|Super Bowl XLIII: The Gage on Gastropubs
With customers’ trending toward casualness, craft beers coming into their own, and street food making its way into restaurant kitchens, blue and white collar America are converging at the Gastropub. Defined by its unpretentious atmosphere, extensive list of beer and premium spirits, and inventive food worthy of the “gastro” title, it appeals to a wide-customer base. And on days like Super Bowl Sunday, it’s firing on all cylinders.
Take The Gage Restaurant and Tavern in Chicago for instance (they refer to themselves as a “gastro-tavern” rather than a “gastropub”). Located near the Chicago Bears’ stadium, Soldier Field, and across from Millennium Park, a major tourist destination, Chef Dirk Flanigan explains, “We are filling an important spot for people who want fine food in a casual but sophisticated atmosphere. Oh yeah, the people seem to like the beer part as well.”
And atmosphere is vital to the success of any gastro pub, as The Gage owners would know. The Lawless family migrated from Galway, Ireland, and have run bars and bar-restaurants for 32 years—giving The Gage serious pub cred. They revamped a late-19th century building and the vintage industrial interior left behind (tin ceilings and factory windows) is accentuated by exposed brick, a two-sided fireplace, and green-tiled bar floor and columns. Rich espresso-colored bar furniture, banquets, and leather booths welcomes a bevy of customers.
But what really keeps people coming back and makes The Gage a destination restaurant is the food. It’s consistently impressionable and reasonably priced—more expensive than bar food, but less expensive than fine dining.
On Super Bowl Sunday Flanigan will be featuring Pretzel Crusted Ribs with Mustard BBQ Sauce. His regular menu features a mix of pub fare with imaginative ingredients, like Poutine covered in Elk Ragout (gravy) and sophisticated entrees with extraordinary flavor combinations. A few worth mentioning: Black Cod with Mustard Spaetzle and Bacon Emulsion; Seared Sea Scallops with Sweet Potato, Vanilla, Chorizo Vinaigrette; Peach Wood-Smoked Kona Kampachi on Lobster Potato Salad; and Goat Cheese Risotto with a Basil Puree and Crisp Escargot (Flanigan’s personal favorite flavor combo).
Since Chicago isn’t in contention for the football championship this year, The Gage is playing it low-key. The game will be on the flat-screens, but Flanigan’s focus will be on the dining room. He says food outsells the bar by 90 percent on typical Sundays. And one dish sure to sell out on game day—and has got all the Chi-town foodie bloggers and press talking—is the Chicken Fried Lobster, a dish Flanigan says is “a luxurified chicken wing.” “Classically, blue cheese would never be on the same plate as lobster but it was necessary . . . I used just a hint by infusing oil for the celery salad and a tiny bit whipped into the butter for the lobster. I thought people would be outside with torches and pitchforks! But everyone loves it.”