Restaurants: Grocery Bistro

Yesterday afternoon while browsing Metromix, I noticed that a two-week old restaurant called Grocery Bistro in the West Loop offering a $25 three course meal off from 5-7 pm Monday through Friday. The menu looked fantastic and – to top that off – they’re a BYOB. I was sold. I told my friend Katie (who never needs any convincing when it comes to trying a new restaurant) and she immediately called for a reservation.

There’s a conveniently located wine shop called Perman Wine Selections right next to Grocery, so we stopped in before dinner to pick up a bottle. They have a great selection of wines hand-picked by the owner and in all price ranges. The owner helped us pick a bottle and we were on our way.

We arrived at Grocery at 6:45 to a surprisingly packed house considering it was a Tuesday night and a brand new restaurant. The decor reminded me of what I missed about some of the family-owned BYOBs in Philadelphia that I love so much: simple but classy, homey, and personal. I loved it already.

Our waiter was nice enough, but he kind of analyzed our wine as we sat down. We couldn’t tell if he was just curious or being judgy (like he knew we only picked the $10 bottle of wine). He also went on for too long about how they charge a $5 corkage fee for the first bottle and $10 for each bottle thereafter. He told us about a situation they ran into last weekend where a large group brought too much wine and then sat around for too long while other people were waiting for their tables. I understand this, but it makes more sense to me to charge $5 for the first bottle for every two people and then $10 for the additional bottles rather than penalize parties larger than two. Oh well…I’m over it.

Let’s just say that the food more than made up for the odd introduction with the waiter. Although the restaurant is very reasonably priced to begin with, the $25 fixed price special is an amazing deal because you can pick any appetizer, entrée, and dessert from the entire menu. Katie and I shared our two appetizers:

Steak Tartare “Ceaser Style” with Toast

*Don’t worry – that is not runny egg white. The white around the egg yolk is a creamy Caesar sauce.

Oysters Rockefeller “Japanese Style”

The steak tartare was mixed with with garlic and capers, topped with a Caesar sauce and raw egg yolk (quail egg I’m assuming?) and served with crunchy toast. It was excellent. As for the oysters – oh. my. god. They were absolutely perfect. They were surrounded with a buttery panko mixture and served with some Sriracha and lemon on the side. I will be tempted to order these as my meal next time I go!

For entrées, I had the fish and Katie had the steak:

Pan-seared White Fish with an Herb-Bacon Crust and Lemon Butter Sauce

Grilled Ribeye “Filet Cut” with Baked Potato Mash and Red Wine Sauce

I don’t think the picture really does the fish justice as the presentation was a little lackluster, but it tasted phenomenal. It sat on top of a lemon beurre blanc and crisp haricot vert. The fish itself was pan-seared so it had a crisp exterior but was still nice and flaky in the inside. I had to try really hard to not devour the whole thing because I still had dessert coming.

The steak was equally delicious from the couple of bites I tried. The sauce looked like a simple red wine reduction, but actually had a very rich and distinct flavor. We asked the waiter what was in it and he told us it was just a reduction of red wine, veal stock, and thyme. I still think he was hiding something…

Another thing worth noting is that the waiter didn’t ask Katie how she wanted her steak cooked, which we both actually thought was smart. I like when chefs cook things to the doneness that they think is best. Not surprisingly, the steak was perfectly cooked.

We were pretty full after our appetizers and entrees, but desserts were included with our meal so we *had* to go for it. As with the appetizers, we both shared our two desserts:

Peanut Butter Mousse and Jelly Club Sandwich

Banana and Bacon Tiramisu

The peanut butter mousse and jelly sandwich was comfort food at its finest. The picture came out kind of dark, but the sandwich was golden brown on the outside and soft on the inside. It came with a creamy orange sauce for dipping and a shot of cold milk. The banana and bacon tiramisu was delicious as well. The crumbled bacon was mixed with crushed almonds, so it wasn’t overwhelmed by the bacon. Underneath the ladyfingers, there was a layer of dark chocolate sauce topped with a lighter chocolate mousse. It sounds like an odd combination, but it really worked.

I’m hoping they keep the fixed price special, but I have my doubts that they will continue it once they get a solid customer base. It certainly worked for me though; I will be back regardless of the special. I just hope they don’t raise their prices à la Bonsoiree, which opened with remarkably low prices and a similar fixed price weeknight dinner special but drastically raised prices when it got popular. However, I will stop being skeptical and just enjoy Grocery and it’s all its deliciousness. I might even be back again this week for those oysters…

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