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Trip Report: Sepia, Purple Pig, Sable, Blackbird, Table 52, and Local Root

mskilgore | Jan 26, 201403:57 PM

My husband, two friends, and I went to Chicago from Thursday through Sunday to celebrate three birthdays and two promotions. Here's my trip report.

Thursday night: We arrived at our hotel (The Ivy, by the way, which was very nice, affordable, and two blocks off Michigan Ave) and then made our way to Sepia for dinner. I thought the food here was great, and it was a good start to the trip. For appetizers, I had the foie gras; husband had the sweet potato tortoloni; and our friends both had a bone marrow dumpling with truffle. The dumpling and the tortoloni were great; my foie gras was just okay. It was served with a delicious brioche and had what was supposedly a sour cherry gelee on top. Frankly the gelee was totally tasteless and the foie gras was very mild. The texture was great.

For dinner, I had venison with a chestnut puree; husband had the wagyu bavette/"pastrami"; and our friends both had the duck breast. The venison was outstanding and I would definitely order it again. Tender, not overly gamey, and presented very nicely. Husband's wagyu was good, but the pastrami was the better part of that meal. Our friends liked the duck breast, but I thought it wasn't very well done. The fat was not entirely rendered, leaving it a bit flabby; I prefer my duck breast to have crispy skin. Dessert was also good, with the key lime parfait being the best of the three we ordered.

Friday breakfast was at the Bongo Room. Nothing too exciting there. The food was good, as it usually is, and I would continue to go back. We stopped for a snack at the Purple Pig at about 2:30 in the afternoon. I was impressed and would definitely go back. We had a selection of three cheeses, all of which were very good; the fried Brussels sprouts which were outstanding; salted greek yogurt with apple compote, which was definitely the best thing out of the selections; and the mortadella with balsamic vinegar, which was tasteless and disappointing. Aside from the mortadella, I thought the Purple Pig was very good, and would return.

Dinner was at Sable. This was my third time at Sable and the drinks were delicious and innovative. However, I think this is probably my last time eating there. The first time I went I was blown away by the meal, but the last two times were just okay. We had the bacon jam (good); the beer battered pickled onion rings with blue cheese sauce (just okay - the beer batter had a definite taste of baking soda and the supposed pickling on the onions did not shine through at all); the pan-seared scallops (best thing we ate there, and truly delicious, but $30 for four scallops?); baked mac & cheese (very good, but a little soupy at the bottom); and the creamed corn creme brulee (good, but meh at the same time).

On Saturday morning we went to Local Root for breakfast. The food here was great and we almost returned for a second breakfast on Sunday. My husband had the chilaquiles, which were spicy and complex; I had the eggs benedict brisket, which may have been the best eggs benedict I've ever eaten (the brisket was great); and our friends had the chilaquiles and a mushroom omelet. The coffee was plentiful, the food was great, and the atmosphere was charming. They forgot to bring my bacon, but they removed it from the bill and I realized I didn't need it anyway. Definitely recommended.

Saturday afternoon snack was at Soundings Cafe at the Shedd. I've seen some bad reviews of Soundings here, but our snack there was good. Husband and I split a four-cheese grilled cheese and our friends had the creamed corn with bacon soup and also split a grilled cheese. The grilled cheese was great, not greasy at all, and the chips that came with it were excellent. They were crispy, salty, and tasted very fresh. The soup was also very good (I had a bite), and I would tell anyone visiting the Shedd that Soundings is worth visiting.

Saturday night dinner was at Blackbird. This was definitely the best meal of the trip. The drinks were good, and it was not too noisy (though we did eat a bit early, we were there until 8:30pm and it seemed fine). It was a little cramped, but we knew that going in. For appetizers I had the suckling pig; husband had the endive salad with poached eggs; and our friends had the scallops and the octopus. My husband loved his salad, and my friend's scallops were great. Our other friend said the octopus was lovely and tender. The flavors of the suckling pig were good, and the skin was definitely crispy, however the meat itself was tough and dry. I was a little disappointed, and sort of wish I'd gotten the sweet breads. Oh well.

For dinner, I had the sturgeon; husband had the wagyu flatiron; and our friends had the roasted elk and the flatiron. My sturgeon was out of this world. Hands down the best thing I ate on the trip, and I'd go back for it. Husband's flatiron was also excellent and melted in my mouth. I tried my friend's elk and I liked it, but I liked what I ordered better. The desserts were just all right - the highlight was definitely the rum cheesecake, which was interesting and tasty.

My only comment about the Blackbird "experience", as a whole, is that our waiter seemed to think that we didn't know our asses from a hole in the ground. We were all dressed very well (no jeans; my girlfriend and I were wearing dresses) and I thought we ordered well, but I just could not shake the feeling that the waiter thought we were rubes or hicks. I don't know. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and MAYBE it was just me. Despite that, we will likely return.

Breakfast on Sunday was at Table 52, and it was great. I had the chicken and waffles; husband had the bacon and sweet potato hash; and our friends had the eggs benedict and the bacon and sweet potato hash. We also got biscuits and sausage gravy as a side. I thought the food was very good, and solid. My chicken and waffles was GOOD, but it was not $24 good. Husband really liked his meal, and my girlfriend loved the eggs benedict. I would definitely go back.

Thanks for everyone's advice on here!

The Purple Pig,
Soundings Cafe,
Bongo Room
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