Kindling Downtown Cookout and Cocktails

For a minute, Kindling had us fooled. This restaurant squatting at the bottom of the Willis Tower has fun-sounding dishes, an open kitchen with a rather exciting live fire grill, and a cavernous space with enormous lights that look like crystal dandelion puffs. But any place that’s only an elevator ride away from the Skydeck runs the risk of being an uninspired tourist trap. And sadly Kindling is just another below-average new American restaurant in the Loop.

The menu over-promises and under-delivers. The fresh pasta is mush, and a wood-fired “onion brulee” consists of halfheartedly charred onions topped with overdressed arugula. The Italian beef’s wagyu suet-toasted roll adds nothing of value, and the raclette cheese whizz overpowers the thinly sliced beef. The overcooked steaks are also a helpful reminder that live-fire cooking is only as good as the person behind the grill.

While the space is lovely to look at, it’s terrible to sit in. Booths, tables, and plants are scattered like movers randomly dropped them after carrying everything up three flights of stairs. The two-story glass walls have revolving doors that are constantly in use, which cools down soggy fries prematurely. The bar, however, is comfortable. So if you do find yourself here, grab a seat and order a drink before going to a better restaurant in the Loop for dinner.