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Foodlyfe Tour: River Roast Chicago #WIAW

First off, a very happy birthday to one of my oldest, and most beloved friends! I wish I could be there to celebrate with you! Froyo better be involved 😀

Yes, I stole this from your Facebook. No, I couldn't resist.

Yes, I stole this from your Facebook. No, I couldn’t resist.

Monday, I gave you all an overview of my family’s weekend here in Chicago, and a little taste (harharharhar) of the goodness that we consumed during their trip. Yesterday, along with a decadent but nutritious triple chocolate protein muffin recipe, I told you about the last stop on the Foodlyfe Food Tour. Today, I am going to flippity floppity to the beginning, and tell you about dinner Friday night. And yes, a whole post. Devoted to dinner. You will see why in a minute 😀


Thank you to Jenn as always!

RiverRoast fam2 River Roast Chicago River Roast is a newly (4-week) opened restaurant in Fulton Market, ie the heart of the River North restaurant district. It is the brain child of Chef Tony Mantuano (James Beard winner) and Exec. Chef John Hogan and meant as a contemporary re-envisioning of Sunday supper. Think craft, gastropub-esque small plates, comforting sides, table snacks, and a selection of 3 (yup, just 3) entrees, carved table-side and meant to be shared. And everything named with a sense of humor (“gossip”, Bourbon Caramel Corn Chicken Cracklins). River Roast reminds me of a more communal version of SideDoor–similar use of ingredients, focus on re-crafted comfort food, accented by craft cocktails and large format beers. Drinks river roast drinks suzlyfe

  • I was Told There Would Be Dancing Cruzan Blackstrap, lime, pineapple

The waitress described it as a “tiki drink,” which I think was quite accurate (mostly due to the pineapple). The lime was not that overt, but I could tell that the acid helped to balance out the sweetness. I’m not a big pineapple-in-drinks girl, but between the rum and lime, this was a tasty drink

  • Acceptable Addictions Old Overholt, Leatherbee Besk, Luxardo Maraschino, Lime, Breckenridge Bitter

A take on an Manhattan, but much lighter. Very interesting and confusing, almost, to my palate. I think the problem was that I had just tried mom’s tiki drink, haha.

  • Book Club Wine, Citrus, Gossip

The house take on a sangria. This was delicious. Not too sweet, not too citrus, but bang on. Alex ordered it, and I am glad that it was “his” drink, otherwise I would have mown it down. Also, can we talk about the fact that they list “gossip” as an ingredient? lol

  • (unpictured) Shandy Penrose Devoir Saison, Aveze, Lemon, Ginger Beer 

Blogger Fail. Picture a tall glass with a yellow drink and a lemon wedge. I thought it was quite good, but I like Cicchetti’s Shandy better. Very refreshing though, and nice and light on the palate. A great summer drink, as a good shandy is 😀 Starters river roast bread pickles suzlyfe

  • House Bread with House Butter and Onion Strings

Warm, fresh, crusty, yeasty, airy bread with house made butter with onion strings on top. YUP.

  • House Pickles

You know I had to order pickles. Have we even met? These were delicious (but q’s are better!) Course 1 river roast crab toast shaved pork cake suzlyfe

  • Shrimp and Crab Toast with Avocado

A home run. The shrimp wasn’t overly shrimpy (you know what I mean) and you can’t go wrong with Peekytoe crab. They were left to just have a little chat, and then mingled with some radish (for some texture) and a dot of avocado whip. MMMMmmmm good.

  • Shaved Salad Artichoke, Fennel, Radish, Mushroom, Celery, Confit Tomato, Parmesan

The requisite salad (you know me and my mom). This was fantastic, if a bit wet from the confit tomato, even without the dressing. This was a great first course to help us open our palates and enjoy the best of local season. And basically all of my favorite things.

