John Hogan and Tony Mantuano team up to bring classic carvings to Chicago.
Chef John Hogan wants to bring back Sunday night. “The younger generation right now is the most food-savvy generation in the history of America,” Hogan explains. “But a lot of those young people never experienced Sunday supper — sitting around the table eating roast meats and talking.”
Lucky for those youngsters (and everyone else), Hogan — along with chef and partner Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia) — has brought some of the best roasts in Chicago to one of its prettiest spots: the former location of Fulton’s on the River. With a giant patio just feet from the water, two bars, a 100-seat dining room, tableside carving and a solid selection of cocktails and local craft brews, River Roast has already become a hot spot since it opened its doors last month.
Chef stats: Hogan has been on the Chicago scene for a long time. “I’m a fossil — I’ve been at it since 1979,” he laughs. He’s worked at what he calls “old French restaurants that are long gone,” and spent 12 years at Keefer’s. Thanks to all that experience, the man knows how to cook a roast. But he’s also got some old-school techniques he likes to display. “We’ve been selling a ton of charcuterie,” Hogan says. “Ten years ago, I thought the art would die out, but now people love pates and rillettes again.”
Must-try dishes: The menu is divided into two basic parts: “roasts” and “bites and boards.” The latter are shared appetizers, ideal for whetting your appetite for the carving ahead. The fire-roasted Indiana shrimp, served with a corn and chili salsa, come from Amazing Shrimp in Indiana — they’re farm-raised in crystal clear water and trucked to the city ($13). The country-fried rabbit is “a big hit,” Hogan says. “People love it.” It’s braised, then buttermilk fried and served with a biscuit and a drizzle of honey ($15). (Top photo: whole chicken, serves two, $39 )
Save room for the roasts: You can choose from a whole fish, whole chicken or roast beef, but if you have to choose just one, go for the chicken ($39 for two people). Wheeled to your table on a cart and carved in front of you, the chicken is stuffed with herbs, smoked and then roasted in a super-hot, high-humidity oven for the perfect combination of moist and crispy.
Vegging out: You wouldn’t think that delicious vegetable dishes would come from a place with “roast” in the name, but Hogan is committed to serving veggie lovers quality food. “Vegetarians get cheated around town — they get a plate of steamed or grilled veggies,” Hogan explains. “We want them to feel like they’re having a roast, too.” One recent veggie special? Roast Nichols Farm pattypan squashes, served with shishito peppers and a relish of olives and sun-dried tomatoes ($19).
Tea time: The highlight of the beverage program at River Roast is a collaboration with Rare Tea Cellars. “We’re doing infused liquors with different teas,” says Hogan. Peach Rittenhouse 100 is infused with peach tea to make the Giant Peach of Doom cocktail (it also includes angostura bitters and Letherbee absinthe). Four Roses is infused with lemon-mint tea, then combined with Cynar, Fernet and mint to create a perfect summer drink: the Amaro Swizzle (both $11).
315 N. LaSalle, (312) 822-0100;