Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
"We are a steakhouse—everyone knows that," says Rick Gresh, the executive chef at David Burke's Primehouse. Perhaps that's a bit obvious, but he's actually underselling it just a bit. This River North restaurant probably has the most intense dry aging facility in Chicago—complete with tiles made from pink Himalayan salt—making it one of the most respected steakhouses in a steak-obsessed city. But recently a larger bar area was added in, opening the space up, and allowing for people to come in for a drink and a snack. So what kind of snacks do you serve at a steakhouse?
The process was harder than he initially thought. "We wanted to create a bar experience," says Gresh, "but small nibbles are tough for a steakhouse." While you can order the regular menu from the bar, Gresh created a completely new bar menu full of smaller dishes, which don't require a heavy steak knife to devour. Instead, most of the dishes are "steakhouse inspired," though there are also a few playful nods to Chicago's own street food.
The new menu also includes a "Spirited Cheese" section, where cheese is paired with the offerings from nearby Koval Distillery. "Most people think of beer or wine with cheese," says Gresh. "Spirits are much more difficult. The alcohol has so many little nuances that make it harder to pair."
It's a significant change for the restaurant. "Originally, the bar only had nine seats," says Gresh, "so there was a disconnect between the bar and the dining space." Previously, the two were separated by a wine cellar, which was recently moved to the back of the restaurant. This opened up room for a larger bar, while also joining the two spaces.
Check out the slideshow for a look at some of the dishes on the bar menu at David Burke's Primehouse.