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Roister

PHOTOS: Christina Slaton

Every time we walk into a restaurant there’s a certain expectation. If it’s Italian, we want good pasta. If it’s Shake Shack, that burger better come fast. And if it’s The Rainforest Cafe, those Jurassic Chicken Nuggets better look like real f*cking dinosaurs. Rarely are we kind of clueless about what’s coming our way. But Roister is a constant surprise, and that's what makes it so great.

Roister is the Alinea group’s take on “casual,” which means it’s still pretty pricey but nowhere near Alinea’s level - the tasting menu starts at $85, but you can also order a la carte. This casual concept is also infinitely more laid-back than its predecessor, but if you’re observant, you’ll notice the same attention to detail that really makes the experience special.

Roister’s menu is all over the place, but they completely pull it off. They serve everything from kimchi, to chicken salad, to foie gras candy bars because there are no rules against delicious things in America. Why do fish flakes and tofu mayonnaise taste so good together? Did we just eat the best fried chicken of our lives? These are real questions asked throughout the course of the meal, and yes, it is the best fried chicken you might have ever eaten. Almost everything is outstanding, and the variety will have you screaming "anything is possible!" like Kevin Garnett at the end of your meal.

Matthew Gilson

The kitchen is the restaurant and the restaurant is the kitchen - meaning there are no walls, doors, or mystery about where your food is prepared. And while it’s cool to see food cooked on an open flame, it's equally if not more fun to watch the staff at work. Did that chef just get pissed at a server? Yup, but it's proof of how much they care, and we respect the no bullsh*t kitchen experience.

According to our smartphones, a "roister" is a noisy celebration. We wouldn’t exactly call this Roister a party, but it’s lively, and the music always surprises too. Who put on the Kenny Chesney? Turns out, their playlist is crowd-sourced from other diners, which means the songs will keep you guessing just like the food.

You should come to Roister prepared to spend some money, but you can’t put a price on feeling limitless. This is an excellent restaurant, so throw a surprise party for your own expectations and eat at Roister soon.

Food Rundown

Chow Chow Mein

Aged cabbage, noodles, and relish. If it tastes like kimchi and it looks like kimchi, we’re gonna call it kimchi. No complaints at all.

Yukon Fries

Soy dusted fries, bonito flakes, rice vinegar, tofu mayo. We were suspicious of tofu mayo, but all of these things taste excellent together. One of our favorite dishes here.

Hamachi

The hamachi comes with black sesame, raspberry, and tarragon. Solid, but it definitely looks more exciting than it tastes.

Gulf Shrimp Toast

Creamy, buttery shellfish on top of toast. Definitely an upgrade from basic breakfast food.

Cucumber

A cucumber salad with peas and smoked crème fraiche. It's fresh and delicious and highly recommended.

Asparagus

Thick grilled asparagus with puffed rice and fennel. It's good, but we would skip it if you're going the a la carte route and can only order so many things. That's only because the other dishes are more exciting.

Whole Chicken & Chamomile

This is the centerpiece of your meal. Technically, this is chicken three ways —fried, roasted, and tossed in a chicken salad. But if you say the fried chicken isn’t your favorite, you’re denying the obvious Beyoncé in the group. We're huge fans of the other two preparations, but this fried chicken is the best we’ve had in Chicago, or anywhere else. Go all in on the white hot sauce and sunchoke gravy.

30-Day Dry Aged Porterhouse

The steak is unlike any meat we've ever had before and it has a seriously smokey taste. The sauce is creamy, rich and delicious, so you'll only need so much of it. All-in-all, you need this piece of meat.

Foie Gras Candy Bar

We realize that black walnuts, pretzel, marshmallow, and foie gras in a candy bar sound extremely unappetizing. But just trust us. It may be our favorite item on the menu.

Strawberries & Milk

Something happened here with jam and a futuristic machine that creates small little circles of intense strawberry flavor. Probably magic. It's paired with ice cream and a shortbread crumble and we're all in. Sounds fancy, but it's not. You're going to want this dessert.

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