Let me tell you about getting fall-down drunk at one of the nicest restaurants in America.
It all started here, at the wall of Tequila.
I suppose it all started here, at the Hotel 71, across from Trump Tower in downtown Chicago. To burn off the sins of the night before, the party got started in our lavish suite with some Buffalo Trace, which quickly turned from hair of the dog to some serious afternoon delight.
Now I’d been dreaming of Topolobampo for a while. It’s known as the best high-end Mexican restaurant in America, the jewel of chef (and Top Chef Masters winner) Rick Bayliss’s impressive empire. You’re supposed to call 8 weeks in advance to book a table - which of course we didn’t - but you can also show up early to put your name on the list for a few hour wait, or you can elbow yourself a spot at the bar, which is what my small party did just after the restaurant opened for the evening.
By the time the first cocktails landed I felt like the two-headed reincarnate of Orson Welles, ready to swallow the world, so naturally the first order was a tray full of fresh-shucked oysters from the raw bar. The creamy decadence of an oyster is one of the finest pleasures the sea has to offer, and one that pairs beautifully with a sour, sweet (and just a pinch salty) cocktail, loaded with tequila, which our bartender provided in spades.
Now, in case you didn’t know, I absolutely love mole. The sauce is a symphony. It’s Mexico’s most complex gift to the world of gastronomy, and one that Rick Bayliss has spent a career mastering. His 29-ingredient Oaxacan black mole is famous, and is typically best enjoyed without a palate destroyed by bourbon, but you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, you know?
The mole accompanies a wood-grilled leg of lamb on this menu, which everyone in my party ordered enthusiastically. The dish is first presented dry, and then the server absolutely slathers the plate with the rich, dark sauce. Eating this well leaves very few adjectives; everything was simply perfect. I would have licked my plate clean, but by meal’s end I was still maintaining a modicum of social grace…
It was shortly after the plates were cleared that the tequila took hold. One after another, the bartender offered margaritas, martinis and shots, elegantly prepared and using only the finest product. We sloshed our way right through them all.
A few drops deep and I was shagged and fagged and fashed, falling backwards out the door and into the perpetual hurricane of Chicago’s downtown streets. It was only days later that I looked at my credit card bill and realized that I could have purchased a new mountain bike with the money I spent. But that evening was not one to regret, it was one make lions out of men, and our night’s prowl only got weirder from there…