Smyth + Loyalist restaurant opens in Chicago
Eagerly anticipated, this dual-concept eatery in the West Loop is now open with executive chef John Shields and pastry chef Karen Urie Shields in the kitchen. Both chefs have extensive street cred having come from the famous Alinea and Charlie Trotter’s as well as their own renowned Town House in rural Virginia. The Loyalist and Smyth will be housed in a comfortable setting amidst exposed wood beams and homey accents. It’s a fun, dinner party experience with fabulous food minus the pretention.
The Loyalist opened in July 2016 as a casual, neighborhood hangout with great food on the first floor that features warehouse décor. Here you’ll find seasonal plates, classic cocktails, and the signature “Loyalist Cheeseburger,” an onion lover’s dream (listed in Zagat’s 10 New Burgers You Need to Try in Chicago). There are plenty of other adventurous menu options as well as a lemongrass sundae for dessert. The Loyalist is an 80-seat restaurant/bar with a fireplace and plasma TV that appeals to the neighborhood and attracts regulars. Loyalist is your place to meet family and friends.
In the Loyalist, located near the United Center, they hope to draw hockey, basketball, concert and special events fans with rotating food and drink selections according to the season. One of the drinks features blanca tequila, cilantro oil, and sotol with savory, toasted coriander bitters. Also on the menu is a black Manhattan with pipe tobacco bitters infused with dark spirits.
They also offer non-alcoholic drinks including sun tea, using black walnut leaves. Although the drinks are inventive and may seem “fancy or flashy,” there’s no pretension. For those who want a simple, classic drink, there’s always a shot and beer combo as well as local brews.
“When it comes to Smyth, expect surprises. It is a confluence of warmth, vitality, and artistry.” The origin of the name “Smyth” is a tribute to the rich and deep experiences the Shields had in Smyth County, Virginia at their Town House restaurant. They brought that vision and new knowledge back to Chicago to create thoughtful and unique dishes… dishes that are imaginative, yet rooted in the land from pure, humble ingredients.
Smyth, which opened in August 2016, is an upscale dining experience offering exciting and exotic tasting menus with wine pairings more suited to special occasions. The dining room seats 40 and presents a truly unique eight-course tasting menu for $135 and a sixteen-course tasting menu for $220. The couple has an “exclusive custom collaboration” with a 20-acre farm in Illinois to supply the bulk of the produce, herbs and flowers for the restaurant.
The Shields’ have brought on Roger Landes (former general manager at mfk) as lead bartender. He’s embracing the seasonality of the menu and offering fresh, new pairings upstairs at Smyth, which will be more wine focused. They expect to offer a beverage cart stocked with rare spirits in the future.
A Final Note:
The impressive dessert program, by Urie Shields, is a special opportunity for her to envision creative menus that feature savory as well as sweet tastes. “Traditionally, tasting menus start off light and move into heavier items and entrees,” explains Urie Shields. “We like the idea of a smoother liaison from savory to pastry.”
For example, the current tasting menu is capped off with a frozen tomato mousse utilizing fragrant, ripe tomatoes currently in season. This dish includes tomatoes along with stone fruits and topped with a whipped mousse and garnished with edible flowers. “We don’t make things just for the sake of being different. Guests might actually recognize something, like the tart, and that’s special for us,” says Urie Shields. “We open the doors for our guests to make their own food memories.”