Stone Lotus (873 N. Orleans St.; 312-440-9680), a brand-new small plates lounge in River North brought to us by nightlife impresario Chris Dexter, takes the wine pairing concept to the perfectly logical next level: matching food to spirits. Thus, rum cocktails accompanied by a flight of noshes: plaintain chips, Caribbean-style spiced prawns with cilantro, jerk lamb chops, and, for dessert, tropical fruit profiteroles doused with rum caramel. “Tequila was a hard one, because I’m horrible at Latin,” says executive chef Dale Levitski, the 33-year-old alum of Blackbird, La Tache, and, most recently, Trio Atelier in Evanston. The bar also has a separate small plates menu, including a miniature version of this summery grilled beef salad.

Dale Levitski’s Grilled Sirloin and Chicory Salad
(Serves 4)

Photograph: Tyllie Barbosa

For the steak:

  • 1-1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 whole black peppercorns
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 dried hot Thai chilies
  • Zest of 1 lemon (reserve the lemon)
  • 1 shallot, thickly sliced
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 ten-ounce New York strip steaks, lightly seasoned with kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper

For the salad:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, or use the seasoned oil from the marinade
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Juice of reserved lemon
  • 6 white anchovy fillets, minced (may substitute regular anchovies, but use half as many)
  • 5 teaspoons each, red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 heads Belgian endive
  • 1 head romaine
  • 1 head radicchio
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes (such as Green Zebra or Brandywine), cut into wedges
  • 1/4 red onion, slivered
  • 1 cup diced seedless watermelon, red or gold
  • 1 small block Parmesan, Cabrales blue, or goat cheese
  1. Mix together the steak marinade ingredients and set aside in a dish large enough to fit steaks.
  2. On a hot grill, cook steaks to desired doneness-Levitski recommends rare-and place immediately in marinade. Let rest in the refrigerator overnight (or at least for an hour), turning occasionally.
  3. For the salad’s vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, shallot, garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, and cheese (it will keep for a week, refrigerated).
  4. Cut the four heads of lettuce in half lengthwise, then brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill for one to two minutes on each side, letting a nice char develop. Let cool.
  5. Slice the steaks, cut lettuces into smaller pieces, and divide the salad components among the plates. Drizzle liberally with vinaigrette and top with shavings or crumblings of cheese.