EL Ideas is not a typical restaurant. I visited this place on a Halloween night and all the staffs were dressed in costumes, and even the dining area had spooky decorations everywhere. It is located in the middle of nowhere (it’s basically not accessible without a car) outside downtown Chicago. Ironically, this restaurant has some of the most progressive ideas of New-American cuisine and was supposed to be the highlight of my culinary trip in Chicago. I couldn’t wait to see what chef Phillip Foss would bring to the table at this BYOB restaurant (I love restaurants in Chicago because so many of them allow BYOB, i.e. saving a ton of money on insanely marked up wine).
The tasting menu is the only option at the restaurant (you have to purchase tickets in advance, as the restaurant has followed the footsteps of other pioneering tasting menu restaurants in the neighborhood like Alinea). All of the dishes came in small portions but I was very impressed with the creative energy that each displayed, especially with the way the kitchen uses seemingly incompatible ingredients to great effects. The first one, roe with pomegranate and crème fraiche that you have to lick (!) off the plate, was a nice start. Lobster with saffron, macadamia and cauliflower was also quite a nice scoop as well. I was in love with king salmon and eggplant as well, with such elegant flavor that I finished the dish in seconds.
A little ball of grilled cheese with tomato soup inside was brilliant, and the triumph of the kitchen’s creativity came in the form of French fries and ice cream. How does potato even fit inside vanilla ice cream?? But the more I ate this weird combination, but more I fell in love it. The staff keeps adding more vanilla ice cream to create a smoky effect to the dish, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about this dish.
Other dishes, such as quail that came with puree of pepper, manchego and crowder pea, veal shank with different layers of mini ravioli underneath, perfectly cooked wagyu with maitake and beet were all carefully thought-out and well-executed dishes. Before the dessert began, the kitchen did something unthinkable, combining foie gras with salsify, granola and yogurt for a combination of savory and sweet ingredients. It was such an interesting dish with unique flavor and texture that I keep wondering how the kitchen even came up with these ideas. Desserts were also excellent, from the tiny bite of yam, egg yolks and marshmallow to cheesecake with grapefruit and pumpkin ice cream.
As mentioned above, the restaurant is BYOB, so make sure to bring a bottle or two of fine wine. I didn’t have much problem purchasing the tickets for a dinner of two about a month in advance, but I would plan ahead if you’re serious about visiting this restaurant. The restaurant’s décor is minimal and makes you feel like you’re inside a industrial space of former factory, but I liked it that way as I enjoyed the contrast between the décor and the sophistication of the food. Yes, EL Ideas is a worthy destination if you’re in Chicago on a trip or if you’re looking for a special occasion dinner.
- Creativity: 9.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
Address: 2419 W. 14th Street, Chicago, IL, 60608
Telephone: (312) 226-8144