Sunday, September 5, 2021

Duck Inn Chicago unique dining experience

Duck Inn Chicago for a classic Chicago neighborhood unique dining experience

Fellow Pour Boy wine buddy Dr Dan arranged a Pour Boys (Wine Group) dinner at The Duck Inn Chicago, a neighborhood gastro-tavern and dining room, located at Loomis Street and the Chicago River, on the border of Chicago’s booming Pilsen and Bridgeport neighborhoods. 

Duck Inn is housed in a pre-Prohibition era tavern with a cozy retro design aesthetic that has continuously operated for almost a century. 

Patron Chef Kevin Hickey was born and raised in Chicago’s iconic south side neighborhood, Bridgeport; historically  home to the best meat-packers and butchers in the world. His family has been a part of the Bridgeport business, political and social community for over five generations. 

Kevin began his professional career in the restaurant business at his uncle’s restaurant on the Gold Coast while in high school at De La Salle Institute in Bronzeville, Chicago. This led to a 35-year career working for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Beverly Hills and eventually with Four Seasons in Dublin, London and Atlanta.

He returned to Chicago in 2004 — first at The Ritz Carlton as Executive Chef and eventually the Four Seasons as Executive Chef & Restaurant Director where he led his team to two consecutive Michelin Stars, the only Four Seasons Chef to receive Michelin Stars in North America and AAA Five Diamond status with the restaurant Seasons. He eventually opened the acclaimed restaurant, Allium.

Chef Hickey opened this Bridgeport venture, The Duck Inn in 2014. In November 2015, The Duck Inn was named one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire Magazine, named as one of the Top 10 restaurants in America by USA Today and chosen as Restaurant of the Year by Eater Chicago. 

The Chicago Tribune named Kevin Hickey, 'Chef of The Year for 2015'. To date, The Duck Inn has been awarded the coveted Bib Gourmand by Michelin for six consecutive years. 

We dined outside on the Duck Inn Patio which was ideal for the beautiful late summer evening, adjacent the gardens of wild flowers.

We were served our wine service by Brandon Phillips who has spent the last half-decade perfecting his craft behind the bar, earning the title of Master Bartender. Phillips and Hickey together, open Bottlefork, a stylish New American concept in Chicago that was almost immediately heralded by Wine Spectator & GQ Magazine as having some of the most innovative cocktails in the city. 

Building on the success of their first partnership, Phillips & Hickey opened The Duck Inn in 2014, which would later be named one of the “10 hottest Bars in Chicago”, as well as given numerous “Best Restaurant” accolades from publications such as Eater Chicago, Esquire Magazine and USA Today. Included in Zagat’s prestigious annual 30 Under 30 roundup, Phillips was honored by The Chicago Tribune which named him “Bartender of the Year” in 2016.

The Duck Inn's signature dish is a simple yet elegantly-prepared whole rotisserie duck. The legs and thighs are slow-roasted for three hours and the breasts are pan-roasted medium-rare to order. The carved duck is served over greens tossed with duck fat dripping potatoes and seasonal fruits. The final component is a duck jus reduction served at the table.  

As an appetizer course we feasted on Duck Inn signature Duck Wings in Japanese BBQ Sauce (shown below) which I might argue was one of the highlights of the meal. 

As crazy as it sounds, we also feasted on another Duck Inn signature dish, the Duck Inn Dog, their tribute to the classic Chicago Hot Dog. Made with all-natural beef and duck fat in a hog casing and grilled to a perfection, it is topped with the classic ingredients of a Chicago dog, homemade mustard & relish combined with pickled hot peppers and pickle, tomatoes, onions and celery salt, all in a, one of a kind, brioche poppy seed bun.
The Duck Inn Dog has received numerous local and national accolades, including being named Top Dog by Food Network and Best Hot Dogs in Chicago by Food & Wine magazine.

From the daily specials, Dan ordered for another main course selection to be shared by the group, the 38 ounce rib-eye steak, that we shared family style. 

To accompany the different dinner courses, each of the three Pour Boys provided a bottle for a flight of three red wines. Lyle brought BYOB from his cellar a Willammette Valley Pinot Noir. Dan ordered from the winelist a California Central Valley Cabernet Franc, and I brought BYOB from our cellar a Columbia Valley Rhone varietal blend. 


