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Staytion Market and Bar offers a Chicago-centric menu in the Loop
One of the newest and most intriguing restaurants to open in recent weeks is located in the stunning, renovated lobby of the Renaissance Chicago Downtown Hotel at 1 West Wacker Drive. Staytion Market & Bar features an eclectic menu focused on street food with a Chicago flair, specially handcrafted cocktails and local craft beers. The distinctive design elements include designs inspired by CTA bus windows from the early 1900s, serving as the entrance into the Chef’s display kitchen. The design is what I might term “urban hip” with plenty of cushiony chairs and banquettes and fluffy pillows strewn everywhere. It is comfortably inviting yet also sleek and urban at the same time.
As for the menu, the chef’s innovative takes on traditional street food are well worth your time. I was invited to stop by for a sample of the food and beverage and was hard pressed to stop sampling after three cocktails and at least six different menu offerings.
The cocktail menu provides a unique opportunity. Each of Staytion’s unique cocktail recipes are detailed alongside the traditional cocktail upon which theirs was based. These “elevated” cocktails incorporate spirits from small batch distilleries and local finds.You can order either the traditional version, or Staytion’s new, funky version. Believe me, you should try the latter. During my visit I sampled the following:
- Dancing Irishman (Irish whiskey, pimento dram, simple, Peychaud’s, lemon essence): This one is a re-make of the Sazerac. Now, I am a huge fan of Sazeracs. I even stock absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters at home so I can make them at will. This, however, gave the traditional one a run for its money. The flavor combinations are more subtle than the traditional, but layered and complex and very tasty.
- The Gold Coast: Here is a twist on the classic whiskey sour. An excellent cocktail but I still prefer the classic (which they can make for you).
- O’Leary’s Cow: I am also a great fan of the classic Manhattan. This cocktail is elevated with smoke, bittersweet Amaro, and maraschino liqueur creating a fascinating and complex version of the Manhattan. This was by far my favorite of the three.
The menu offerings are all small plates and perfect for sharing. As a matter of fact, that is where Staytion excels – providing a comfortable spot for groups to get together to share food and drink. It is a perfect “after work” spot or equally great for a “pre-show” or “post-show” stop when you are in the Loop for theater.
During my visit, I sampled the following items:
- Truffled Salt and Pepper Chips: Anything with truffle oil is automatically going to make my mouth water. Add to that the combination of sale and pepper and I am sold. But wait, there’s more! The chips are serve with with a Roasted Mushroom Aioli for dipping. Honestly, I could just go back for this and the O’Leary’s Cow and be quite happy.
- House-Marinated Olives: The olives are fresh and slightly piquant due to a bit of peppers in the mix. They aren’t tremendously different than you might find at other restaurants, but the price is low and they are a perfect starter to any meal.
- Grilled Artichoke Hearts: Grilling gives the artichoke hearts a tiny bit of smoky charred flavor (which I loved). They are served atop a goat cheese spread and sprinkled with preserved lemon. If you’re a fan of artichokes, these are a must-try. They were even excellent the next day as cold leftovers.
- Wild Mushroom Flatbread: The combination of several mushroom varieties comes with garlic, sage, and goat cheese. As a mushroom lover, this was my favorite of the flatbreads I sampled. The mushrooms gave a wonderful earthy, meaty flavor which was perfect with the goat cheese.
- Spiced Tuna Crudo: The slices of tuna were seared to perfection and served rare stop a smear of avocado mousse with a few slices of piqillo peppers scattered about. If you love tuna, then you will certainly enjoy this appetizer. The portion size is quite generous and the spicy avocado mousse adds just a hint of heat. I did feel that this one could use a bit of something salty to round out the flavors. Soy sauce? Or maybe just a hint of sea salt? It needs something, but it’s still excellent as is.
Hours for the market are 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, serving breakfast from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The bar is open from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, serving dinner between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday, serving dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.