Finding urban sophistication and comfort cooking in the same spot is no easy feat, but sometimes that's just what a family needs to keep everyone satisfied. It's also the goal of Jared Case, Tribute's new executive chef and the father of a new baby.
"Right after getting this job, my family took a driving tour through the south and was inspired by the down-home cooking," he says.
He aims to combine these authentic flavors with the elegance and sensibility of the restaurant's Michigan Avenue location. The deliciously rich "Lobster Mac n Cheese" is one example of that marriage.
We also enjoyed tangy "Dry Rub Ribs," "Pete's Fried Chicken" and "Shrimp & Grits." While these dishes may not sound elegant, their beauty is found in the details. Perfectly crisp lettuce accompanies the ribs to balance their spicy kick. (My 9-year-old is still raving about those.) In my "Shrimp & Grits," I found peeled grape tomatoes, which added a nice touch of acidity.
Admittedly, the Essex Hotel restaurant may not seem an obvious family destination. But with brunch, lunch and dinner options and a very reasonably priced children's menu, Tribute makes for a fun and fancy day or evening out.
We all appreciated the sleek setting and beautiful views. My sons were impressed by the selection of Filbert's sodas. And afterward, with full stomachs, we walked through Grant Park.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.