I. Brand & Family Paicines, California Bayly Ranch Cabernet Franc 2018

Ian and Heather Brand founded I Brand Family Wines in from the Central Coast California in 2008. Ian’s first winery job was with Bonny Doon Winery; he then went to work for Big Basin Vineyards for four years before he and Heather decided to begin their own project. 

I Brand uses organic and sustainable farming practices to produce 11,000 cases annually from 20+ year old vines. 

Ian devotes much time to selecting vineyard sites with shallow, rocky soils and proper varietal match with soil and climate in the often-overlooked Monterey Bay area, which has a wide range of undiscovered or underappreciated vineyards.

Named one of Wine & Spirits Magazine's "40 Under 40 Tastemakers", and the San Francisco Chronicle's '2018 Winemaker of the Year', Ian Brand has emerged as one of the premier names in California winemaking today. 

Brand adheres to organic farming and progressive style from his time at Bonny Doon where he was the assistant winemaker to Randall Grahm. Working primarily with vineyards in Monterey and San Benito counties, Brand has the chance to champion both regions and their unique terroir, a confluence of Pacific wind and most of California's otherwise rare limestone escarpments. 

This 100% Cabernet Franc is produced from vineyards located in Tres Pinot Creek, (along the San Andreas Fault Line), at only 800 foot elevation. A great locale for Cabernet Franc, this exhibits Loire-like structure overlaid with the bright fruit befitting California sunshine.

Cabernet Franc can exist in two styles; the more elegant central Loire style, or the more muscular style found in Bordeaux. The Bayly Ranch Cab Franc is more akin to the Loire Valley reds of Chinon, Saumur, and Bourgueil. 

Somewhat opaque, garnet colored, medium weight, an Old World style with bright black berry and plum fruits accented by black tea, tobacco, dusty leather and hints of spice, with a long savory finish of tangy acidity and chalky tannins. K&L in the Bay Area say "It’s no wonder this has become of one of our best sellers."

RM 89 points.

Alexana Terroir Series Willammette Valley Pinot Noir 2016

Alexana’s Terroir Series Pinot was created from a diverse selection of clones and encompasses fruit from five of Willamette Valley’s top AVA’s which lends to this wine's complexity. 

At the winery, the fruit is triple-hand-sorted allowing only the best berries through.  The Alexana Pinot Noir 2016 was crafted by Bryan Weil who previously worked at Domaine Serene, one of our favorite Oregon Pinot Noir producers. 

This is from the producers of its sister winery, Revana in St. Helena, and like Revana, Alexana is quickly building a reputation of excellence.  In 2013 their Dundee Hills Pinot earned the #17 spot on the Wine Spectator Top 100 list. 

This was rated 94 points and was Highly Recommended by Wine Spectator and 91 points by Wine Enthusiast.

Ruby colored, medium bodied, cherry and boysenberry fruits give way to tones of floral, smoke, anise and dark chocolate with smooth polished tannins on the moderate finish. 

RM 90 points.  

Force Majeure Parvata Red Blend 2015 

We discovered and acquired this wine during our visit to Force Majeure in Walla Walla back in 2018. We just this week processed our allocation order to replace this bottle with the current release!   

This is from their Red Mountain Vineyard site in the central Columbia Valley. The Red Mountain site was the very first vineyard on the steep, rocky upper slopes of Red Mountain. Developing the Red Mountain estate vineyards involved carefully matching varietal and clonal selections and vineyard trellising and irrigation to the eight distinct soil types in the vineyard.

Parvata means “mountain” in sanskrit, and hence is the name for Force Majeure's southern Rhône style blend, grown in the sandy, loamy soils of the lower section of the Red Mountain vineyard.

This is a a classic Rhone River Blend that the French, and in the new World, the Australians, call GSM, for the blend of the three Rhone varietals, (20%) Grenache, (34%) Syrah, and (46%) Mourvedre.

This is the style we love, with its dark blackish garnet purple colored, full bodied, rich unctuous concentrated black and blue fruits accented by white pepper and tones of dried herbs with bright lively acidity.

RM 93 points. 


To close out the dinner with desserts, the Pure Chocolate Beignet and the creme glaces - salted caramel truffle and the maple butter pecan were all delectable - to die for. 

All in all, a spectacular, delightful, fun evening in a classic Chicago neighborhood setting.