Big Bar (Chicago)

12 Apr

I was out of town this past week for work.    I enjoy traveling for work because that means new places to find some good food.  Spending time in downtown Chicago, I found myself staying at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.   The woman I was dining with suggested we grab some small plates and drinks at one of their dining establishments, big bar.

With the not so original name, I had been informed the obvious – that it was a big bar and a place to be ‘seen’ by convention attendees who hold their conferences there (by day, I’m a meeting/event planner).  However, I did not know that it was (from what I was told of course) the longest bar in the United States.  I thought I had been to longer, but I learned that this is the longest bar without interruptions.  So, those parts in bars that bartenders lift up to get through quickly don’t exist.  Just some interesting information – I was more looking towards what small plates I could get my hands on.  And as my colleague had noshed here before, I left it up to her to order.  Two staple menu items (Bavarian pretzel and the colossal shrimp cocktail) and two Big Tastes from their specialty menu (pork sliders and shrimp dip) were ordered and delivered.  My stomach growled as I sipped a martini and prepared for the bites.

We began with a classic pretzel, served with both dijon mustard and a spicy mustard.  It was, sadly, your basic pretzel.  However, the knotted areas were soft and doughy, perfect to nosh on with the mustard.  Normally, I would have never had a spicy mustard mixed with dijon, but since they were served in the same bowl, I thought ‘why not?’ and happily mixed them to my delight.  Without wanting to get too full, I made my way to the large shrimp cocktail.

The glass used to serve the shrimp is also used to serve, you guessed it, big drinks.  But this time, we got a big serving of cocktail sauce.  Though the cocktail sauce was mild with a strong ketchup flavor, the thing I really loved about it was the heaping mountain of horseradish on top.  This allowed me to mix in as much as I wanted to tailor my spicy level.  I’ve got to say, I love St. Elmo’s spicy, but it was nice to tone it down a bit this way.  The shrimp were firm and well cooked, cooled to perfection with a good consistent bite to the skin.  They were also served with breadsticks, but I passed over the crisp from a box carb.

Next up – shrimp dip served with crisp crostini’s.  The warm dip was pretty good – finely chopped shrimp though which I guess does make it easier to scoop up.  Some basic seafood seasoning (think Old Bay) was the majority flavor component.  It was mildly cheesy, and I was more interested in trying something else – which is what I did.  The pulled pork sliders were fantastic.  Subtly smokey, messy with sauce, they had a great flavor component that was soaked up by the bun.  But, the bun never got soggy – it wasn’t your classic “hamburger bun” but had more consistency to it which I enjoyed.  I’d recommend a slider (they had four different kinds) in a heartbeat.

The service was standard, nothing too great.  But since we were doing business, she left us alone to our conversation, drinks and food.  I love snacking and small plate offerings at a bar are my kind of thing.  If you get the chance to experience it, get one of the big drinks.  I heard they parade it through the place and make an spectacle (or example – however you choose to look at it) out of the person who orders it.

big bar (located in the Hyatt Regency Chicago) * 151 E. Wacker Drive * Chicago, IL * 312.565.1234

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