As any Chicago foodie knows, there’s definitely no shortage when it comes to super-hot West Loop eateries: Avec, Blackbird, Girl & The Goat, etc. But damn-near topping the list is dark horse, Maude’s Liquor Bar.
Opened in the beginning of 2011, Maude’s serves a delicious paradox of rustic, yet posh French fair and libations. As such, people are checking out its dual-level, dimly lit digs in droves to get their raw-food fix.
Leading the kitchen is Chef Jeff Pikus, formerly of Alinea. His philosophy is clearly not to reinvent the wheel. Escargo, roasted bone marrow, and seafood towers that are the freshest (and tallest) in the city comprise his menu’s repertoire.
Entertaining an out-of-town guest from the French Quarter, we decided to kick things off with the Maude’s Plateaux. A $130, triple-tiered, raw, chilled seafood extravaganza including everything from salmon ceviche to shrimp cocktail, lobster, crab, oyster, mussels and more – accompanied by an array of dipping sauces and dry rubs. The two-foot-tall presentation took three servers assemble and only a few minutes for our party to devour.
After consuming the components of the tower, we moved on to other French staples such as tenderloin steak tartare, chicken liver mousse, and blackened brussels sprouts. The tartare was traditionally prepared with egg yolk and capers. The chicken liver was smooth, rich, and creamy; presented in a nostalgic mason jar with a small spatula. Both dishes were accompanied with soft, grilled toast.
Our server made expert beverage pairing suggestions, starting us off with an all-booze-based cocktail called Aviation, which was a mix of gin, lemon juice, crème de violette, and maraschino served up with the excess in a side glass. Then, with dinner, we drank a light white wine to perfectly compliment our seafood selections.
With 45 seats on each floor, it’s certainly a fight for real estate on the weekends. Our table of four was seated in the center of a packed dining room at 9:30pm, the first reservation available on Saturday night. In hindsight, the late slot was well worth the wait, as it’s safe to say no one else in the city serving French cuisine as thoughtfully and expertly as Maude’s is right now.