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Wednesday, July 24

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Review Tue Sep 01 2015

Lobster and Floppy Hats at The Hampton Social

rsz_dsc_0274.jpgNestled on a quiet street in River North is a boisterous restaurant with white awnings, instantly recognizable by the fleet of Benzes parked outside. With a focus on "coastal fare," The Hampton Social opened in late June, and since that time, has garnered quite a crowd of lobster and cocktail enthusiasts.

With its open patio, white wooden furniture, and soft-toned color palette, the restaurant replicates coastal charm well. It's quaint, and the patrons are dutifully monochromatic. The menu offers wood-fired pizza, an abundant selection of lobster (lobster rolls, lobster salad, lobster tails), and a few non-seafood options (Amish chicken, burger). A few months ago, owner Brad Parker raised eyebrows when he said the menu would "be geared towards a woman's palate." Though honestly, I found nothing particularly offensive, except for the comments of my table neighbors (Is burrata an animal?!). The term's brand differentiation, right?

rsz_dsc_0271.jpgThe food is fairly decent and well-portioned, with comparable River North prices. The thin pizza, lightly accented with cheese, had a satisfyingly chewy crust and light char around the edges. The mussels with pickles and beer broth packed an incredible level of umami without being overly salty. However, the burrata (It's a soft cheese) was slightly watery and contained three pinkish glazes that resembled lip gloss smeared over a wooden board. There's also a section on the menu solely dedicated to the lobster--lobster roll, lobster mac and cheese, lobster pizza. I ordered the grilled lobster tail and while the portion was surprisingly small, the meat itself was well-cooked and delicious when doused with clarified butter.

rsz_dsc_0270.jpgThe Smash Burger (two angus patties, aged cheddar, caramelized onions) wasn't bad for a seafood-focused restaurant, and the accompanying Old Bay-seasoned fries were thin and crunchy. For $65, you can also order the seafood tower, which includes oysters, shrimp, crab claws, ceviche, and tuna tartare. The dessert menu contains an assortment of tarts, colorful macaroons, cookies, and artisanal gelato. My key-lime pie was wonderfully acidic and had tremendous citrus flavor, though its thick graham cracker crust proved rather difficult to puncture.

Apart from some misses on execution and slower-than-desired service, I had a good time. Yes, you will be surrounded by oversized sunglasses, floppy hats, and bowties, but even that has its own merits. If anything, go for the abundant seafood options--that's worth a trip.

The Hampton Social
353 W Hubbard St,
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 464-0500

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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