When a restaurant is perched 1,000 feet above downtown Chicago, it’s bound to become a dining destination. But The Signature Room at the 95th has become much more than that — after 20 years, it’s become a landmark.
That’s not to say the restaurant has relied solely on its prime location. The spot is known for timeless takes on classics like French onion soup, Waldorf salad and beef Wellington. And in October, owners Nick Pyknis and Rick Roman hired a new chef, Rosalia Barron (left), who has revamped the menus to reflect her “straightforward cooking style” and a keen focus on seasonal ingredients.
To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Barron has been studying original Signature Room menus, and plans to offer some “throwback” menu items in July (along with throwback pricing of $6.95 for the Thursday lunch buffet). “I want to bring back classics like clams casino and cherries jubilee,” Barron says. “I’ll stick to the same ingredients and cooking methods, but with more modern techniques and plating.”
Haven’t been up to the 95th floor in a while? Here’s what else to expect at the Signature Room:
Chef stats: Barron, a native of Mexico City, most recently served as a corporate chef for the Levy Restaurant Group. She came to the Signature Room in October as the first female executive chef of the restaurant. Prior to that, she worked with culinary rock stars Rick Bayless and Carrie Nahabedian.
Vibe: The dining room may be formal — white tablecloths abound — but the atmosphere isn’t stuffy. Above the floor-to-ceiling windows sit bright, animated murals celebrating local attractions. And the open staircase, connecting the Signature Lounge on the 96th floor to the dining room, is a prime spot for soaking in the impeccable views.
Cuisine: “We use local ingredients whenever possible, and I have a very close relationship with our farmers,” Barron says. “I focus on simple, fresh ingredients.” Case in point: Tomato Mountain Farm in Brooklyn, Wis., is growing a special Sun Gold tomato for Barron to use in her upcoming dish at the Green City Market BBQ, helping her achieve the perfect bright yellow color and flavor she desires.
Best seat in the house: Choosing a seat closest to one of the windows is a no-brainer when you have a breathtaking view of the city. Luckily, there are several of those prime tables.
Must-try dish: The menu is full of succulent entrees, but the tender, flavorful short ribs ($15) are hard to pass up. Barron seasons the ribs with salt and pepper, then marinates them overnight. In the morning, she sears them before braising for six hours. The short ribs are finished off with a polenta made of chicken stock, garlic, thyme and Parmesan, sauteed wild mushrooms and crispy leeks.
Giving back: The Signature Room team has always believed in philanthropy. In 1993, members launched their charity-of-the-month program, which to date has donated more than $1 million total tow 200 Chicago-area organizations. In July, proceeds will go to EdgeAlliance Homeless Veterans’ Housing.
The Signature Room at the 95th, 875 N. Michigan, (312) 787-9596; Signatureroom.com