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The Perfect Day of Eating in Chicago’s West Loop

In Chicago, dining and drinking is a full-fledged tourist attraction in and of itself,  Eating in Chicago’s West Loop Right up there with other world-famous institutions like the Bean, the Willis Tower and Navy Pier. Eating in Chicago’s West Loop Considering this, strategy is important when planning out a day of dining in the big city, as coordinated […]

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May 19, 2018 02:41 AM
Cinco de Mayo Guide, 2018 to Dining and Drinking

Cinco de Mayo: Where to dine and drink on Mexican cuisine and cocktails for May 5. One of the liveliest and most colorful food- and drink-filled holidays of the year is almost here, and all over Chicago, restaurants and bars are gearing up to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. From cocktail specials to full-blown parties, here’s where […]

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May 09, 2018 04:21 AM
Weekly Planner: Wheel Wednesdays @ Antique Taco and New Spring Menus

Wheel Wednesdays @ Antique Taco Though spring in Chicago is notoriously finicky and fickle, one good indicator that warm weather is near is the onset of food truck season at Antique Taco. More specifically, the restaurant’s sprawling Bridgeport location is kicking into spring gear with its “Wheel Wednesdays” series, which invites a handful of different food […]

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May 02, 2018 11:35 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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