What to Eat This Week: Wild Boar Chili, New Fall Menu at Southport Grocery & Cafe, Beachy Eats at Summer House Santa Monica Restaurant and Pizza Next Door at Stella Barra
News flash: the weather in Chicago is frigid. It's days like these that hurt to live, and make us all collectively wonder why we don't migrate in a V-shaped pattern down to Miami every fall/winter. No doubt Chicago weather can be rough, but fortunately there are comforting, hearty, sunny menus all over town that make the haul worth it.
Wild Boar Chili at State and Lake Chicago Tavern
From cheesy, apple mustard-adorned pretzels to cheese curd-laden burgers, the fall menu at State and Lake Chicago Tavern makes brisk days in Chicago entirely worth it. The restaurant peddles contemporary Midwestern comfort food with aplomb, putting an elegant riff on dishes that would otherwise sound heavy and unruly. The perfect cure for the November chills is a bowl of wild boar chili. It's extra delicious because it makes you feel like you're utterly primal, tearing into wild boar flesh out on a safari or something. The heady dish is more solid and meaty than most soup-like chilis. You could easily eat this with a fork, for instance, making it more like a bun-less sloppy Joe than your standard chili. Crumbly bits of spiced wild boar meat mingle with Green Line beer, giant lima beans, and Cedar Grove cheddar, making for one dynamic and warming meal.
(Wild boar chili at State and Lake Chicago Tavern)
Green Bean Poutine at Southport Grocery & Cafe
A new fall menu is in place at Southport Grocery & Cafe, the Lakeview charmer that recently added dinner service to its ever-popular brunch and lunch lineup. Just when you thought you had this cafe figured out, cupcake pancakes and all, along comes curry-scented raviolo, cranberry-orange floats, and fall-tastic salads brimming with apples, pickled pears, kale, smoked onion marmalade, peppered pecans, and Gouda. The stunner of the autumn roster at Southport, however, is green bean poutine. Poutine is innately rich and perfect for fall anyway, which is what makes Southport's novel interpretation so exemplary. Tempura-fried green beans take the place of fries, flecked with crackly bits of housemade bacon, and a healthy drizzle of shiitake mushroom gravy. Some crunchy fried onions on top are a playful nod to everyone's favorite Thanksgiving casserole.
Escape to Santa Monica Via Halsted Street
Just what we all need during these times of bitter cold are a quasi-vacation to the California shores. Thanks to Lincoln Park newcomer Summer House Santa Monica, now we can! One of the latest Lettuce Entertain You endeavors, Summer House does its name justice with an all-white, beachy interior (complete with a countdown to summer calendar on the wall), and a menu of West Coast-y eats that will make you forget all about your hypothermia. The California-inspired fare bounces all over the place, from vegetables and tacos to seafood and sandwiches. There are also random menu categories such as wood-fired, things we love, and "stuff." 'Nuff said. Standouts include the exceptional ahi tuna tostadas served on round, salty chips with mounds of watermelon-avocado-cilantro-strewn tuna. The fresh Burrata is also vivifying, served with housemade bread and bedecked with roasted celery root, lemon, fresno chile, and shaved baby fennel. Also, in case you're hit with the compulsion to purchase a beach ball, you can literally do so here.
(Green bean poutine at Southport Grocery & Cafe)
Head Next Door for Pizza
Summer House already has an adjacent sister spot in Stella Barra, a pizzeria rooted in West Coast culture. Like its beachy compatriot, Stella has origins in California, with locations in Hollywood and Santa Monica. Artisan pizzas and plates make their way to Lincoln Park in dishes such as shaved mushroom and Gruyere pizza, crudos, housemade pasta, pristine salads, sandwiches, and more.