leave your inhibitions at the door
“Incredible–like a perfectly executed Sunday dinner,” declares The Dude as he digs into his roast chicken at MK. I know, I know, it’s certainly not tres chic to get excited about a piece of chicken. (Even though I’ve seen several famous chefs declare their favorite dish to be a perfectly roasted chicken.) But there’s a reason MK is still one of the best restaurants in Chicago. This message on the restaurant’s Web site says it all:
at our core, we’re just a mom and pop establishment.
that food is a metaphor for the good things in life.
there’s no substitute for live charcoal.
that ingredients are more important than recipes.
in honoring thy farmer.
in sauces and history.
forced formality is for fakers.
our wine list rocks.
if you’re not enjoying yourself, neither are we.
that a room full of people dressed for dinner is a thing of beauty.
that visual art makes great foreplay.
in understated elegance and sensual minimalism.
that excellence and consistency are our middle names.
And to that, brothers and sisters, I give a giant Amen.
After perusing all the trendy new places on OpenTable.com—most of which were completely booked until 10 p.m. on a Friday night—I chose to go back to MK for my birthday dinner. By “go back,” it’s because 12 years ago we were also there for my birthday dinner, coincidentally, when we were living in S.F. and visiting Chicago. Back then, MK was one of the trendy new places, and Founder and Executive Chef Michael Kornick was the young hot chef on the scene. I’m so glad that as he matured and endured fame, he kept true to himself. That’s a good, solid Midwesterner for you.
Anyway, my yellowfin tuna tartare with celery root remoulade, moroccan cured olives, and extra virgin olive oil was very good—maybe could have used a touch more seasoning. Loved my sturgeon entrée with truffle-scented sunchokes (I don’t believe I’ve ever had sunchokes but really enjoyed them, like a cross between an artichoke and a turnip). And The Dude was falling out of his seat over the roast chicken with the perfectly crispy skin. The waiter, in the style of a real Chicagoan, was frank and direct with his opinions about some menu items over others. This was all enjoyed with a bottle of Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc—one of my favorites, and not easy to find in the Midwest, from a family winery in Sonoma that’s run by two sisters.
MK was filled with happy, stylish people—no one putting on airs, just warm, happy people. It was my birthday, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my choice of restaurant. So if you’re looking for a lively, modern, non-touristy, yet unpretentious place to have dinner in Chicago, go to MK. There’s good reason why this place has withstood the test of time and appears to remain a favorite among Chicagoans.