At some point over the last couple years, we woke up one day and realized the Melman’s and Lettuce Entertain You owned a majority of the restaurants in a five block River North radius. We started to list them all off for you, but there are about fifteen and we got bored. That doesn’t even account for Three Dots and a Dash, Sub 51, and the money-printing machine that is Studio Paris Nightclub. We’ll get to all of these restaurants eventually, but today’s review focuses on the initial hot spot opened by the offspring of founder Richard Melman, Hub 51.
Like all Lettuce restaurants, Hub 51 is well-run with great service and a lively atmosphere. But why do people eat dinner here? We prefer not to, but know it tends to be crowded, especially on the weekends. We aren’t saying the food is bad, you just won’t ever walk away saying it was great. The menu was designed to be a mix of fun things that people like to eat, but it’s all over the place. We guess it may be good for a group of picky eaters, but deciding between sushi, tacos, and dinner platters like Chilean sea bass or slow-cooked pork puts us in a mental pretzel. And by the time you tack on one or two drinks a person it’s a quick $65 for food that will leave you adequately satisfied but not impressed.
We aren’t here to totally hate on Hub 51 though. We just think it should be utilized for its strengths. Full-fledged dinner, not so much, but the sandwiches will do the trick for extended lunches and the brunch is pretty good.
But Hub is most useful when you’re looking to hit the town in River North without a plan. Post up at a high-top in the bar and order some cocktails and nachos in the company of good-looking people. It’ll be the same price for the same slightly underwhelming food, just think of it more as a trendy night on the town instead of a place to expect a great meal.
Ahi Tuna Poke
Ahi tuna, avocado, and Asian rice crackers. Quality tuna and a good appetizer.
Premium Grilled Fish Tacos
Seasonal catch with a baja rub and chopped cabbage slaw. A consensus go to if you want tacos. They are good, but fit within the general theme of nothing special.
Pulled Chicken Nachos
A whole mess of fresh tortilla chips piled high with all the good stuff, chicken, guacamole, salsa, white cheddar, oaxaca cheese, and sour cream. Our favorite thing on the menu.
Fresh Grilled Salmon
Grilled salmon with vegetables. Ever heard of it?
Cinnamon Skinny Pancakes
These crepe-like cinnamon skinnys served with caramelized cinnamon and fresh cream are straight up delicious. If they sound too sweet, opt for the Lemon Skinny’s with lemon butter and fresh berries instead.
An ode to Evanston’s famous Sarkis, the epitome of a greasy spoon. Bacon, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and mayo, all on a French roll. Pro tip is to obviously add a fried egg. Not the original, but it’s a nice substitute.