Thursday, October 25, 2012

Loop, The Loop: Downtown Chicago

A few months ago I went on a business trip to Chicago to tighten up the subtitles on a film called Sole Survivor, whose immanent debut I am anxiously awaiting. While waiting at the gate at MSP International I mused in a notebook about the hustle and bustle of Chicago. It's always been one of my favorite cities in the world and is home to some of my favorite bars like Weeds, the Skylark and the Old Town Alehouse. Despite all the time I've spent haunting the dives of Chicago, the Loop has generally eluded me. Gastronomically it's a mix of high-concept restaurants whose chefs have put a lot of time into the philosophy of food and chop shop chicken shacks and burger joints. The former is generally too expensive for me, the latter has yet to show up on my radar although I have still yet to try Rick Bayless' downtown taqueria, Xoco, which remains near the top of my list.

While working at Foundation Content in downtown, however, I spotted a fairly interesting looking place called Sayat Nova, which promised Armenian cuisine. Before I could check it out, though, I was whisked away by Maison's resident mezcal maniac, Liz Pearce, who brought me to a bartending competition featuring free Casa Nobles tequila. Needless to say, all memory of Sayat Nova went out the window. 

Several days ago, Anna and I were in Chicago for a party celebrating the engagement of two of our very dear friends. Finding ourselves hungry and with a distinct lack of free tequila, we took a walk down Michigan avenue to Sayat Nova. 

We were looking for a nice, quiet spot for dinner on a monday night and in that respect Sayat Nova delivered. We got an intimate little booth (all of their booths are in little alcoves carved into the wall) and when we arrived we were almost the only customers save for a long table of positively demure professor-types. For those of you who read this regularly, it will come as no surprise that I had to order the Armenian Sazerac which is pretty true to the original, but the rinse replaces absinthe with an Armenian anisette called arak (why they didn't just call it the Sazarak, I'm not sure) which is lighter than absinthe and gave the sazerac a nice, mellow balance. 

The food was decent, although I was expecting a more middle-eastern tinge to the food. It was very similar to Turkish cuisine: kebabs, baba ghanouj, koefta and lots of lamb. Nothing really stuck out as over-the-top amazing, though, maybe with the exception of the chicken kebabs which were seasoned and grilled to perfection. 

All in all it was a pleasant if slightly underwhelming dining experience topped with a decent cocktail and a lovely walk back to the hotel. Consider my curiosity sated.

Sayat Nova
157 E. Ohio St
Chicago, IL

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