One of the benefits of the holidays is getting together with loved ones and sharing good food and good wine in a comfortable environment. New champagne and wine lounge Connoisseur offers a place to do that year round.
The intimate 50-seat room is lined with suede banquettes and wooden tables, and the dark brown walls are hung with cloth covered disks that serve to soften the sound. Even with the hardwood floors and the high ceiling it doesn’t have the echoing quality that those two elements often create.
Chef Dan Deaton takes the menu designed by Chef Philip Vitti, whose background includes Tru, and adds Cajun elements from his hometown of Baton Rouge. I was seated next to a woman from Louisiana who had tentatively ordered the Crawfish Etoufee. I say tentatively because she was concerned that it wouldn’t be up to her standards. She needn’t have worried. In fact, the server had brought share plates for her friends and they barely saw a crumb of the accompanying French bread. I had the Morris chicken, which is a stew of rice, tender chicken, and sweet potatoes. Our server Michelle said it was her favorite dish because of the spice and the sweetness, and I agreed it was delicious, enough so that I shared it with the diners on either side of me! The crawfish rolls, maki stuffed with crawfish and served with plum sauce, also have some kick. A dish that’s good for milder palates is the crab and brie dip. Ahh, just writing that makes me hungry.
Managing Partner Gerald Lott wanted to take the mystique and the perception of exclusivity out of wine, and he and Wine Program Director Juliana Angel have taken a few steps with that end in mind. The selection is affordable and includes varietals from all over the world, they’re creating a book with notes on each wine that patrons are welcome to look through, and each guest will receive a handwritten card detailing the wine enjoyed. Connoisseur also offers cocktails and martinis, and will bring a cart over to make them tableside.
With his background in Chicago nightlife promotion, Lott’s music choices lean towards old school hip hop, but he promises an eclectic mix. “If you don’t like the song, wait four minutes and see what happens,” he said. I was there on a Wednesday evening and the guitarist had such a following of his own, and helped to create such a warm atmosphere, they’re considering making musicians a regular feature. I hope they do; I know a few I can send their way.
All of the little touches will help you feel like a Connoisseur, even if you don’t know the difference between a Malbec and a Merlot.
Connoisseur, 1040 W Grand, (312)738-3055
Hours: Tues – Fri 5pm to 2am, Sat & Sun 2pm to 2am, Closed Monday