Whether the menu at Tribute was started by Brandon Baltzley, who left the team two weeks ago to seek treatment for drug issues, or completed by Lawrence Letrero, who stepped up when Baltzley left, the crew has promised to deliver sustainable American cuisine crafted with a modern bent. And now, with three weeks before the public can taste the food, Tribute gave Eater a sneak peek at the menu. And they follow through with their promise.
Tribute is aiming to open its doors on June 21 in the Chicago's Essex Inn, a restored eco-friendly hotel on South Michigan Avenue across from Grant Park. The menu features two sections, small plates and large plates, focusing on local, sustainable ingredients where dishes will range between $6 to $12 for small plates and $14 to $25 for large plates.
Letrero said they'll source everything within 300 miles of Illinois and already have relationships with Slagel, Green Acres and Nichols farms; they also will hit Green City Market each week to see what they can find to incorporate into dishes and specials. He said he wants "to highlight the bounty of the Midwest. [The menu is] local, sustainable and approachable, yet with some modern techniques mixed in," he said. "Being that we're in a tourist area in the South Loop, we went something for everybody. If you look at the menu, I think we've accomplished that. It's a mix of approachable yet very chef-driven cuisine at the same time."
Dinner will feature plates like a watermelon-strawberry soup with cucumber and feta sorbet; beets with smoked trout, arugula and hazelnut; hamachi crudo with succotash; beans with salt pork; tofu with quinoa, pea tendrils and a smoked tomato broth; a patty melt with shallot marmalade, shiitake and American cheese; and short rib with bacon ketchup and hericot vert.
The menu began as a collaboration between Letrero and Baltzley, but the final version mostly reflects Letrero's style with some of Baltzley's influence. "We kept some of the things, but removed some of his techniques, like the molecular [approach]," he said. "With what we have now, I'd say, even the stuff he put on there, we tweaked completely. It's a little more focused on the seasonality of it with simple clean flavors."
Tribute does feature some vegan and vegetarian dishes and can tweak some of the dishes to accommodate non carnivores. The restaurant will also serve breakfast and lunch, where it'll churn out more traditional items, but again with a twist. Things like sous vide French toast; pancakes with ancho butter and spiced bacon; sandwiches and matzo ball soup will be available.
"I want to get the best product available and not mess with it too much," Letrero said. "We're doing breakfast, lunch and dinner and it's all coming out from the same kitchen. I want consistency seven days a week. The food will speak for itself."
· Brandon Baltzley Out at Tribute; Lawrence Letrero In. Is Baltzley Heading to Rehab? [~EChi~]
· Tribute [website]