Maude's Liquor Bar
We constantly find ourselves transported to circa 1930s France at Maude's Liquor Bar. Vintage blue metal chairs, wooden rustic tables, and dark brown retro couches make up the furniture. The wall on one side of the wall is made up of exposed bricks and the other side of the wall is plastered with white ceramic which enhances the vintage look. On the ceiling are mismatched lamps and chandeliers that function more as decorative items than a main source of lighting. Maude's is always such a dim place. It's sexy and mysterious. The facade is a black wall and black door with an inconspicuous lettering that says Maude's. Now that it's summer and with the days getting longer, the mysterious door is left open, allowing that burst of sun light to penetrate into the first half of the restaurant near the entrance until the sun goes down.
Brendan Sodikoff does it again with Maude's offering down to earth French food. Along with his other projects that turned into instant successes, Gilt Bar and Doughnut Vault, his entrepreneurial goal is to cater to foodies and scenesters. His ventures' presence are definitely felt in the Chicago dining scene. The kitchen at Maude's is helmed by Jeff Pikus as the executive chef, an alum of Alinea.
The beer list includes a good variety of local micro brews and unique import beers. The cocktail list is made up old time classics such as Sazerac. The wine list is equally good in variety and if nothing else floats your boat, you can't go wrong with the $4 table wine by the glass.
One of the items that make Maude's menu stand out is the seafood platter called Maude's Plateaux clearly stands out as memorable. Served in two tiers, it includes a dozen west coast oysters, a dozen east coast oysters, octopus ceviche, salmon crudo, and jumbo cocktail shrimps. They were very accommodating to my shrimp allergies and substituted the shrimps with an entire lobster. For those with an even bigger appetite for seafood, the Grande Plateaux is served in three tiers and comes with everything mentioned. Our favorite presentation among the seafood items in the Maude's Plateaux is the octopus ceviche which is served on a slab of stone salt.
The pomme frites served with garlic aoili is also a favorite. As with all fries, we dig into the tall cup of fries as soon as it's served since they're best when still warm. The crispy and warm fries dipped into the cold aioli are a wonderful combination of texture, temperature, and taste.
The chicken liver mousse, served in a canning glass jar, is very smooth and rich making it a perfect spread on the toast accompaniment. Along with the toast is also the shallot marmalade to go with the liver mousse.
Several of their items are reminiscent of Gilt Bar such as the tenderloin steak tartare, roasted bone marrow, and steak. An item worth noting on Maude's menu is the Lyonnaise salad with a twist. Instead of the traditional bacon served in Lyonnaise salads, it comes with grilled pork belly. Other classic French items include herb buttered escargots, foie gras, chicken cassoulet.
The famous classic creme brulee is must-have for every visit to Maude's. Inspired by Francois Massialot's original creme brulee recipe in French dating back to 1961, a round cast iron is first heated and then put on the surface of the creme brulee instead of using a blow torch to produce the crisp burnt sugar.
Our favorite way to end the night is the $3 whiskey shots. The whiskey used for the shots change constantly but the both times we had it they were rye whiskey. Sticking to the vintage and down to earth theme, the whiskey is served in the stainless steel device usually used to measure a shot.
Maude's is here to stay for a long time in the Chicago dining scene. Given the competition since it is smacked in between other popular restaurants along Randolph Row, the well known stretch of dining scene in the Fulton River District, there is nothing that Maude's need to worry about. With it's unique character that exudes the feel of 1930s France, this alone makes Maude's a stand out. Just make sure you score an advance reservation.
Maude's Liquor Bar
840 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Best Restaurateur of the Year 2011 Nominee, Brendan Sodikoff