Steak News: Maple & Ash and Community Tavern
Chicago's steakhouse scene continues to push boundaries, whether it be by challenging the status quo of the steakhouse paradigm through a modern dining approach or by opening in a neighborhood far outside the confines of downtown. Two of the city's latest steakhouse entrants are a contemporary concept coming soon to the Gold Coast and a new neighborhood fixture that just opened its doors in Portage Park on the far northwest side.
Things are about to heat up in the Gold Coast. For years, Gibson's reigned as the sole steakhouse bastion on the Viagra Triangle, but that's about to change this summer when Maple & Ash cooks up a contemporary steak on the American steakhouse template. The wood-fired concept is the masterwork of chef/partner David Ochs and managing partner Brian O'Connor, who team up to pay homage to fire and hearth cookery. Ochs mans the kitchen, presiding over a first floor bar and patio, along with an upstairs lounge and main dining room, allowing guests to curate their dining and drinking experience from casual meal to special occasion. The first floor is primarily upscale bar food, cocktails, and wine, while the second hones in on the live fire component, featuring a full menu of vegetables, meats, and seafood, with an emphasis on contemporary steakhouse classics. Designer Karen Herold of Studio K also derives inspiration from the live fire ethos for the space, incorporating flame-inspired design touches indicative of maple and ash into the motif.
On the opposite side of town, Community Tavern brought a French-inflected taste of steak to Portage Park. The boutique steakhouse bills itself as an American restaurant with a French accent, a combo apparent via the vintage ambience, locally sourced meats, American wines, and a mix of both American and French dishes. The restaurant strives to hit the middle ground between nostalgic and modern, serving as a new community tentpole on the northwest side, an ethos accomplished through comfortable atmosphere and hearty dishes like bouillabaisse, rib and oxtail terrine, and French onion soup. Steaks are especially in focus here, as the menu showcases prime, locally sourced meats dry-aged in-house. To accent the beefy food menu, the drink list contains modern takes on classic cocktails, craft beers, and a sharply curated wine list.
- Matt Kirouac