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Chicagoans rejoice! Your out of town family can no longer make you visit them in the frenzy of River North. With the opening of the 79-room Robey Hotel in Wicker Park, family members can stay where locals live and thrive without the crush of tourists. Besides beautiful rooms in an architecturally significant building with a rooftop pool and bar, there is also the delectable delight of Cafe Robey.
Located on the first floor at the peak of the Six Corners in Chicago, Cafe Robey is a French inspired restaurant that nails elevated, casual fare. I visited on a Wednesday night and the place was jumping, with a two hour wait without reservations. Despite the demand, it did not feel crowded or overfilled. There was enough space between tables and and a moderate noise level that really made each table seem intimately separated.
I sat facing the door, in one of a row of french cafe style tables. Blocked by the host stand, the cold chill of winter was absorbed by the girls managing reservations. Viewing for people watching was ideal, and there were multiple families enjoying their meals. It is not always the case, but these children were well behaved and sat quietly at their tables.
My server, Nick, greeted me warmly and shared the food and wine specials for the night. I told him my preferences for wine and he suggested a smooth, tannic Syrah that hit the spot. As a bonus, it included a very generous pour!
Dinner at Café Robey
I sat back and enjoyed my drink. Around me was a mix of youthful late-20 somethings and plentiful 60 somethings. The hotel brings in family members of those who live in the area, and as such, the diners reflect that. According to Nick, most of their business to date has been from walk-ins from the neighborhood. The most popular items on the menu have been the steak frites, the crispy salmon, and avocado toast. Although I appreciated his recommendations, I opted for other menu items.
As I waited for my appetizer, I received an entire baguette and Wisconsin creamed butter to myself. I wish I had better self control, but I ate half of it. The butter was smooth and perfectly salted and I had to push it away from me to make sure I didn’t eat the whole thing. For my appetizer I had the grilled octopus with celery root puree, celery salad, and espelette oil. The texture of the octopus was tender and the bitterness and crisp celery salad added a perfect crunch to every bite.
The Main Dish
For my meal, I opted for the fried chicken sandwich special. A popular dish at lunch, it was the first time the meal was available for dinner. Boy, did I luck out. It was a cold January night and all I wanted was some comfort food. I tend to order items that I can’t make at home and rest assured, fried chicken still eludes me. The sandwich included a large portion of chicken with a spicy kick and juiciness that was mouth watering. The ratio of breading to chicken was ideal with a nice crunchiness and not too much salt. The house made chips heaped over the plate and made me wish I had someone with whom I could split them. The dish was an all-star.
As I picked at my chips, I made friends with a cooky septuagenarian spinster sitting next to me. A local from the neighborhood, she spoke to me about living in Spain and how she wished it were less taboo to sit alone at a meal. It was also her first time eating at Café Robey, Chicago. We traded bits of dessert; she ordered the pear tart, I the posset, and we both commiserated about the lack of chocolate on the dessert menu. Her warmth and proximity were a great accompaniment to a wonderful dinner.
Takeaways and a Review of Café Robey Chicago
Cafe Robey is an ideal restaurant for anxious travelers and locals. With appropriate music volume, mid-level to quiet patron noise and comfortable spacing between tables, I would certainly recommend it for lunch or dinner. For families with children on the spectrum, it is appropriate for lunch but might need an individual assessment for dinner. The servers were attentive and timely, and although chocolate was not on the menu at the time I visited, it is a planned addition soon.
Many Thanks to Café Robey and Nadine Johnson PR for hosting my meal. As always, all opinions are my own.
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