As I mentioned a few posts ago, Chicagoans have hardcore love for a good patio session. After months of being cooped up (Chiberia is real, ya'll!), we're all ready to throw off our winter gear, don our cutest sandals, and swarm the nearest restaurant to achieve what is lovingly referred to our first patio boner of the season (so gross, but so true). Thankfully, the city is absolutely teeming with patios from which to choose. In many neighborhoods, one can walk out their door and stumble right into an entire block of al fresco dining options: sidewalk seating that offers optimal people watching, patios with outdoor fireplaces, hidden beer gardens, rooftop decks with a view, places with picnic-style seating and retractable tented roofs, and even those that welcome our four-legged furry friends. With so many options, the tricky part is finding a restaurant patio that offers the amenities you want and delicious food/drinks (because a good hangout spot is not just all about the patio, right?).
Recently, Ashley and I were invited to stop by freestyle food + drink to discover if their patio has what it takes to please a pair of foodies (one who has a bit of a sun aversion) with an adorable little pug in tow. Located on the first floor of the Dana Hotel, the low-key, but still sophisticated space offers a sidewalk view of the busy River North neighborhood, along with a menu filled with shareable plates that offer global twists on classic American flavors. Personally, I'm always a fan of menus that boast shareable plates (as you get to try a wider variety of options) and I was pleased to see that while the patio was filled with plenty of sunshine, it was also surrounded by a nice amount of greenery that offered a perfect touch of shade.
Being a dog lover who is currently dog-less (and hoping to change that soon!), I'm always happy to spent some QT with my friends' pooches. Meet the adorable Apollo: attention whore, sloppy kiss giver, Instagram model, and all-around nice guy. Not only was this Ashely's and my first visit to freestyle, it was also Apollo's first al fresco adventure of the summer! He was so excited for our date that he event coordinated his bowtie with Ashley's dress (and squealed with excitement during the entire car ride to the restaurant!).
After posing for photos, Apollo got down to some serious business with some of the other dog-lovin' patio dwellers!
While Apollo schmoozed, Ashley and I got down to the business of eating. We started off with an order of Crispy Cheddar Cheese Curds with roasted poblano pepper cream and pomegranate seeds. As former Wisconsinites we both have a serious cheese curd addiction, but we're also both highly critical of the curds found in Chicago. Shockingly (and thankfully!), these crispy curds actually lived up to our high expectations!
We paired our deliciously oozy cheese curds with the Seared Pepper Crusted Tuna, served with chayotte slaw and jalapeño relish. I loved how the spiciness from the jalapeño managed to not overwhelm the delicate fish, but rather added the perfect amount of heat.
Of course we couldn't spend the afternoon lunching on a patio without ordering Cucumbertinis, aka the quintessential summer cocktail! While I'm not a big fan of cucumbers on their own (I can take them or leave them), the refreshing Cucumbertini is a summer staple for me.
Once Apollo had finished his schmooze session, he settled in with his very own special treat from Tails in the City. Ashely and Apollo were both thrilled to learn that not only is freestyle pet-friendly, but also, they take it a step further by offering pooches their own pet patio package for $10.
This is the face of a very spoiled little pug. ;-)
As Apollo chomped his way through his Chicago-themed cookie, we moved on to our entrées, starting with Ashley's Grilled Salmon served with soy bean glaze, roasted mushrooms, and pickled shallots. Having previously enjoyed this dish at freestyle, I knew Ashley would love the buttery sweet salmon with the briny onions and tart glaze. As I mentioned to her, this dish is officially my new favorite version of salmon!
Although I was tempted to order the salmon again, I decided to branch out to something new with the double-decker freestyle burger: prime beef and Italian sausage patties on a toasted egg bun with butter lettuce, sliced tomato, and horseradish aioli. This burger was truly epic!
Obviously, I wasn't the only one who thought so! After sneaking in a long sniff, Apollo proceeded to park his little furry behind right on my foot just in case I felt the urge to share with him. ;-)
As we're both bona fide lovers of truffle fries, we just had to pair our dishes with a side of freestyle's offering. These skin-on fries were seasoned with garlic truffle oil, Parmesan, and chopped parsley. While I'm always a fan of anything truffle, I especially loved the addition of the garlic (another favorite of mine!) on these fries.
As we waited for our desserts, Executive Chef Ariel Bagadiong stopped by for a chat with us and snuggles from Apollo!
We ended our meal with two of their most popular desserts, the first being the Opera Cake with layers of pistachio cake, green tea, and dulce de leche mousse enrobed in a sweet glaze. *Insert eye roll of pleasure.*
Our second dessert was the grown-up version of Oreos & Milk. Everything about these double chocolate white chocolate mousse-filled cookies was so completely awesome! I loved the presentation and really, you can't beat a gourmet chocolate cookie paired with ice cold milk.
Not not only were these cookies crazy delicious, but also, they were so much fun to dunk!
Apollo gives freestyle food + drink four paws up!
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at freestyle food + drink: 660 N. State St. , Chicago, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.