I will admit, every time I hear that another steakhouse is opening in Chicago I roll my eyes. I mean, who wants another froo froo, overpriced steak place in the city? Certainly not I. However, after a little research and word-of-mouth coaxing, I wanted to give Rural Society an unbiased shot – and I’m so glad I did.
Created to resemble a contemporary version of the cattle ranches and grill-fired kitchens of Argentina, chef Jose Garces opened (the second) Rural Society, giving an experience that is both rustic and luxurious.
Besides being captivated by the rustic decor and the dark oak architecture, the distinct smell of campfire, tobacco, leather, and meat filled the air. All of Garces locations (Mercat a la Planxa and Rural Society in D.C.) are inspired by the Argentinian “La Exposicion,” a.k.a. an upscale version of a state fair in Buenos Aires. However, this state-fair theme differs than the typical event we are familiar with. Instead of corn dog and funnel cakes, patrons munch on grilled grass-fed steaks and roasted peppers.
One thing I noticed right away about the menu selections was that each item was approachable, yet consisted of Garces Argentine twist. Starting with a selection of freshly made breakfast pastries and breads consisting of flaky croissants, handmade iced cinnamon rolls, and crunchy scones, was the perfect introduction for the meal. Although the Gaucho burger, made with a smoked chimichuri aioli, crispy provoleta cheese, lettuce, tomato, house pickles and the traditional cheesy Fugazza (pizza), were notable entrees, the showstoppers were the Morrones which are roasted red peppers, whipped eggplant, and anchovies, plus my favorite, the Asado (sausage) board.
Resembling an Argentenian-style bruschetta, the Morrones were both light and flavorful. The saltiness from the anchovies and the creaminess from the whipped eggplant on top of the fresh grilled bread made for the perfect bite. However, nothing on the menu could outshine the Morcilla sausage. Although incredibly potent and rich, the raisins, pine nuts, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and orange encased inside of the blood sausage surprisingly balanced all of the flavors and left me savoring each bite.
Despite a standout menu and incredible design, other highlights of Rural Society were its dessert offerings and its beverage program. While the Flan de Dulce de Leche was the clear frontrunner of the dessert menu, despite its unsuccessful pairing of mango sorbet, common themes amongst the liquid menu was being bold and robust.
Focusing on wines primarily of South America and being a giant fan of full-bodied reds myself, it was a sigh of relief to gaze at their list. However, I was surprised to “feel” the booziness of their cocktails. Concocted using both traditional and untraditional ingredients, the cocktails were definitely made on the stiffer side, yet still bursting with flavor. Besides favoring the house-made sangria blanca, another favorite libation of mine (mostly because I love coffee flavored beverages) was the Caffron, made with dark rum, cold brew coffee, vanilla chile sugar, and baileys.
Although yes, Rural Society is another steakhouse, it differs from the typical meat mecca. Not only is the menu adventurous, it still approachable and delicious. Through his travels and experiences, Chef Jose Garces manages to create a memorable experience for each patron “bringing the energy and sophistication of Buenos Aires to Chicago.”
Food & Drink Photos: Me, Interior Photos: Courtesy of Rural Society