With its DMK pedigree and proximity to one of Chicago’s not-so-secret gems, Ada Street has been one of the city’s most buzzed about new spots this spring. The tavern embraces elements that seem to be trending everywhere – think speakeasies, small plates, and post-industrial design – in a thoughtful and intimate manner that invites you in and beckons you back again.
Brick & Vinyl
Who doesn’t go weak in the knees for exposed brick? Ada Street emphatically accents its industrial setting. After entering through a series of doors and a candlelit, wood-lined lobby, you’ll follow the red brick down a lingering wine-cellar wall, its illuminated bottles casting an ambient glow. Before stepping into the bright barroom, stop at the vinyl library and select your mood music for the evening. Cheers to whoever chose Rumours on my visit.
Ever since my first gin fizz I’ve been beholden to egg whites. The Felonious features many monk-ish ingredients, including the Yellow Chartreuse and Benedictine lemon that produce the sweet and tangy taste and an abbey-style splash of ale. Even after mixologist Tim Lacey’s amicable departure, the cocktail menu tasted as legendary as the musical references its drink names honor ($10).
For a saloon supposedly not all about food, Chef Zoe Schor’s menu makes foodie eats accessible. You don’t need to love duck (I do!) to be taken with Ada Street’s duck confit. Mixed with cheesy parmigiano pasta and topped with an oozing poached egg it tastes very haute cuisine meets comfort food ($10).
No room to spare? Make some. The brioche donuts are like bite-size, sugar-sprinkled clouds. The spectacular port wine caramel dipping sauce – well I’d like to do unspeakable things with it ($10).
1664 N Ada St.
Chicago, Illinois 60642
Posted in 4 favorite things, chicago, drinking, eating, exploring, noble square
Tagged ada street, chicago, drinking, eating, exploring, noble square
Chicago is in the midst of Chef Week, and if you haven’t had the chance to dig in there’s still room to make a rezzie through this Friday, March 23. I’ve just barely had time to digest last month’s Chicago Restaurant Week, but here are my four favorite bites.
Drinks at Chicago q
Chicago q may have had the week’s best menu. Yet while the hominy, smoked corn and black bean salad and slab of St. Louis baby back were as mouth-watering as expected, it was a cocktail that ultimately won me over. Fusing rye, lemon, OJ, and cinnamon-infused simple syrup, the Orange Blossom Martini offers a spicy, citrusy way to enjoy whiskey that’s all-together too drinkable.
Apps at Bistrot Margot
Old Town’s Bistrot Margot is a mainstay of all classique French fare with charming décor and très generous portions. Simmered in garlic and butter, the satisfyingly briny escargot had me snatching every crumb off the table to soak it up even after the snails were inhaled.
Main at Blackbird
There’s no wrong way to do Blackbird, but the special five-course Restaurant Week tasting menu ($65 rather than the standard $33 or $44) seemed most fitting for my first visit. Choosing a favorite course at Paul Kahn’s gastronomic powerhouse is like choosing the most flavorful movement of an eloquent symphony (or mashup in a dubstep remix if that’s your thing). If you insist, I’ll favor the pekin duck breast. The savory fowl was aged for a week and its slight saltiness rounded out with fuyu persimmon, red wine braised radishes, black beans and sesame.
Dessert at Tapas Valencia
Tapas Valencia may have had somewhat nontraditional tapas service, but in addition to four-course menu the dessert was accompanied with a complimentary glass of cava. After devouring everything set in front of us, the decadent dessert platter of warm chocolate cake, cheesecake, almond pound cake with pear, strawberries, and ice cream drizzled in caramel seemed daunting. Thankfully we had that cava to wash it down.
For Further Exploration
Chicago Restaurant Week 2011 Recap
Posted in 4 favorite things, chicago, eating, events, exploring, gold coast, ohio city, south loop, west loop
Tagged bistrot margot, blackbird, chicago chef week, chicago q, chicago restaurant week, eating, events, gold coast, old town, south loop, tapas valencia, west loop
Just a few things that make Pitchfork my favorite music fest.
“The green line you say?” Pitchfork is just one of the fests held at Union Park, whose West Loop location is a welcome change from your usual Mag Mile or neighborhood park staples. A more under the radar location in an eclectic neighborhood, Union Park lends itself to happily to the spirit of Pitchfork. Three stages are featured at the fest, but Union Park’s manageable size allows you to see more than one act during dueling set times. If you’re feeling chillwave, lounge under clusters of trees that stand near each stage – helpful in beating the intense July heat. You may want to avoid the baseball diamonds during DJ sets, however, lest you get covered in swirling dust as hipsters kick up their heels.
