Chef Graham Elliot does more than dole out advice on Master Chef. He's also busy with three restaurants in Chicago-each with their own menu, distinct vibe, and price points. From casual to special occasions, I recommend trying them all! But the order in which you try them is completely up to you.
The Sandwich Shop
Grahamwich (615 N. State St.) is located in the charming Tree Studios Building, and offers sunshine from the courtyard in back and the bustle of State Street outside the store front window. The truffled popcorn is one of Chef's signature dishes, people stop by for the sole purpose of satisfying their sweet-tooth fix with this savory treat. The grilled cheese is stellar as is the soft-serve ice cream. Grahamwich does get mobbed so it's best to go during off-peak hours, otherwise expect to wait.
The Rock-n-Roll Bistro
g.e.b. (841 W. Randolph St.) is the newest restaurant in Chef's growing empire and it's still finding its way. Located along a buzzing, restaurant-rich section of Randolph Street, this place stand out for its rock-n-roll touches. From the amp stand as a hostess station, candle-tributes to rock gods and fellow chefs, and LP menu holders, you get the idea that music is an important part of his sensibility. (Fun Fact: Elliot serves as "Culinary Director" for the celebrated music festival, Lollapalooza.)
The menu is comprised of dishes with three featured ingredients. The cavatelli I had was a stand-out pasta dish, the heirloom tomato salad was exceptional. In fact, I started haunting farmers markets to find the same tomato varieties to make this dish at home. Expect unusual touches like fried spines (completely edible) on the sardines and dusted beignets overflowing with hazelnut. The bistro is an excellent choice for a casual date or gathering with friends.
The Tasting Menu
The De-constructed Caesar Salad at Graham Elliot
For those with a more time, money and adventurous palette, try the Repertoire menu at Graham Elliot (217 W. Huron St.). Chef will take you through a dozen courses, each more amazingly flavorful and beautifully plated than the last. The menu changes seasonally, though if you see Chef's take on Caesar Salad, try it. I once had lamb dish with eucalyptus bubbles here that was as delicious as it was indescribable. Each dish is like that.
Elliot's eponymous restaurant is a tribute to seasonally fresh produce and artful bites that satisfy, but leave you wanting more. The service is top notch with a knowledgeable and attentive staff, and offers to tour the kitchen. Drink pairings are a must as they work to bring out the best from each dish. This is dinner as an event. Allow for at least three hours, and go with someone you like and who enjoys the adventure as much as you do.
Actually, always go with someone who enjoys the adventure. Chef Graham Elliot's restaurants are certainly that.