We were regulars of Meritage on Damen from about the time I moved to Chicago in 2002 to about 2005. Courtney and I loved the ambiance and obviously the food. The chef was Dirk Flanigan. Dirk moved from Meritage to Blue Water Grill downtown a few years ago but the seafood and Asian heavy menu didn’t “feel” like him. With The Gage which opened a few weeks ago it is Dirk at an extravagant level.
The Gage is right on Michigan so there’s a thought that tourists will fill the place but I think once they see the prices on the menu they’ll turn around. We went overboard trying way too many dishes and left with fuller bellies than we can remember from any restaurant in recent memory.
The restaurant is decked out in large green tiles and dark wood which gives it its British pub with an upscale touch look that we’re guessing was exactly the intended concept. We got there early, of course, and got a large booth which was romantically dark. Dirk even was roaming around (this was the third week of being open). He stopped by and told us some of the dishes he liked and thanked us for coming and then went flying back to the kitchen.
We started with the mussels appetizer which I could overhear from the booth next to us raving about. They were good, and the sauce was really unique with a touch of coconut, which I normally hate, and some Indian spices. It was a fantastic start to the meal.
We then got a next course. This was our mistake but we wanted to try so much on the menu. Courtney’s was actually quite good, a lobster dish with Asian spices. My “salad” had fried potatoes, brie and some arugula I believe. It was honestly the heaviest salad I’ve ever had in my life. They need to add those quotes to the menu.
For our main course Courtney went with the sea bream because Dirk mentioned it as being good. With the skin on it, it was quite “fishy” and Courtney hates “fishy” fish. Don’t ask. I got the Duck with a blueberry sauce. It was amazing and a huge portion with a nice potato and blue cheese side dish.
We swapped the dishes and I finished the sea bream which I found light with a nice side of ox tail. The waiter noticed we switched dishes and offered to get us something else but I had finished the fish by then.
We had a gargantuan dessert (check the Food Diary for more pics) which was a chocolate cake with peanut butter soufflé on top. At Meritage there was never a good decadent dessert on the menu, the only time we ever complained there. That has been fixed here.
Dirk came over after that and apologized a little, but we gave him props on the rest of the food and the dessert. So our advice: Just get one appetizer and save room for dessert. There’s plenty of game on the menu of course. Courtney said there’s no reason to go back because of the location but the valet was $9 and we walked right in, so I wouldn’t mind going back. There’s just no way it’ll be a regular place for us.
The bill was about $160 with two drinks a piece. So even though it's a casual place, the prices aren't.
- Food: A (I think the menu may change over time with what works best)
- Service: A-
- Atmosphere: B
- Price: B-
- Menu: A