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Weekly Planner: Brunch News Edition

Brunch News Edition Lowcountry Adds Brunch Fasten those bibs, because brunch is served at Lowcountry. The South Loop outpost of the boil-in-a-bag seafood concept, which specializes in Cajun-style shellfish, has added weekend brunch to its popular portfolio. A slight departure from its usual eat-with-your-hands bag-centric menu, the brunch offerings span a spectrum of Southern comforts, from […]

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Jun 18, 2018 09:51 PM
Best Restaurants in Boystown

With June being Pride Month, there’s no better time of year to spend dining and drinking in Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood. The vibrant Lakeview area enclave is best known perhaps for its clubs, drag brunches and rainbow pylons, but the neighborhood is becoming a serious dining destination in its own right, thanks to restaurants like these: […]

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Jun 11, 2018 10:32 PM
Weekly Planner: Taco Joint’s Specials and ROOF on theWit’s Movie Series

Happy Hour at Punch Bowl Social Happy Hour at Punch Bowl Social Happy hour is the happiest of all when you’re surrounded by bowling alleys, bocce courts, karaoke rooms and dart boards. The West Loop’s brand new Punch Bowl Social, a behemoth dining and gaming complex out of Denver, has jumped on the happy hour bandwagon, […]

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Jun 05, 2018 06:53 PM

The Polenta Bar Brings a Taste of Northern Italy to the West Loop

In recent years, fast-casual dining has manifested in many different ways, in part triggered like a Domino effect by companies following the Chipotle model of customized food, quick service and quality ingredients. From noodles and salads, to Middle Eastern food and poké, Chicago’s fast-casual scene has a lot to choose from, but none are quite as wholly original as The Polenta Bar, the first dedicated polenteria in Chicago and one of the first in the country at large. 

 

The Polenta Bar
The Polenta Bar; photo  by Kailley Lindman

The cozy West Loop newcomer hails from owner Emile Chalouhi and chef Camillo Villa, both of whom are brand new Chicago transplants looking to bring a taste of their homeland to their new city. The space is warm, sunny and inviting, which is quite a feat considering its located under the El tracks. A mural running the length of the dining room depicts structures and buildings from the city of Milan, where the owners are from and where polenterias are local staples. But hidden in the mural are little touches of Chicago, like buildings bedecked with the city’s famous Art Deco architecture. It’s not just for looks either; it’s a nod to the secret synergy between the two cities. Not only are Chicago and Milan sister cities, but as Chalouhi describes it, both places share similarities in their fast-paced lifestyles and their colder climates. Hence, the niche of wholesome Northern Italian comfort food served fast. 

 

The Polenta Bar
The Polenta Bar; photo by Kailley Lindman

Polenta is slowly churned and warmed in special contraptions imported from just outside Milan. They dispense warm olive oil-infused polenta similar to soft-serve ice cream machines. Here, the creamy cornmeal is filled into bowls for customers to load up with toppings of their choice. A far cry from your standard cafeteria-style fare, all items here are meticulously cooked by Villa, slow simmered made with top-tier ingredients. This includes taleggio cheese fonduta, pork and beef bolognese, chicken cooked with white wine and spicy, plump Milanese sausage splashed with tomato sauce. The Polenta Bar also offers a dish of the month option, currently a wild boar stew, with venison slated for April. Diners than choose their vegetables, all free of charge. 

The Polenta Bar also added a small wine program featuring Valcalepio Wine, a producer that along with everything else at the restaurant, from the owners to the equipment, hails from Northern Italy.




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