This new South Loop hot spot capitalizes on many things Chicago holds dear in a restaurant.
First of all, there's a local personality behind Room 21. Jerry Kleiner is known for rich interiors that depict a theme, like those in Carnivale, Gioco, Opera and Red Light. He's followed that through with his most recent venture by focusing on the history of the building itself and the area. I'll get to that shortly.
Kleiner really outdid himself with the garden. At 6,000 feet it doubles the size of the restaurant. There's seating for 300, potted palms, a wall of trees lining the neighbor's brick wall and a wall of windows exposing the interior. The street's blocked off by yet another wall.
Then there's the prime beef at prime prices. The 21oz Ribeye is $44 and the 12oz Filet is $38. The rest of the menu is similarly pricey, and includes chicken confit, fried shrimp cocktail, and baked local whitefish.
The piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance, what really makes this a "Chicago" restaurant, is the story behind the name and behind the decor. The building was the location of Al Capone's largest brewery, warehouse, and speakeasy. This was the infamous spot where Eliot Ness and his Untouchables confiscated two hundred thousand galloons of booze. The lushness of the decor pays homage to the Everleigh sisters, madams of a luxurious brothel at the turn of the last century.
And the name? While running a water line for the coffee maker Mr. Kleiner stumbled upon underground passages. He and his crew followed it to the end: a door, labeled "Room 21."