showers. Make a reservation at the Pembroke Room.

High Tea RestaurantsContinue Reading