I like to think that everyone has two or three restaurants that they hold near and dear to their hearts. These restaurants are probably consistent in food and service. They probably know you. You probably go there for special occasions. You may even live across the street. Regardless, they are your go-to spot. One of my go-tos in Chicago is the French bistro Mon Ami Gabi.
I've been to Mon Ami Gabi more times than I can remember but something about my dinner last night made me feel like I bistro dined like a professional. Kelsey and I opted to sit at the bar instead of the leather banquettes that look over the patio and Lincoln Park. We had a wonderful bartender that took attentive (but not too attentive) care of us and sat next to two ladies that were easily recognizable as regulars. They knew every one's name and ordered all the specials.
Kelsey and I kicked off our meal with an order of a half dozen oysters and a glass of sancerre wine. The oysters were served with cocktail sauce with horseradish and clarified butter. Next, I ordered the frisee salad with a poached egg and bacon (the lady next to me ordered an extra poached egg on hers). Kelsey ordered the Salad Mason with a goat cheese and olive crouton and herb vinaigrette. We had wonderful conversation, all the time in the world and took our time between courses.
For round three, Kelsey ordered the gazpacho soup with avocado and crab and I ordered the traditional onion soup au gratin. Kelsey finished her gazpacho soup in under 3 minutes. No joke. She said it was the best gazpacho she had ever tasted. As for me, I don't think you can ever go wrong ordering anything with melted cheese on it, especially if it is gruyere.
2 and a 1/2 hours later, Kelsey and I were pleasantly full. The manager gave us a taste of a special house dessert and then we said our goodbyes to our bartender and the two ladies next to us.
I think that memorable dinners are a combination of company, food, service and ambiance. Last night's dinner was no exception. We ordered like pros. Conversed like sisters. And made plans to do it all over again.