Good Eats at Lirica: Navy Pier spices things up with a new Latin American-inspired restaurant with incredible views
By Michael Dritto
Location: In the new Sable Hotel, 900 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier
Hours: Open daily from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The scene: Located at the very end of Navy Pier, the new Lirica overlooks Lake Michigan with a 150-seat patio that delivers scenic views of both the horizon and the impressive architecture of the Chicago skyline. A visual experience like this one is only amplified with a refreshing cocktail in hand.
Conversely, the interior dining room presents itself with an elegant, upscale, 1940s industrial vibe that can best be described as Mad Men meets Latin America. Highlights include a 22-seat bar, floor-to-ceiling windows and an open-kitchen concept.
With a color scheme combining blue, grey and bronze, it feels as if the interior of the restaurant is an extension of the picturesque views described above. It is only further accented later in the evening when the light from the sunset dances across the ripples on the lake, blending seamlessly with Lirica’s warm and inviting atmosphere.
Food and drink: Despite the restaurant’s ritzy feel, the menu is surprisingly affordable. Especially for downtown Chicago and Navy Pier. And it turns out the food and drink are just as rich and appealing as the décor.
Drawing inspiration from more than a dozen South American countries, the menu was curated by veteran chefs Cesar Reyes and Michael Schrader, encouraging guests to embrace “comiendo con ritmo” or “eating with rhythm.” A great way to do that is to start off with the mac and cheese croquetas — fried mac and cheese balls drizzled with a smoked chile aioli — a brilliant combination of savory, nostalgic flavors with a kick of heat that sets the tone for the rest of the dining experience.
If you’re not one for too much heat, the Florida red snapper and shrimp ceviche is an equally delicious option that promises a more muted hint of spice. Plus, if you’re like me, anytime you find yourself near a body of water, the need to consume fish becomes insatiable. The beer-battered fish tacos with lime crema are an excellent follow-up choice for those looking for a Latin-aquatic pairing.
Start off with the mac and cheese croquetas — fried mac and cheese balls drizzled with a smoked chile aioli — a brilliant combination of savory, nostalgic flavors with a kick of heat that sets the tone for the rest of the dining experience.
The menu offers a variety of small plates (beef empanadas, grilled octopus, roasted paprika potatoes, etc.), entrees (skirt steak, Mexican chicken sandwich, roasted salmon, etc.) and family-style options.
The savory Latin cuisine pairs well with Lirica’s creative cocktails and unique wine and beer selection that focuses on Spain and Portugal. Further complementing the savory-meets-spicy menu, the pineapple fresno margarita is a fun, tropical, fruity twist on the classic margarita that will set your mouth on fire. For real, this drink is hot, but in all the good ways. Don’t worry, if you prefer a more mild approach, the Oaxacan old fashioned fuels another form of heat with a smoky Mezcal flavor that isn’t at all overwhelming. It was perhaps my favorite drink of the night.
We’ll be back because: The atmosphere is swanky, the drinks are swankier, and the view is striking. Lirica promises an atmosphere that is both comfortable and exciting, and it delivers on both.