Recently I went on a date to HB. I am not too proud to admit that the draw was to go there because I heard the food was fantastic (let's face it, the gays know how to do it up) but it was also a BYOB which besides Asian restaurants in Chicago, is hard to find good food and BYOB -- See future posting about Schwa the one restaurant in Chicago I am yearning for and will post on hopefully sooner rather then later.
So, back to the dinner. The place is cute. It is quaint which I love. It is not the over the top type of restaurant like you typically find in Chicago -- which is probably why it is a BYOB. It used be owned by the Hearty Boys (er go HB) but then the won the Food Network Next Personality show (or whatever it is) and they sold it to their friends. I never went there when the Hearty Boys ran it but I assume nothing changed or they did not lose a step.
The place requires just regular phone reservations (no opentable.com). From the beginning (i.e. the reservation) you could tell they knew what they were doing. They inform you that it is a BYOB and there is a wine shop (Kafka) down the block, which I thought was a nice touch.
We got there late but there was a window table still open which actually worked out better because all the gays could stare at us when they walked by. The truancy was my fault, I was deep in conversation and missed my turn and ended up going through Wrigleyville...bad move.
So, I brought a bottle of Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir -- just in case. Jane had never had escargot before so we ordered that and busted open the Chardonnay. First dates can be fun. We were both slightly apprehensive (er go the 2 bottles of wine) but we quickly settled in. On a side note, we went to a great little place for a drink before hand (Randolph Wine Cellar) and I highly advise it for a relaxing loft like atmosphere. So, we began to talk and get to know each other.
Quickly, but not too quick, the escargot came out. We both loved it. Escargot can be scary for people but it literally is like having mussels that are completely soaked in garlic. So, if you like garlic, you would like escargot. The menu was fantastic but the special sounded the best -- Grilled Marlin, which I had never had. We both discussed how we had never had it and wondered what it would be like. I think from my countless hours of watching Food Network, I some how pulled out that it would taste similar to swordfish. Alas, I was correct. They literally brought us a T-Bone sized Marlin steak. It was fantastic. Towards the middle of the dinner, we finished the first bottle of wine and moved onto the second because we were both enjoying ourselves and I wanted to test Jane and see if she would have dessert (she is a trainer at my gym -- equinox -- and she does not eat sugar on a regular basis).
So Jane, to her credit ate most of the Marlin but when the waiter came by to ask if we were done, she grabbed the rest off her plate and put it on mine, which I loved. Speaking of the waiters, they are great. There are only 2 of them and they are the guys who own the place so they know everything about the menu and they are very attentive. Our waiter continually came back to fill up our wine glasses from the wine we brought. I know this may not sound like a big deal but I have ordered bottles of wine at restaurants where I have to pour my own wine, which I am fine with. The point is they pay ultra attention to details and that is what makes this place cozy, romantic and fantastic.
We ordered the Cupcake trio for dessert. It was good, not amazing but good. The Carrot Cake cupcake was to die for though. This allowed us to finish our second bottle of wine and call it a night. HB is the perfect date spot. There is parking down the street in a lot (not super expensive), the interior is quaint, cute and romantic, the people were great and most importantly, the food was great. I advise asking if you call for a reservation, to be seated in the window, I felt like a manniquen displaying clothes -- not just any clothes but "couture" and it was fantastic. It is a great way to see a great area of Chicago that I would not typically see. There are sex shops down the way that are have window displays more intense then most things I have ever thought of -- no we did not go in, the energy is great and it is fun over there.
So, please consider trying HB because it was fantastic. The menu changes constantly (per our waiter) and it is BYOB, the most underrated thing in Chicago.