The couple dining at Giant’s kitchen counter were in town to see Hamilton, and one of them was celebrating a birthday, so their server and bartender decided to personalize a shot for them. Ecstatic at the prospect of thrilling two strangers, they came up with a mix of Cynar, bourbon, and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino and called it the Hamilton Chicago. The couple loved it.
That, my friends, is hospitality. And somehow Giant pulls it off even when the place gets busy, which is pretty much always. “It’s amazing how nice and happy everyone on staff is,” says chef-partner Jason Vincent. “You know how you go to a restaurant and it’s supposed to be hip and they’re all mean to you? We told the staff: ‘Don’t do that.’ They don’t.”
It helps that they’re peddling delightful food—think pecan-smoked baby back ribs and homemade biscuits with warm jalapeño butter—made by a tight crew largely composed of chefs who began as interns under Vincent and partner Ben Lustbader at Nightwood or Lula Cafe. The small plates come fast and furious, and not one of them exceeds $19, not even showstoppers such as housemade cannelloni with smoked lamb, mint yogurt, porcini butter, and arugula pesto.
The narrow storefront, between Sink|Swim and Scofflaw, packs in diners, and it throbs with excitement, that may include Guns N’ Roses blasting from a vertical floating-record turntable between the bar and kitchen. No one wants to leave. You may notice groups taking the tiniest nibbles of their vanilla-cajeta ice cream with butter-pecan crunch and strawberries just to extend their meal. And why not? They’ve got a seat in the 1,400 happiest square feet in Chicago.