Hot New Restaurants - July 2010
Can a restaurant that's been two years in the making, backed by a "Top Chef" winner, and located in the city's hottest restaurant 'hood possibly live up to expectations? Based on my recent visit, the answer is, somewhat surprisingly, yes. The industrial-chic decor, uber-friendly staff and adorable cartoon goats make you feel immediately welcome, unlike many trendy spots that turn up their noses at anyone without designer duds or lavish expense accounts. And the menu--divided into vegetables, fish and meat--is inventive and unusual without being intimidating.
If available the night you go in, don't miss the fat bread (there's goat fat mixed into the dough, served with liver butter and chutney), crisp skate (with grilled calamari and tomato aioli), crispy pig face (just what it sounds like), sauteed green beans (with aioli and toasted cashews) and goat cheese bavaroise (a potted dessert with a layer of brown sugar cake, blueberries, whipped goat cheese and oat crumbles on top). All meant for sharing, the server recommended two dishes each, which should be more than enough for most appetites.
I could go on, but it's probably wiser to stop reading and go make your reservation. It may be for a month from now, but after two years of waiting, what's another few weeks?
From one farm animal to another, this Avondale barbecue joint jumped on the pork trend with an emphasis on meat from local sources. Dishes including pulled pork shoulder, Texas brisket, steak and pulled chicken are served a la carte by the quarter and half pound. Baby back ribs are dry-rubbed overnight and smoked over the restaurant's secret wood blend. Anything can be made into a sandwich, and a Texas brisket taco is a steal at $2. Pair your succulent meat with corn on the cob, sweet and spicy corn bread, mac 'n' cheese or burnt-end baked beans, plus your choice of sauce.
This month proved that Logan Square still has room for even more hipster-friendly hangouts. Boiler Room stands out with its eco-friendly decor--light fixtures made from metal scraps, tables from school desks and bathroom doors from subway doors--and crazy cocktails--one is served with a side of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. There is even Jameson whiskey on tap. The food is more of an accompaniment to the drinks than the other way around, with wings, sausage, a few salads, and pizza by the slice or whole pie. Try the Logan--with mole, pulled pork, chihuahua cheese and onions--or the egg--with pancetta, pesto and a fried egg.
Onto another craze that just won't die, the self-proclaimed world's first cupcake bakery made its Chicago debut in the Gold Coast this month. Sprinkles' defining trait is the cute sugar polka dot on top of every cupcake that identifies which flavor it is. The selection changes daily and may include banana, chai latte, mocha, pumpkin, and everyone's favorite, red velvet. Reality stars Bill and Giuliana Rancic were on hand opening day, along with owner Candace Nelson. Even if you think you're over cupcakes, Sprinkles is worth a try.