While the West Loop has become a mecca of Chicago food hot spots, one French nightlife restaurant stands above the rest. Nellcôte, named for Villa Nellcôte, the infamous Côte d’Azur mansion where the Rolling Stones partied in the 1970s, has a rock ‘n’ roll flair with a truly opulent look and a menu that would make anyone’s mouth water. Take a night off from work, or the laptop, or the gym, and head to West Randolph Street for a girls’ night, art-noveau experience and seriously delicious food and cocktails.
Put on something sleek and classy, because this is no dive bar. As soon as you walk in the door, you’ll be glad you put a little extra effort into your ensemble. Go ahead and stare at the airy, white-and-gold space, topped with rows and rows of chandeliers — you might even want to take turns posing for a few snaps on the white Italian marble grand staircase. The backdrop is very posh, but edgy little details – like the artsy bar chairs colored with saucy Hermes orange – bring the place back down to earth. That’s the great thing about Nellcôte: The whole vibe is exclusive, but it’s never actually exclusionary. It’s fine dining, but without a stuffy atmosphere. You and girlfriends feel free to be yourselves – all dressed up in your finest baubles and heels – and hit that exhilarating mix of rowdy and refined.
The menu, with its mix of elegant small plates, pizzas, and pastas, is as enticing as the decor: You’ll be dreaming about the phenomenal spaghetti, packed with a punch from Calabrian chilies, long after you’ve slurped up the last tender noodle. And be sure to sneak a bite of your friend’s smooth roasted eggplant pizza with melt-in-your-mouth pesto. There’s a lovely array on the vegetable portion of the menu – including Yukon gold potatoes with a black truffle jus – but the real showpiece is the hanger steak. Feast on a grass-fed, wood-roasted steak with turnips, drizzled with a sweet vinaigrette, that might just ruin you for all other steaks.
Then, to wet the whistle, get a cocktail named after your favorite Stones tune, like the dangerously delicious black limousine, with vodka, Tennyson absinthe (ooh la la), maple syrup, vanilla cream, and an egg white to whip things up into foamy goodness. Order the girly girl of your group the surprisingly sweet “salt of the earth” with flavors like rose, guava puree, and fresh lemon juice to perfectly balance between sugar and spice over the Pisco base. Cheers, indeed.
This is a glamorous girl’s dream world, and though anyone would enjoy the menu no matter the season, Nellcôte is the perfect brief escape from a dreary Chicago winter’s eve. Duck in for drinks or a light bite, but stay for the regal, rock-star atmosphere made in France but perfected at Nellcôte.