I was invited to sample the menu at LuxBar and it had been some time since I’d been there. Friday late lunch – in the main room next to the cozy fireplace. The Olympics were on, and some TV’s were tuned to discussion about Tiger Woods.
Luxbar is owned by Gibson’s Restaurant Group which also brings us the famous steak house, Quartino, and Hugo’s Frog Bar.
I brought along my friend Katherine – who’s bigger than life personality can fill a room. She would make a nice taste mate for the festivities. We met James, our server and spent a little time getting to know him. He did not know he’d be spending the lion’s share of the afternoon with us – but I do think we grew on him! He’s a responsible and mature young man who’s studying to be a science teacher (everyone knows we need more of them!). He also takes care of his customers. As I have written before – make sure the front of the house is in order. I complimented James to the chef – he’s lucky to have such a caring employee.
As you may know, Luxbar is smack dab in the middle of the Rush Street area – so there are a variety of patrons that can show up there: conventioneers, beautiful people from the neighborhood, film and television stars and regular Joe’s. I think the menu fit’s the neighborhood. We sampled from their lunch/appetizer fare.
We tried the baby back ribs. James suggested we have the sauce on the side (and that was a good suggestion). The ribs did have a rub on there – but either the rub was not spiked enough with flavors, or was applied lightly and close to cooking – either way the rub or the rib flavor did not stand out. The ribs were small and did not have a lot of meat to sink yourself into either. The accompanying cole slaw was watery and bland.
Here’s some good news. We tried the truffle French fries with grated parmesan served with a garlic aioli sauce. These were just plain yummy! There was a combination of crispy and soft fries (which I prefer). They applied the truffle oil just right. This can be difficult – most people use a heavy hand. Just a very light touch gives the fries some depth of flavor and earthiness that is perfect. The parmesan cheese gave a nice, appropriate saltiness. And, the garlic aioli was terrific – I thought about showering in the stuff. Would that be a good thing?
We tried the steak and black bean chili. No one should be afraid of heat here. It was much more like a beef and bean soup. The meat was broken down so it tasted like mom’s pot roast. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love mom’s pot roast – but I wasn’t expecting it in chili. They used little black round beans. They felt al dente to me – I wanted those beans to spend a few hours in the chili. And, there was no substantial chili seasoning to be found; it was much too mellow for my taste.
I was interested in the steak and iceburg wedge – that retro 70’s salad that’s easy to execute but hard to master. I asked James about the blue cheese dressing. The wedge salad typically has blue cheese, blue cheese dressing, bacon and tomatoes. He brought out a sample of the blue cheese dressing and the choir started, and the angels sang! Yes, it was supercalafragalistic blue cheese dressing! I started to swoop the fries in the dressing. I started getting anxiety thinking that I would have to lick that little cup he gave me dry! I am an admitted snob about blue cheese dressing, and I tend to get really excited when I find a good one. The last one I loved was at Jim McMahon’s (now closed) sports bar/restaurant on Milwaukee in Glenview. And, what was it about the dressing that makes it great? Why, it’s a kick of Tabasco. The chef was kind enough to give us the basic ingredients. I think I can do a pretty good job (and perhaps you can too) with the listed items. So, the steak wedge salad was a home run due to the terrific blue cheese salad dressing. All of that smoked bacon, diced tomato and “good” blue cheese helped it’s yummyness as well!
Luxbar has so many other choices we did not get to: a variety of sliders, burgers, sandwiches and soups. It’s also got some great sides like truffle mac and cheese, tangled onions and roasted veggies. Desserts include retro favorites like a banana split, cookie sundae and chocolate cake.
All in all, the experience was good – the atmosphere, James our server, a discussion with the chef, and great fries and blue cheese dressing filled our tummies with Friday afternoon happiness!
LUXBAR BLUE CHEESE DRESSING INGREDIENTS
Salt and pepper to taste
18 E Bellevue Place