An unusual celebration for River North broke out on Hubbard Street Tuesday evening. A parade of Chinese dragons danced on the sidewalk. Chinese drum music reverberated inside 18 W. Hubbard St. The president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, Tony Mantuano, and Chinese dignitaries threw verbal bouquets at the "Mayor of Chinatown," Tony Hu, against a backdrop of actual bouquets.
Although there won't be any dragon parades, Lao 18, Tony Hu's downtown jewel, is finally opening up today. You've seen the photos, now you can see what you can eat and drink.
The approachable menu features the most popular dishes from Hu's other restaurants, such as Tony's smoked duck, Tony's special dry chili prawns, and Tony's special three chili chicken; alongside new dishes like Lao's crispy duck. An extensive section is devoted to "small eat," a mix of appetizers and dim sum-style bites.
The beverage program is both a nod to traditional Chinese drinks while simultaneously offering options for the River North crowd. An interesting component is that Baijiu, a 5000-year-old Chinese sorghum-based liquor, will be available in limited quantities. Maotai, China's national liquor and a traditional gift of Chinese embassies, will also be available.
Cocktails include four types of bellinis, others twist classic cocktails by featuring flavors like dragonfruit, jasmine, lychee, and yuzu. The wine list is sourced from California, New Zealand, and various European regions. Bubbly options run all the way up to the $760 Ace of Spades. Sake flights are available; the beer list blends American craft options with Asian brews.
For now, Lao 18 will only be open for dinner. Lunch, brunch, and dim sum service will begin soon. River North revelers who don't travel to Chinatown are having a slice of Chinatown culture come to them, with or without a parade of dragons.