Though we are surrounded by the azure majesty of Lake Michigan, Chicago is generally not a seafood kind of town. Fed-Ex and dry ice have done wonders for the scene, but it's still pretty rare to find great oysters here. Even all the upscale spots around town that have raw bars are wildly inconsistent. Still, anticipating a recent road trip to New Orleans, I couldn't get the idea of raw oysters out of my head and I wanted to do a little pre-trip eating.
But, where to go? I settled on the Coq D'Or in the Drake Hotel on the Magnificent Mile. It's the sister lounge to Drake's famous Cape Cod Room where Jack Benny, Marilyn Monroe, and Joe DiMaggio carved their initials in to the restaurant's bar.
It's also one of my favorite places in the city featuring an exciting mix of Gold Coast regulars, tourists, and after-work drop-ins. They make a great martini, and the spicy nut mix or the complimentary flatbread bar snacks are always good.
They also serve the best and most consistent oysters in the city, always fresh and briny on a classic heavy ornamental fluted metal tray larded with a mountain of ice, shiny wedges of lemon, and a spicy cocktail sauce. This occasion was no different, and in fact, the quality was on par or better than many of my shellfish experiences in New Orleans a couple of weeks later.
Add some of their famous Bookbinder Soup, made of red snapper in a tomato and vegetable-infused broth served with a crystal side-decanter of sherry that you pour in to the bowl as you slurp, and I'm not sure I'll ever go anywhere else for an oyster.