Four friends in hospitality, reunited as the new owners of The Press Room, 1134 W. Washington St., have introduced a fall menu that showcases the West Loop gem as more than a wine bar.
At the heart of the small restaurant: ingredient-driven American cuisine that’s approachable yet ambitious, considering its launching point—a 10-by-10-foot kitchen.
Chef Jeff Williams and sommelier Anton Valkov, together with managing partners Petros Papatheofanis and Cristian Mendoza Jarquin, comprise the new close-knit leadership team at The Press Room. The four became friends while working at Sable Kitchen + Bar in River North, Williams as executive sous chef and the others front of house—Papatheofanis as general manager, Valkov behind the bar and Jarquin as star server. (Jarquin and Valkov first met at Devon Seafood Grill.)
Williams, whose experience includes stints at the Michelin-starred restaurants Fäviken in Sweden and Luksus in New York City, left Sable to open The Press Room in September 2017.
Joined this September by his three colleagues, they’ve reinvented the 60-seat restaurant into a rounded dinner experience from first pour to final forkful of dessert, where conversation between the ever-present foursome and guests flows as easily as the wine.
Williams’ thoughtfulness and love of vegetables come through on the menu, which progresses from snacks and small plates to meat dishes, each combining texture and familiar flavors—a little Spanish, a little French—in a casually refined way.
Charred Cauliflower, debuting next week, has depth thanks to smoked cauliflower puree, pickled shallots and a Moroccan barbecue glaze. Confit Fingerlings take an even more savory turn in Williams’ hands with sesame seed, puffed rice and crispy shallot granola and a truffle cream sauce—a gratin upgrade, essentially. Chimichurri and pickled garlic brighten Short Ribs, and Roasted Pork with braised kale, apricot-bacon marmalade and pickled mustard seeds offers generous autumnal comfort.
While Williams looks to the micro-seasons when tweaking the menu, a few dishes remain Press Room signatures: Burrata, flown in fresh from Italy and served with sunflower seed gremolata, and Roasted Carrots atop za’atar yogurt, paired with deeply toasted hazelnuts and smoked feta.
A similarly diverse but balanced approach defines The Press Room’s beverage program, overseen by Valkov. Hand-picked wines represent an appealing array of styles. Never esoteric, always tasty, they include a 2017 Les Petits Fers Gamay from Oregon and, one of Valkov’s favorites, a 2011 Vincent Girardin Volnay 1ER Cru from France. (He features more picks every Wednesday on the restaurant’s Instagram feed.)
New desserts, now presented on a separate menu with a selection of dessert wines, amaros, Scotch and other digestifs, include a giant Chocolate Chip Cookie that Williams has been fine-tuning for months (and treating guests to when the kitchen closes).
Located on the cozy lower level of a historic building on the western end of the West Loop, The Press Room is open Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to midnight. Happy hour, 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays, features select wines by the glass for $7. All bottles of wine are 20 percent off when purchased to go.