Drop Pin is one of our recurring segments where we ask our favorite Chicagoans to give us the 411 on their most treasured places in the city. For this week, we connected with Soundscape Studios founder and Closed Sessions co-founder Michael Kolar, who has spent studio time with everyone from George Clinton to Chance The Rapper to RiFF RAFF. With one of the strongest opinions on food in the city, we felt it only right to ask Mr. Kolar about three crucial drop pins.
People know that I love food and eat out a lot. When asked what my three favorites were, there's no way I could do that. Far too many spots I love, too many to list and it really depends on the purpose. So while the editors of These Days where preparing to record their podcast last week, someone asked me where I take girls on dates. I told them I feel there are three types of date spots: the "Show Off", the "Casual", and the “I’m Trying, But Not Trying Too Hard”. So here are thre spots that fit the bill for a romantic night
Geja's Cafe: The Show Off
You enter the restaurant down some darkly lit steps and open the door to an underground, labyrinthine wine cellar only lit by candlelight and filled with the sounds of live classical guitar music. It makes for a stellar evening. The menu is strictly fondue. I always order "the international" which starts with hot cheese fondue with bread. Then moves to aged beef tenderloin, jumbo shrimp, and tender boneless chicken breast cooked at your table in a small cauldron. For dessert, they bring out chocolate fondue flamed with orange liqueur and served with strawberries, apples, banana, pineapple, graham cracker crumbs, pound cake, and marshmallows for roasting. Try to get a booth for extra privacy (and maybe your vape).
Sun Wah BBQ: The Casual
I grew up in Uptown. It's more than just the neighborhood that you complain about going to just to see a show at The Aragon or The Riv. It's a culturally diverse neighborhood and a cornucopia of ethnic dining. It's the only neighborhood in Chicago where if you want Chinese you have a choice of Mandarin, Szechuan, or Cantonese. My favorite subset of that is Hong Kong BBQ. This is the only spot in town where you can get a whole duck prepared table side for 20 bucks. Toss in a large bowl of WanTon soup and you have a 1st class date for $15 a person. Plus you can stop by the Al Capone era Green Mill for some live Jazz afterwards. Chicks always love live jazz.
Avec: The I'm Trying, But Not Trying Too Hard
Avec is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. It hails from James Beard Award Winning chefs, but is down to earth, open late, and they don't take reservations. You must always start with chorizo-stuffed medjool dates with bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce. For your main, just order what the whole fish of the day is and for a side, get a gyro sausage with charred squash baba ganouj, shaved squash, mint and za’atar. It's casual, but swaggy interior will let her know that you put on one of your best fits, but could also rock some clean Jordan’s at the same.