  • Head to Hock Pork Cake Frisee Salad, Pickled Ramps

Like a crab cake, but with pork. And mixed with a meatball, with a delicious crust. YUM. Course 2 river roast artichoke smoked trout ravioli suzlyfe

  • Artichokes Barigoule Bacon, Goat Cheese

One of the chef’s favorite dishes, and featuring artichokes? You know we had to try it. The artichoke is under the goat cheese, and swimming in a lemon and white wine broth. The bacon was an excellent soulful accent to the veggies, and I was glad to have the carrots there–it helped to lighten what was otherwise a delicious, but somewhat oily dish. But yes, it was fantastic.

  • Smoked Trout Blini, Celery Root Slaw, Horseradish, Trout Caviar

I wish there had been more trout, for sure–it was so good, and I wanted more! The blinis and caviar were a great play on the traditional, and celery root slaw gave necessary texture and some creaminess.

  • Slow Ravioli  Spinach Pasta, Snails, Garlic, Herbs, Tomato Confit

Garden-y and earth-y, and I have to say, the snails were FANTASTIC!! Really, a beautiful texture, and well complemented by the other flavors–the herbs gave everything some life, the spinach (and mushroom?) filling was nice and hearty… Comfort food to boot. Course 3 river roast peas roast beef tomatoes suzlyfe

  • Hogan’s Peas Pearl Onions, Bacon, Bibb

Apparently, Alex hasn’t had real Southern Sunday Supper peas before, because he was a little shocked at the preparation (the server told us about it, that was his reaction when she was telling us), but we had to get them when we heard that this an appetizer Chef Hogan had brought with him from Keefer’s, one of the big steakhouses in Chicago. I will say, that even with as decadent as these peas were, the springy freshness still managed to shine through.

  • Roast Beef Slow and Tender with RR Crispy Potatoes, carved tableside

HOLY. COW. Literally. The crust and seasoning on this baby was the best bite of the night, followed closely by all the other bites. The horseradish creme was a bit too un-horseradishy for me, but lovely. I would have willingly drank the au jus. SO GOOD. And the crispy potatoes? Like the best crispy bits from home fries. This dish was, without a doubt, the star it was meant to be.  I honestly am going to leave it at that. Only criticism would be more zing in the creme and a little bit more even cooking.

  • Local Tomatoes Ricotta, Pickled Onion Vinaigrette

Necessary with the heavier peas and the indulgent roast beef, nice and summery, with some whipped ricotta as accent. Loved the acidity and sweetness of the tomatoes, the lightness of the vinaigrette, and the slight tang of the ricotta Dessert river roast elvis maple bacon suzlyfe

  • Fat Elvis Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Peanut, Graham Cracker & Pretzel Crust Topped with Dried Bananas and Pretzel

This has all the makings of an incredible desert, but here are my 2 pieces of advice for RR: serve it with a shot of the maple bacon soft serve (after all, a true Elvis is pb, banana, and bacon) and decrease the salt in the crust by half. Then, have me come back and I’ll try it again. EVERYTHING was there–texture (LOVE the dried banana and pretzel), layering of flavor, (as in, the correct proportion), but fell just short of the mark. This has the makings of greatness, I tell you, and I love the fact that it was an individual pie–as if it was made just for you!

  • Maple Bacon Soft Serve

ERMIGERD delicious. This was exquisite, if a little too subtle. I wanted a little more bacon-honestly, I was hoping for pieces!–but I was glad that there was a little maple drizzle over top. The flavor makings were there, the texture was perfect. I would perfect it with some crumpled maple bacon over top, and a bit more umpf in the maple flavor. So the verdict? River Roast was exceptional. I would give it a 85 out of 100. Amazing atmosphere, amazing concept, incredible diversity and ingredients. I adored our server, everyone was super gracious and lovely to be around–even when I poured water all over myself. I think that RR could be a 95-100, even extra credit, with a little polishing. But I also have to say that for a restaurant that has only been open for 4 weeks, they are KILLING IT. Have you have had escargot?  Did you have a big weekend supper meal growing up? What are some of your favorite comforting, family meal classics? What looks good to you?

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