CHICAGO — Schuba's Tavern occupies a building that was once a tap house for Schlitz Brewery, and so their newly-built restaurant was dubbed Tied House in a nod to the name for taverns with allegiances to specific breweries.
It's a pretty, contemporary spot, with a spacious and airy dining room. A lounge with a beautiful white-marble bar has windows that overlook the under-construction patio and its huge fireplace, which is soon to be a popular summer destination.
Chef Debbie Gold earned a stellar reputation and a Beard Award for her work in Kansas City. She also worked in Chicago once upon a time, and says her new restaurant is about, "doing really nice, thoughtful, creative food in a casual atmosphere."
"You could find this food in a higher-end restaurant, but not with the same comfortable feel," Gold said.
Creative small plates include a novel treatment of purple sweet potato, which is salt-baked, broken apart by hand and fried, resulting in a crunchy outside and a smooth, sweet interior. It's practically a dessert. The obligatory crudo dish is Japanese madai, presented prettily with sea beans and daikon slices dipped in chile powder.
A bowl of roasted maitake mushrooms, scrambled eggs and chives tastes even better with the addition of leek-garlic broth. I love the single raviolo filled with buttery potato mousseline topped with a runny-yolk duck egg. A dashi broth adds aromatic notes.
Large plates include a beautiful rack of lamb, which is dusted with smoked orange-peel powder and served over blood sausage surrounded by cranberries. Equally gorgeous is the monkfish, the meaty fillet pieces tucked into curls of kohlrabi ribbons, over a base of toasted barley with tiny balls of compressed apple.
Sweet options include deconstructed wedding cake. It looks like it came to a screeching halt on the plate, but that smear is actually vanilla frosting. The cake itself is angel food, and there's huckleberry jam and freeze-dried rose petals on the plate.
Another visual treat is the Creamsicle dessert, which layers white chocolate and tangerine curd on a graham-cracker base, topped with toasted soft meringue and then hidden behind walls of stiff meringue. Think of it as s'mores for people who don't like chocolate.
I give Tied House, 3157 North Southport Avenue, three stars. I've actually eaten chef Gold's food before, years ago, and it's really nice to have her back in town.