III Forks? 5 Stars.
I don’t hide my disdain for chain restaurants. I define a chain restaurant as a brand that has at least five locations. I find that the original idea behind a chain may be good, but it becomes tough for the subsequent locations to maintain the food quality. Eventually, chains become synonymous with mediocre food at decent prices. So when I was invited to III Forks to have dinner on Saturday night, you better believe I was worried. III Forks is a steakhouse and seafood restaurant with 3 locations in Texas, 3 locations in Florida, and one location in downtown Chicago. I was preparing myself for a mediocre experience, but what I got is one of the best restaurant experiences that I have ever had.
Because I’m 100 years old and like to be home when it’s still relatively early, my dad and I got to III Forks at 5 pm. They had just opened for the evening, so it was fairly empty when we got in. The beautifully modern interior had floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out on a quiet park surrounded by apartment buildings. Quiet anything in the middle of downtown Chicago is impressive, so I have to say I liked being able to look out at some serenity instead of the hustle and bustle of a Saturday night.
I played it safe and had the chef’s selections, which turned out to be mostly the house specialties. For appetizers, we dined on the seafood medley (it featured a shrimp cocktail, crab cake, and a bacon wrapped scallop) and beef croustades. Both were absolutely delicious and perfectly light. The beef croustades were topped with a tangy Dijon sauce, which added great flavor to the bread and strips of meat. Usually, I find that appetizers can ruin a meal because they’re too heavy.
In case I forgot to mention it, my dad doesn’t eat fish. I don’t know why, but he doesn’t, and the staff made sure to cater to his self-imposed dietary restriction excellently.
Next came the soups. My dad’s a big fan of French Onion Soup, so he was excited to try the III Forks version. It came out cookbook ready. I mean, just look at it. The Gruyere and mozzarella combo on the top just looked so good caramelized above the beef broth base. He said the temperature was perfect and it had just the right amount of salt.
I, on the other hand, dined on a lobster bisque. Though it’s gravy-like color threw me off initially, the flavor and creaminess really came through beautifully. Plus, I actually got a satisfying amount of buttery lobster. Most restaurants skimp on that ingredient, which is funny considering it’s in the name. Not III Forks.
After the soups we split the house salad, known as the III Forks Salad (shocker). It consisted of a Mesclun mix (various young lettuces) with apple slices, pecans, blue cheese, and was lightly tossed in a delicate oil dressing. It’s simple, French-inspired, and just worked, as the dressing really allowed the flavors of the fresh ingredients to come through.
Main course time. Before the mains came out, they brought out a side of their Six Cheese Potatoes (see above), which was like Au Gratin Potatoes kicked up to the next level. Then my filet of beef came out (cooked a cool rare, just the way I like it) with a delicious hash on the side. I love a place that can cook a steak the way I want it, and III Forks cooked mine perfectly. My friends joke that one day I’ll just season a steak and eat it without cooking it, and that may happen, but for now the blue steak (see below) at III Forks suited me just fine.
My dad had a surprisingly huge Prime Rib Dip served with some crunchy French fries and a side of au jus.
Then… it was time for dessert. By this time, we were so full that when our waitress brought the tray over, we could barely even speak. To our horror, she left the entire tray of freshly made desserts and encouraged us to try them all. For those wondering, they were (in clockwise order): bread pudding with caramel sauce, chocolate ganache cake, pecan cake, Grand-Marnier creme brulee (it rhymes), and a surprisingly light cheesecake. I’ll just end with the picture and tell you that III Forks is now one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. If you live in Chicago, Texas, or Florida, I suggest you check them out.
Who? anyone who enjoys a high-quality, perfectly cooked steak or piece of fish
What? a restaurant tucked away in the heart of downtown Chicago
Where? 180 N. Field Blvd. Chicago, Illinois 60601 (also Texas: Dallas, Houston, Austin and Florida: Jacksonville, Palm Beach Gardens, and Hallandale)
When? Mon-Thu 5 pm – 11 pm, Fri-Sat 5 pm – 12 am, Sun 5 pm – 10 pm
How much? Around $50 per person excluding drinks and gratuity