Most people who are familiar with Grant Achatz' conceptual bar/lounge The Aviary are also familiar with the smaller more exclusive room in the basement known as The Office. To gain access to The Office usually requires a persistent attitude and a little luck. And by that I mean you usually have to sit around hoping that one of the spots will open up and you're chosen to fill it. Being that I had flown in from out of town to dine at Next: el Bulli, the manager, Marlon, helped us out and actually made a reservation for us to dine there. Did I mention that I love Marlon? Because I love Marlon. He's the best. And I mean that literally.
You need a key to get into The Office. No, really, like an actual key. It's locked from the outside to non patrons, in case there was any confusion as to just how exclusive the room is. Once inside, the atmosphere is decidedly different than the Aviary. Instead of the clean and modern feel of the lounge upstairs, The Office feels more like an old school speakeasy. Almost as if you're drinking in some old rich man's study. Drinks are more traditional and food is served, and there's a single bartender who manages the entire room. And while the drinks were delicious and they have a larger selection of premium alcohols (ever pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a glass of scotch?), I think I actually prefer the inventiveness and creativity of the drinks at The Aviary. The Office is a cool place to experience for bragging rights, but if you aren't a middle aged man, you'll honestly probably have a better time at The Aviary. If you're looking for some quiet and maybe an actual meal, though, The Office might be right up your alley. Assuming you can get in, which you can't.
I honestly don't remember what any of the drinks we ordered were, but they were all pretty delicious. Not as creative and inventive as the drinks from The Aviary, just solid old-fashioned bartending.
King Crab - I don't know why this was so delicious. Oh, wait, yes I do. It's because the crab was fresh and that dipping sauce they included was probably created in some sort of dream factory. Put that stuff in a water bottle and I'd be chugging it daily. My only complaint is that there wasn't enough crab. I could've eaten four orders of these and I'd still probably want more. It's honestly that good.
Foie Gras Terrine - It's a foie gras terrine, not foie gras, so picture it more like a foie gras spreading paste. A solid foie gras effort, but because of the amount and richness, by the end we were all pretty sick of it. This is a criticism only on the quantity of the foie gras, not the quality. You can only put so many scoopfuls of fatty liver into your mouth before you want it to end.
Beef Tartare - Raw beef. And egg yolk. I don't know much, but I do know that if you put those two things together you get something I'm going to enjoy eating. And I did. Not quite as much as the crab, but still pretty damn good.
Ice Cream Sundae - Ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a giant plate of toppings. Yeah, this is about as traditional an ice cream sundae as you can get. And it's just as delicious as any ice cream sundae you've had. You make it yourself, so you can pick and choose whichever toppings you like. Personally, I like everything, so that's exactly what went on mine. If the plate had contained sardines and cheese whip, I would have put those on as well. Because that's how I roll.
The lone bartender at The Office.
Wanna use the bathroom? Then grab a key, because you'll need it to get back in. Yeah, you need a key to open the door to The Office. This is to prevent any curious minds from poking their heads in and snooping around. Look, buddy, The Office is exclusive and you weren't invited. I'm the important one here. Not you! Me!
The check. Hand written and sealed.
955 W Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Neighborhoods: Fulton Market, Near West Side, West Loop