“Why are we going to such an old restaurant?” I texted my friend. This was in response to her text that we had reservations at Mon Ami Gabi for dinner last Saturday night. I guess I expected that since my boyfriend and I were road tripping all the way downtown (it’s 20 miles away, but I act like going to downtown Chicago is synonymous with going to another state) they would choose a new, hip, trendy place. I was wrong. They chose the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi, a quaint French bistro that has been in business in Lincoln Park for at least 15 years.
Let me make it clear that I’ve always been a fan of Mon Ami Gabi, and when I lived in the City, I ate there quite a few times. I guess I just figured newer and trendier and hotter spots would be a better choice for dinner that night, since we so rarely get downtown to eat. I can’t tell you how wrong I was!
I LOVED Mon Ami Gabi from the second I walked into the quaint, but bustling classic French Bistro. The décor is lovely, and I always enjoy a restaurant that gives the feeling that you should surely sit and relax and enjoy as much wine as you’d like. So, that’s what I did!
From the first sip of the smooth merlot I had at the bar, I felt like I’d gone to Paris for the night. Now, let me explain that with the group of people I was having dinner with, I could have been eating at Burger King and enjoying myself just as much, simply because this is a group of people I truly adore.
Once at our table, we ordered a bottle of Bordeaux that was absolutely perfect! So bold and rich, yet still really smooth. No one ordered appetizers, (I think we were too busy drinking and catching up) but here’s what looked yummy: Baked goat cheese in a tomato sauce with warm herb garlic bread, warm brie cheese with black pepper honey, hazelnuts and croutons, and a simple olive jar with roasted garlic, orange and herbs. Also, my boyfriend ordered the onion soup au gratin with baked gruyere cheese. It was no surprise that it was fantastic.
When it came time for me to choose a salad, I had a hard time choosing. There were so many good ones! Red and yellow endive salad, Caesar salad, and Butter lettuce and arugula salad (which is what I ordered) that came with grana padano cheese and warm chick pea croutons–amazing!!
Mon Ami Gabi is known for its Steak Fries, hand-selected beef served with hand-cut French fries. Only one of my friends ordered a steak, however, because it was the fish dishes that were the stars of the evening. I ordered the special: grilled halibut with chickpea mash (which was basically the chef’s homemade garlic hummus). I think it might possibly be the best-tasting fish I’ve ever ordered in my entire life. I’m not kidding. One of my friends ordered Salmon and Leek Quinoa that looked great, and my friend’s husband got the mussels mariniere as his entrée. Those looked pretty tasty as well.
I want to comment on something else. Usually when I hear I’m going to a French restaurant, I assume two things: one, I’m going to drink a lot and two, I’m not going to be eating very much because the portions are going to be small. I was correct on the first thing, but not the second. Mon Ami Gabi’s portions were very generous. I guess the classic French bistro realizes that we are in America and that, unlike Parisians, Americans enjoy larger portions!
Mon Ami Gabi was a fantastic dining experience with great, great food, really good service, fine wine and friends that had me laughing so much my cheeks were hurting by the end of the meal. We all had coffee, no desserts, but here’s what I would have gotten: warm berry crumble with vanilla ice-cream or crème brulee (of course.) They also had this thing called Butterscotch Pot De Crème. I can’t even imagine how amazing that was. I mean, it’s a classic French Bistro with a great chef and unforgettable dishes. Isn’t it a no-brainer that the desserts are going to follow suit?
Mon Ami Gabi is a restaurant that everyone should experience. Delicious wine, amazing classic French food, great ambiance, very good service, and the feeling that you’re on vacation in Paris, dining at a quaint but elegant bistro. I guess the lesson is, if your friend chooses the restaurant, just go with it!