When I found out I would be dining at the Tortoise Club (350 North State) I had to look it up because it’s a fairly new restaurant, it will be a year old come November, and I didn’t know much about it. I checked out the website and liked the menu, but one thing stuck out to me, the picture in the background of the main screen. Now to anyone a little older, they won’t see what I mean but the younger guys will immediately recognize it. At first glance the Tortoise Club looks like an “old boys club.” It’s the first thing that popped into my mind, and I had no idea how absolutely right I was while being absolutely wrong at the same time.
Tortoise Club does have the look of an old school gentlemen’s club despite being less than a year old, but that was definitely by design. It is made to evoke that spirit, taking it as far as using wood from the old Pump Room to give it a more authentic feel. So if you feel a Frank Sinatra aura in the restaurant, it’s because you’re almost sharing the same space as the legend. The Rat Pack would have fit right in at the Tortoise Club, it has remnants of a bygone era that some would even argue was the golden era.
I know what you’re thinking, I just made the case that the Tortoise Club is a place for older professionals to go and discuss the fortunes they have amassed. Well, it is. It’s also a place that young professionals can go to discuss their future fortunes. It’s also a place where a group of friends can get dinner after work or before a concert at the House of Blues, which is literally steps away. It’s also a place where a young man can take someone they want to impress on a date. Basically, the Tortoise Club is for everyone.
The Tortoise Club is one of the rare places where no matter who you are, you will feel comfortable, it definitely has that rare universal appeal. I mean, don’t get carried away and wear a tank top and some flip flops in, but you get the point. I started my evening at the bar in the lounge area and was impressed with the sitting areas, I sat and watched all the different groups of friends, colleagues and couples enjoy their drinks in the lounge. The set up is very cool because it’s like a lot of different sitting areas where you can enjoy the vibe of the lounge, but still have your privacy with your own group. Like every great bartender/host/mixologist hybrid, our bartender Karen never stopped moving and mixing drinks, but still maintained full conversations with everyone at the bar, beyond impressive. For the record I don’t usually drink but the “bee’s knees” was amazing, mostly everyone around me had the “Antique Whiskey Sour,” try them both on a Clubhouse Wednesday when all the signature drinks are half off! One of the highlights of the night was the fact that I was sitting next to the owner Megan (she and her husband owns it, and I was told he was there as well although I didn’t get a chance to meet him) at the bar and had no idea at first, she was there having a great time like everyone else. Apparently that’s the norm at Tortoise Club, it’s great to see owners who are genuinely in love with their restaurant. And she’s extremely nice and relatable, I don’t think she stopped smiling the entire night.
As I moved into the main dining room for dinner, I noticed all the funny caricatures of Chicagoans on the wall. And it’s not your standard Al Capone and Mayor Daley pictures, more like Chicagoans with funny/interesting stories. The one thing you can’t escape about the Tortoise Club is that it feels like it has been around forever, but still feels new at the same time. It’s that duality that I think endears the restaurant to multiple generations. Live music most nights, attentive servers and great dishes like their Berkshire Pork Chop, Pheasant Pie, Short Ribs and Maine Lobster Roll should be more than enough reasons to give Tortoise Club a try. Try not to fill up on the incredibly delicious, fresh-baked pretzel bread they are passing around and I would recommend the calamari as an appetizer. And if you see the server, Jose M., tell him I said hello, he’s excellent. But most importantly, just visit Tortoise Club and let me know what you think. To make a reservation, call 312-755-1700 or visit Open Table.