The Gage Goes Beyond Typical Dishes for St. Patrick’s Day – NBC Chicago

Since the Chicago River was dyed green last weekend, and Friday is St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is turning a little bit Irish this week, as are many kitchens.

NBC 5’s Food Guy Steve Dolinsky says it’s the only time of year corned beef and cabbage or Shepherd’s Pie seem to show up everywhere. But he’s taking a different approach, looking for real flavors from Ireland, enjoyed there year-round.

There’s more to Irish food culture than corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, right? Fortunately, the Irish owners of one of the best restaurants near Millennium Park stick to the basics, putting more emphasis on high-quality seafood and spirits.

This time of year is fraught with contradictions for the team at The Gage, an Irish-owned bar and restaurant serving food better than it has to be, considering its Michigan Avenue address and proximity to Millennium Park. But around St. Patrick’s Day, they turn things up a bit.

“It’s so easy to recognize that it all just becomes sort of Irish cream in your coffee and smashed potatoes. So to be able to not only lean into our Irish culture, but also to be able to show people that it is more than that,” said Torrence O’Haire, the beverage director at The Gage.

Start off with a riff on Finnan Haddie – otherwise known as the smoked haddock cake.

“You could almost think of it like a crab cake, it’s just made with smoked haddock instead,” he said.

Resting on a dill créme fraiche tartar sauce, it’s crowned with a small shredded salad. Haddock also stars in the Dublin Bay seafood chowder, which begins with monkfish and shrimp as well.

“It’s a main course chowder, tons of seafood and really high-quality stuff. We fly it all in ourselves, we butcher everything in house, break down all the whole fish for it,” said O’Haire.

After sautéing with leeks, the chef adds carrots and potatoes to help thicken the chowder. Seafood stock fortified with heavy cream is added, along with some jumbo lump crabmeat and mussels, plus some fresh herbs. Served in a giant, deep bowl, the dish is finished with some fresh dill, a half a lemon and a few slices of griddled bread.

Shepherd’s Pie is available, but it’s not what you’re used to at your local pub.

“We’re not gonna do the ground beef and instant mashed potatoes shepherd’s pie. Slow braise on the high-quality meat, it’s built with so much flavor,” he said.

In terms of drinks, the bar is ambitious here, not resting on its laurels as simply a place for a pint.

“Black and tans are great, Irish cream is fine, but we wanted to lean in to both quality of spirits and also a little bit of interesting Irish history,” O’Haire said. “So our Monserrat Old Fashioned, blended with port barrel-aged cognac, Carribean spiced bitters.”

Grainne O’Malley – the most famous woman pirate in history – so a traditional pirate punch, rum, madeira – fortified wine – touched with apricot and champagne. Really cool way to lean in to both Irish history and a great cocktail,” said O’Haire.

Those dishes will be on the menu for an extended period of time beyond this weekend. If you like Irish whisky, they’ve got nearly two dozen earthy, peaty options to choose from.

Here’s where you can go:

The Gage

24 S. Michigan Ave.