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Since the Covid-19 pandemic started many dining establishments closed or either had to change things up to be more functionally operational under these new circumstances. During this series of reviews entitled "Hot Spots" we'll explore new restaurants we Love to dine at during the pandemic (sounds crazy right?). We'll be critiquing various aspects of the restaurant including cuisine, service, and comfortability while dining at the establishment and how they adhere to state regulations and safety protocols. Thus qualifying them as a dining hot spot during Covid, not to be confused with a Covid hot spot. Lol.
The Promontory like many other restaurants had to endure significant changes during the pandemic. The entire venue which operates as a music venue on the 2nd floor and a restaurant on the 1st floor was closed for a little more than 3 months. While the venue opened for drinks and music the restaurant recently reopened October 15th under a different premise than the original restaurant. The original restaurant was one of my favorites! They offered a variety of very creative and unique dishes encompassing everything from seafood to meat to vegetarian/vegan entrees prepared a variety of ways including on the open hearth. They also maintained their integrity while continuing to serve dishes which showcased culinary prowess as opposed to falling victim to eventually dumbing down their menu to cater to the masses which typically have less sophisticated palates.
Their brunch simply put was the best in the city in my opinion. Very well rounded with very solid takes on traditional breakfast/brunch staples. I always tell people they have the best grits, the best breakfast potatoes, and best chicken & waffles in the city and some of the best I've ever had regarding all three dishes (I'll tell you where their grits and potatoes recently resurfaced in my next brunch review soon to come).
Their new endeavor El Oso at The Promontory features new Mexican cuisine concepts from Chef Jonathan Zaragoza. What more can I say, Chef J.Z. gives a unique and very creative approach to some traditional entrees and some non traditional creations. Ditto regarding the cocktails. I was Frontin' and wasn't very excited when I first heard The Promontory changed the restaurant to only offering Mexican cuisine, but once I paid them a visit it I understood why. Here's my reasoning as to why...
1st: There are very few restaurants in the area which focus on slightly upscale Mexican cuisine and this was a great way to fill that void with food that is unique and tastes good. 2nd: Since the uncertainty of dining establishments being open to the public or operating at 25% capacity coupled with the increased popularity of carry out; it makes since to create a situation that provides an opportunity to dine out in comfort or eat in the comfort of your own home via carry out. This is what I call a well balanced business model. 3rd: The style of dishes served are not only unique but are great for dining in and work very easily for carry out. The fare I sampled during this visit was great! I learned that some of the recipes used are from La Familia and passed down from several generations. Mercy Me!
Flautas: Stuffed with garlic potato. Covered with a supremely delicious white fish ceviche and a tad bit of crema while sitting on top of a spicy red salsa. Very good dish. The Ceviche was vibrant, flavorful, and a great contrast to the garlic potatoes stuffed inside the flautas which were nice and crispy. Plus the tortillas are hand made.
Tamal Frito (pictured above): El Oso's take on a Tamale but waaay more creative and upscale than the norm. Best way to describe it is it's a small rectangular-ish cube shaped entree with what one might use to make a tamale; with queso cotija, squash, and wild mushroom resting in a pool of pipian verde (green mole). This dish was definitely my favorite during this dining experience. The best thing to do is order one and try it yourself.
Papas: Crispy potatoes, chorizo, and crema is how this dish is served. I ordered mine without chorizo but my friend ordered theirs with chorizo and said it was hittin! My no chorizo version was good but I was expecting the potatoes to be crispier. Nevertheless, the dish was still tasty.
Coco Punch: Bourbon, coconut milk, honey, nutmeg. Very simple yet very good drink. I'm a fan of spices like nutmeg in drinks paired with bourbon especially during Autumn. Kinda put's me in the mind frame of drinking horchata but not really. It may just be that both drinks are milky. If I weren't afraid of having a hangover the next morning I would've ordered many more. The drink also came with a flower as a garnish which made it look sexy.
Service: Great and easy. Orders are placed at the counter and the food is brought to your table. You still have a server, but you order from the counter instead of them. I had plenty of questions (as always) and our server was very friendly and competent with all of the items on the menu. If you don't have any questions, remember to ask about the Taco Del Dia (Taco of the Day).
Spacing/Social Distancing: Extremely spacious seating. 6 feet apart is the rule but it's more like 8 feet at El Oso. They also have a private dining room (inquire with the restaurant about this). I felt extremely safe and comfortable while dining here.
To sum it up...
Great dining experience! Great Food!
I can't wait to make my way through the menu and try some of the other items!
If you enjoy Mexican cuisine and want a more upscale version of entrees you may be familiar with and some that aren't familiar to you, I strongly recommend you visit El Oso (at The Promontory) www.promontorychicago.com