Looking for a stylish restaurant where the food is as showcased as the venue? Then look no further than WILDFIRE ( www.wildfirerestaurant.com).
Before you even walk in the door, you are greeted with a slab-rock exterior and lots of wood: this place is a chophouse, and wants to let you know.
Inside, the restaurant aims to make you feel as if you've stepped back in time to a '40s supper club: dark woods and leather, accented by the gleam of silverware and spotless napkins, jazz music filtering over the patrons, with the center area of the dining area a few steps lower; the illusion is complete. The back wall is lit more brightly, drawing your eyes to the smooth-running kitchen area, where all meals are prepared and cooked in sight of the dinners; the scent of the wood-burning ovens and the meats they prepare is heady in the room.
Wildfire tends to be busy, so it is best to make a reservation, particularly on weekends. (Note: The downtown Chicago location is not open for lunch, but the locations in Lincolnshire, Oakbrook, and Eden Prairie are.) The staff is courteous and helpful without hovering.
While the menu is very meat-heavy, there are seafood and vegetarian selections available. Wildfire has nightly specials and occasionally runs special events, such as the "Wine Dinners" in conjunction with selected vintners. You are here for the food and the atmosphere, and you will get plenty of both--this is an equally good location for a business dinner or to impress your significant other.
There is a diverse selection of appetizers; the baked French onion soup is a good way to start--lots of cheese, with garlic croutons and a rich, beefy broth loaded with onions. The wood-oven-roasted crab cake is a better choice than the crab-crusted stuffed shrimp, but both are tasty.
Have an eye on the salads? The menu says it best: "All salads are sized for sharing." The spinach salad, with its warm mustard dressing, is a good choice.
Wildfire offers eight varieties of filet mignon, half a dozen cuts of steak and chops, and prime rib, as well as roasted chicken, seafood, and ribs. Its signature steak dish is the horseradish-crusted filet mignon, an almost sinfully delicious cut wrapped in bacon and topped with a horseradish crust. The steaks are aged to perfection, tasty and tender, and are improved even further by their sauces.
Like a little something with dinner? Wildfire has an excellent wine list--and if you can't decide, you can get wine "flights." Additionally, they offer a selection of flavorful martinis, and the bar draws 10 microbrews and draft beers, including a namesake beer brewed by Goose Island of Chicago.
If, after all that, you even have room for dessert, Wildfire has a rich apple brown Betty. The dessert choices tend to be slim--usually no more than two to three choices per location--but satisfying.
Wildfire is a member of the Lettuce Entertain You ( www.leye.com) group.