In the space that Epic used to call home, the folks behind Hubbard Inn have masterfully renovated the interior, and overhauled the menu of shared plates, meats and seafood, and have recently reopened the three-level monolith called Joy District. Where Epic was more about the weekend drinking scene, Joy District concentrates on food, but still offers a trendy bar where you can see and be seen, and enjoy an array of specialty and classic cocktails, and a formidable listing of wine and beer offerings.
Joy District’s first floor is the main dining area, while it’s second floor will be used almost exclusively for private events. Its rooftop, opening Thursday, will resemble what you would find at a high-end Miami nightclub, with white drapery, chic brown furniture, and unmistakable River North views.
Order the St. Germain Cocktail or an Old Fashioned and peruse the menu. All items are plenty large to share among two or more people. The Grilled Spanish Octopus Tacos are a must-order. Three flour tortillas are filled with marinated octopus, sweet corn relish, green garlic aioli and micro arugula. It was the best thing that I have tried at Joy District.
Skip the unmemorable Spicy Tuna Hamachi Roll, however, and order a Burrata & Heirloom Tomato salad for the table. Wedges of seasonal heirloom tomatoes are served along side sweet & sour onions, buttery grilled bread, and a lovely aged balsamic. The creamy Burrata melds the flavors together and melts in your mouth.
The Spiced Wedge salad is just huge, and can be described as a sightlier healthy version of nachos. Too salty for my taste, an entire head of iceberg lettuce is served with a chipotle buttermilk dressing, corn bread croutons, fire roasted chilis, cilantro, avocado, and baked black beans. This salad has a lot going on, and quite powerful flavors.
The Sautéed Sea Scallops make for an excellent entree, also worthy of sharing. The perfectly seared and meaty scallops sit atop a bed of nicely cooked sweet pea risotto, with Cippolini onions, pea tendrils, and shaved Marcona almonds, along with a drizzle of white balsamic.
The “Jucy Lucy” Slagel Farm Cheese Burger may be the only item on the menu not easily shared. The cheddar cheese-filled burger with both grilled and raw onion and house made pickles makes for a messy meal. I found the house made tots served on the side to be quite doughy and lacking flavor, but they were improved by the house made ketchup that had notes of cinnamon. Skip the burger, and stick with the shareables.
Forego the Blueberry Lemon Cake, which other than the buttermilk sorbet I found to be inedible, and head to the rooftop for an after dinner drink and some excellent people watching.
Joy District is a great spot to grab an after work drink, or to enjoy dinner with friends. It is open seven days a week, beginning at 3 p.m., until late night. Reservations are accepted.
112 West Hubbard Street, Chicago, Illinois 60654
While my meal was complimentary, all opinions expressed herein are my own.