The late Harry Caray is arguably the biggest sports star in Chicago who didn't play on a team. As the voice of the Chicago Cubs from 1982 to 1998, his heavy eyeglasses and exuberant "Holy Cow!" became known nationally, thanks to cable television.
Harry is gone, but not forgotten in Chicagoland. Several restaurants bear his name, and the newest is actuallyÂ two restaurants: Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse and Holy Mackerel! The restaurants are part of the new Westin Hotel and Conference complex in Lombard, IL.
Â I had the privilege of dining at Holy Mackerel! as part of my birthday celebration earlier this month. What an evening!
When I called for reservations, the woman on the phone asked if we were celebrating a special occasion. I told her the truth - we were celebrating me getting a year older (LOL).
WeÂ began our evening by entering through the wrong door - my mother and I headed for the cow and big bat (who could resist?). Whoops - that's the steak house. The staff very kindly led us to the proper area.
The two restaurants are connected by a "sports bar" looking area. As we passed through, I noticed memorabilia on the walls and in a displayÂ case. Didn't get to look at much detail, then it was into Holy Mackerel!
This is a seafood restaurant and the people there take great pride in the fact that nothing is ever frozen - it's all fresh. In fact, it's so fresh there is no formal bound menu. The daily menu is printed on heavy stock and dated. The theme of the restaurant reflects the dedication to fresh seafood -- images are of water.
There are a series of beautifully rendered murals in shallow alcoves on the walls, depicting vintage postcards of Lake Michigan. The artist signed them "Mondero."
There are also photos related to fishing around the rooms, some obviously fairly old. Everywhere you turn there is beautiful woodwork, gleaming and reflecting the surroundings.
The ultimate indicator was the entrancing waterfall wall - four panels of glass-enclosed waterfalls. This serves to divide the bar area from the dining room. We had the privilege of sitting next to the wall and enjoying the tranquil music of the water during our meal. I was in ecstasy even before the meal was served!
The image of falling water is carried over into the booth dividers in the dining room - semi-frosted glass which echoes the waterfall wall. The globe light fixtures hint at Harry Caray's ties to baseball, nicely making the transition from the sports bar area between the two restaurants. The whole feeling is one of serenity and elegance.
Then there's the food! Oh, my! Cooked perfectly to order, presented like crown jewels and delicious.Â We bothÂ had grilled fresh rainbow trout. It was served with cajun crawfish butter (delicious, but with a bite to it), tender yet crisp green beans and mashed potatoes. These were the best mashed potatoes I've eaten in a restaurant in years - none of that super smoothÂ texture you get from packaged stuff. These were fresh potatoes, complete with the delectably irregular consistency of truly fresh mashed potatoes. Superb!
A loaf of crusty bread with a lovely texture and a grand iced tea (Joe, our waiter, identified it as China Mint) rounded off the meal. The food was plentiful, and both of us requested containers to bring part of it home.
I don't typically haveÂ dessert when I eat out. However, I was informed the chef wished to treat me to a banana pudding to celebrate my birthday - okay, I'm in! It was scrumptious - rich and creamy and decadent. Mama had a chocolate souffle which looked yummy, even if I am allergic to chocolate.
We finished our delightful meal and left the restaurant with great regret (okay, the truth is we rolled out there so full we could hardly move, but sad to leave the lovely environment. There was one more gift for us - sunset tinting the trio of fountains beside the hotel a soft rose pink! A perfect conclusion to a perfect meal!
My suggestion for a great meal at a reasonable (though not thrifty) price is Holy Mackerel! The atmosphere is wonderful, the service top-drawer, and the food amazing! You won't regret it!
For more information on Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray, go to http://www.radiohof.org/sportscasters/harrycaray.html. For more on the restaurants, check outÂ http://www.harrycarays.com/index.html.
Copyright, Mary Beth Magee 2007