Rittergut Wine Bar & Social Club

October 08 2012 - 10:10 PM

Truthfully, I  never have any real reason to head into Chicago’s Financial District, and unless you work in the area or regularly attend the opera, I am guessing you don’t have a reason to be down there either.  Normally associated with office buildings and therefore restaurants and bars that close by 8PM, the Financial District has never had much to offer in the venue of fine dining, until now.   Rittergut Wine Bar and Social Club,  located on the Chicago River just south of the Madison Street Bridge, offers a surprising array of menu items sure to please anybody’s appetite….even you non 9-5er.  From cheese and charcuterie to a la carte dinner options and dessert, Rittergut is a hidden gem among the city’s financial landscape.

The best place to start is the impressive wine list.  Wine director Jennifer Winterburn has done an excellent job at creating a menu that is delightful and daring and  continues to evolve with each season.   One can sip on a glass of red, white, pink, or bubbles on the outdoor patio facing the water as boats linger by or you can head inside to the restaurant and grab a seat at Rittergut’s tasting bar for a more specialized wine experience.   Rittergut is also available for private parties which can include wine tastings upon request.

I think what people will find most surprising about Rittergut is the food.   Classic, contemporary,  European inspired dishes change throughout the year  to offer seasonably relevant ingredients.   When my husband and I dined last week, we sampled some of our favorites off the menu. For starters we shared the Nicoise salad.  Sushi grade tuna topped with a poached egg and warm seasonal vegtebales tossed in a caper vinagrette, the nicoise salad was a beautiful and delicately flavored start to our meal.  It was suggested we pair the salad with a Jeio Cuvee Rose Brut which was equally as delightful. 


Next, the pork belly.  This buttery and succulent treat is baked and topped off with a Pedro Jimenez port glaze and is plated onto a mound of billowing sweet potatoes.  We also ordered the squash and zucchini spaghetti served with seared scallops and an olive/caper tapenade.  This dish also has a light tomato sauce that is to die for.  I could eat that sauce by itself no problem, and the sqaush and zucchini are so perfectly done, it is hard to believe that you do not have a perfect al dente pasta in front of you.   Paired with a 2007 Franz Carl Schmitt Riesling Spatlese from Germany, we were off to a really, really good start.

For dinner we ordered the grouper and the lamb chop.  The grouper was pan seared and served with yukon gold potatoes, sauteed spinach and Marzano tomatoes.  The lamb chop nestled its way onto a bed of polenta and is accompianed by a ragout of seasonal vegetables.  Both entrees were well balanced, flavorful, and incredibly satisfying.  Wine director Jennifer Winterburn helped us pair these courses with delightful wines including a 2010 Emile Beyer Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France for the grouper, and a 2004 Caparone Zinafdel from Paso Robles California for the lamb.  The pairings were spot on.

Our last course was a coupling of cheeses including garrotxa from Spain and coupole from France.  Served with crackers and apple slices, we indulged with every bite of the cheese and every sip of the effervescent La Maison du Cremant which lovingly brought us back to fond memories of Burgundy, France.

As we ate and watched the lights of the skyline twinkle and dance along the water, I couldn’t help but think more people should know about Rittergut.  And if you are traveling in from the suburbs, Rittergut is on the same block as Ogilvie and Union Station.  Perfect destination within walking distance of the Metra and Amtrack.  And if you are driving, there is discounted parking in the garage next to Rittergut after 5pm.   Rittergut is a quietly impressive restaurant that is sure to surprise even the most experienced diner.