I was in Chicago a couple weeks ago. As always, the list was long and the time short. On my list were: Next, Grace, Oriole, Au Cheval (more on this later), and many others.
One of the places that impressed me the most was The Loyalist. A welcome addition to Chicago’s already robust food scene by Chefs John and Karen Shield. Both come from a long line of very respected Chicago kitchens like Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s. This restaurant is different, it is their own. The food is seasonal, unpretentious, expertly executed but casual. The dress code on the website says “come as you are” and they were playing Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey at the bar. What more could you ask for?
I ordered three things from the menu, the first was suggested by one of our knowledgeable servers. The other two came enthusiastically recommended from Beth Lang, the highly regarded Chicago-based food connoisseur.
We started with – Heirloom Tomatoes + Currants, Fresh Cheese, and Fried bread
Juicy tomatoes mixed with fresh creamy cheese, accentuated by the slight sourness of currants. This dish brought an instant smile to my hungry face. Having the crispy fried bread to sop up all of the juices took it over the top. Excellent way to start a meal.
Next up – Broiled Sea Trout, Kasu, and Charred Cucumber
This trout was perfectly cooked with a flavor that was delicate yet bold, thanks to the kasu (which is a sake-based marinade). The skin of the fish was crispy, reminiscent of a chicharron – Who doesn’t love chicharron?. A clear winner, which had my wife and I fighting for every bite.
Now what you’ve all been waiting for (drumroll) – The Loyalist Cheeseburger + Fries
I was just going to leave it at that, but expected you might want some explanation of what makes this burger such a stand out. It starts with the patty, a delicious blend of fresh ground chuck and bacon. Topped with shaved onions, pickled cucumbers, onion-infused mayonnaise, and housemade American cheese. All this goodness comes packaged in a lightly toasted sesame seed bun. The complexity of the flavors make you feel as if you were eating a well thought out course during a high-end tasting menu. A burger that will give many top-ranked burgers a run for their money, not only in Chicago but across the country.
This is a bucket-list burger, which by the way is probably cooler than you. Not only does it have dedicated Twitter and Instagram pages, it has a bad-ass nickname – “The Dirty Burg”. Once you come to terms with this, go try the burger. Maybe, just maybe some of it’s swag will rub off on you.
A big hand to Chefs John and Karen Shields, and to the passionate and dedicated staff they have surrounded themselves with.
Smyth and The Loyalist
77 N Ada St #101, Chicago, IL 60607