State & Lake Chicago Tavern

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
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Photograph: Martha Williams
State and Lake
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The room that houses State and Lake, with its puffy leather walls, flat-screens and overhead bulbs shining like harsh spotlights through the pitch black, is not at all inviting. The servers who run State and Lake, with their harried manner and poor pacing, are not at all pleasant. But the food at State and Lake? Not at all bad— not all of it, anyway.

Small plates are the best bet—and, thanks to their uncharacteristically generous size, the best deal. Juicy, marinated tomatoes (sliced in a thin “carpaccio” style) delicately offset breaded-and-fried slices of mozzarella, and a dollop of basil aioli takes the dish into territory that a tired caprese could only aspire to. A trio of roasted bones—not your average hotel food—yields marrow so unctuous and luscious I felt nearly guilty as I spread it on grilled garlic-rubbed bread. Juicy shrimp glazed in Louisiana-style BBQ sauce (pictured) deftly balance heat and sweet, and while the comforting, cheesy grits they’re set atop might come from the opposite culinary direction as the marrow, the dish is just as delicious.

Yet, unfortunately, many of the other dishes feel like placeholders: Overcooked halibut topped with a perfectly poached duck egg swims in butter without much reason. The cheeseburger needs a bun that can stand up to the beef. An omelette simply stuffed with peppery lump crab could make a light respite from the heavy menu—if the eggs weren’t browned and dense. Housemade chips are the opposite of fresh, and the caramelized onion dip they’re paired with is cloyingly sweet. Desserts are mostly a disaster. The moist sticky toffee pudding is something I’d order again. But the refrigerator-cold and brick-dense pecan pie and devil’s food cake? Not at all.

Venue name: State & Lake Chicago Tavern
Address: 201 N State St

Cross street: at Lake St
Opening hours: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Transport: El stop: Red to Lake; Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to State/Lake.
Price: Average main course: $21
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