Dining with His Airness—Even a Pacer fan finds inspiration in a Bulls court

October 2017 View more

More so than even a screaming child or an outside condiment, a preconceived bias is a bad thing to bring into a restaurant. So it’s not with any sense of pride that I admit to having something of a chip on my shoulder walking into Michael Jordan’s Restaurant, the handsome Oak Brook newcomer set between two office towers across busy 22nd Street from the mall and the latest eatery to bear the moniker of His Airness.

This petulant predisposition, it should be noted, has more to do with my background than with Jordan’s previous local ventures, including the current Mag Mile steakhouse run by the same group overseeing this new suburban outlet. As a native Hoosier and longtime follower of the Indiana Pacers, that famous name on the sign and those glossy black-and-white photos of the West Side glory days made me feel like I was dining with a rival.

Having lived in Chicago during those vaunted Bulls championship runs of the ’90s, and having watched the most-fertile years of the greatest Pacer player of all time—Reggie Miller—wither in the shadow of those MJ-led teams, I’ve endured a lot of Jordan love. Outstanding player, yes—unquestionably one of the very best—but in my mind, he’ll always be the immovable obstacle standing between the Pacers and the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy. Despite my lingering hard feelings, however, I vowed to judge the restaurant on its own merits.


When we arrived for an early Saturday dinner, we were able to snag one of the limited parking spaces in front of the office complex (the majority of available slots are in the garage behind the buildings, which can inspire a bit of a hunt for the entrance), and while the pleasant evening made a solid case for the small outdoor patio, the persistent din of traffic from both 22nd and I-88 chased us indoors.

The décor inside is heavy on the wood and leather (with touches of net-inspired wall art), and aside from the sporty Jumpman-branded gear and sneakers worn by the staff, the vibe, setting and price point all suggest a high-end steakhouse. The menu likewise skews toward a carnivorous theme, with a half-dozen prime cuts of beef highlighting a slate that also makes room for a handful of sandwiches, salads, pastas and fish entrees.

Game Plan

We decided to warm up with the signature garlic bread, a dish that lives up to its MVP billing thanks in large part to the blue cheese fondue drizzled tableside over the ciabatta stack. We also shared a massive crab cake that benefited greatly from the Scottie Pippen-esque assist of its tangy Meyer lemon aioli.

From the entrée lineup, we bypassed the beef in favor of a sizable bowl of parpadelle bathed in mushroom au jus and studded with carrots, squash and zucchini, as well as a quartet of pork tenderloins wrapped in bacon and served with a sweet-and-spicy black pepper cherry jam. We rounded out the table with satisfying sides of four-cheese mac baked with a cracker crust and chili-lime corn with queso fresco and pickled red onion.

Reflecting on the meal as we contemplated dessert, I realized anew how childish and wrongheaded it would be to let my opinion of the food or the service at Michael Jordan’s be colored by the fact that its namesake consistently created space for his shot by blatantly pushing off his defender. That was all in the past, after all, and the present was represented instead by the daunting wedge of 23-layer chocolate cake (representing Jordan’s iconic jersey number) staring us down. So why not let bygones be bygones and just enjoy?

Still, as I set down my fork and waved the white flag at just past the halfway mark of this caloric colossus, I couldn’t help but note to myself that the Reggie Miller version (#31) would have had eight more layers.