Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

October 19, 2013 11:54 AM

Restaurant: RL Restaurant (Ralph Lauren)

RL Restaurant (Ralph Lauren)

115 East Chicago Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
The restaurant, opened by Ralph Lauren, is adjacent to the Polo store in Chicago.

The restaurant was the first opened by Lauren, in 1999, and was not very successful for a number of reasons, one being that the food was not very good. Management has since been taken over by the team that runs Gibson's Steak House in Chicago (and a number of other restaurants). It became a hit and remains a must -stop on any tour of Chicago culinary hot spots. [Note: Three years ago, Lauren opened an all-American restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris. It is very successful. He plans to open a third restaurant in New York City. (NYT 10/13/13, Style Section)]

Debbie and I went to RL with Bill and Bernie.

As you enter the restaurant, on a weather-permitting evening, you walk through a number of sidewalk tables to get to the main door. Straight ahead is the reception stand. Directly to the left are a relatively small bar and a few tables. The dining room is straight ahead.

The decor is as you would expect in a restaurant designed and opened by Lauren. It is relatively dark, with heavy dark wooden walls and lots of art. There are banquettes around the entire restaurant. The dining room seats up to 81 people at 2s, 4s and 6s. The tables are quite close to each other, and one moves through the room with care, although the serving folks move through the maze with ease.

Bernie started by asking for Smoked Salmon which she had ordered before but was not on the current menu. It came. Bill selected a half dozen oysters. Debbie picked a Heirloom Tomato salad and I chose a Caesar Salad. (I was sore tempted to order something that I have not seen on a menu -- Baked Cheese, Saint Andre Triple Cream, Phyllo Dough, Poached Pear, and Maple syrup, but I resisted.)

For her main course Bernie requested Halibut, which was an off-the-menu special for the evening. Bill and Debbie each chose Bone-in Ribeyes, which neither of them was able to finish. (Bernie suggested that Bill should have requested the steak without the added butter. He did not follow the suggestion.) I opted for Lake Perch, which I do not recall having found on a restaurant menu since I left Duluth.

For dessert Bill ordered Cheesecake, which he and Debbie basically shared. I ordered Sorbet, of which Bernie had a bite.

Getting to the restrooms is a bit of a trek. First, you work your way to the back of the dining room, and then take an elevator down one floor. The decor in the elevator area is like the rest of the restaurant. As you enter the men's room there is a short hallway with a very large mirror at the end. You then enter the men's room.

Immediately to your right is a light marble counter top, with two sunken washbasins with golden faucets and a huge mirror dead ahead. There are two separate, fully-enclosed commode rooms. There are no urinals. The floor is covered with small white tiles. The walls are painted off-white.

The restaurant's website says that walk-ins are welcome, but don't count on being able to get a table all that quickly. Better to take no chances and make a reservation.

The bar is open to midnight seven nights a week, and there is valet parking after 8 p.m.

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