Pitchfork’s less mainstream status typically offers indie fashion inspiration and more avant-garde ensembles, but I was admittedly underwhelmed by this year’s street style. While lacking in sartorial revelations there was still plenty to take in. Crop tops, denim, and maxi dresses were the standard along with feathered accessories and a liberal use of face paint. I spotted more than a few 90′s-style sunflower print baby doll dresses. Mid-ankle boots and colorful, strappy footwear made a statement – even Chacos were represented. The American flag speedo guy was just what everyone wanted to see cartwheeling, and props to the gentleman who braved the heat in a full skunk costume… he probably heard stripes are in.
Three days of standing in the sun can make you do strange things: sport hair feathers, share mysterious herbs with strangers, or spend way too much money. Luckily, Pitchfork offered more than bratwurst and band merch to distract you while taking shade. Flatstock 30 showcased dozens of gorgeous concert posters, and it was fun finding shows we had attended amid the colorful and creative illustrations. Coterie Chicago highlighted the craftiness of local artists; and I am currently enjoying scribbling in the recycled Chicago notebook I picked up. As always, the CHIRP Record Fair offered an enticing array of all music genres for devoted vinyl-philes.
Sunday was scorching in terms of both mercury level and musical lineup. I started the day with Yuck and Kurt Vile, whose mellow sounds beat the heat while I sprawled in refuge under some trees. Ariel Pink’s set sounded like sun stroke and OFWGKTA were definitely spitting energy, if not brilliant rhymes. A soulful show by Deerhunter gladly brought me back to the fold after a less satisfying previous experience. Cut Copy reinvigorated a sun-addled fest and as the glare lessened later in the day, the entire crowd throbbed to their electric performance. “Let’s get crazy,” Dan Whitford commanded, and we did. Headliner TV on the Radio closed out the evening with a rousing performance that sounded nothing like listening to their albums…in a good way. They picked up the pace and intensity on old favorites, tracks from this year’s Nine Types of Light , and even a cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” The worst feeling in the world is coming down from a fest high at work on Monday, but I flowed right through it on the save of Sunday’s afterglow.
The $2 Arnold Palmer’s at Wishbone’s booth. A refreshing and frugal alternative to beer, and the perfect complement to a furtive flask of vodka…or two.
Posted in 4 favorite things, chicago, listening, music notes, union park, west loop
Tagged listening, music notes, my four favorite things, p4k, pitchfork music festival, union park, west loop
What’s on tap to love at the West Loop’s Haymarket Pub & Brewery?
The lauded Pete Crowley, a Rock Bottom Brewery veteran, is at the helm of the deliciousness going on in Haymarket’s brewery. We sample the bright and hoppy Speakerswagon Pilsner, the darker Mother Jones Trappist-style Dubbel, offering hints of nut and raisin, and the citrusy IPA cum Hunter S. Thompson homage, Fear. If mere exposure translated to expertise, I’d claim connoisseur. Instead, I offer my inexpert imbibing opinion – it’s really, really good. The Thompson companion beverage, Loathing, is due out soon, though I’m certain that won’t be my response when I return to try it along with the ten or so other home brews. Haymarket’s drafts are brewed on premises, behind glass so you can watch the magic unfold just as fast as you can drink it in.
“I can never go back to regular pizza,” my companion admits. “There are just too many incredible options in Chicago with unique toppings.” Enter pulled pork. The Riot is the pizza version of Haymarket’s signature sandwich. The spicy Italian sausage and giardinera balanced with mozzarella and the epiphany of pulled pork glazed with sweet BBQ is full of heat and flavor. Admittedly, we haven’t expanded our sampling of the menu, which includes house-cured bacon, but with a Riot like this on our hands we don’t have to.
Drinking & Writing Theater
While the pub’s front room is more West Loop formal, the rear room houses Haymarket’s “Drinking & Writing Theater.” Heaven, is that you? Imagine my excitement! I know I needn’t explain the symbiotic marriage of the activities to you, sympathetic readers; however, I can’t imagine Charles Bukowski lounging within its sleek wood-lined walls, although his poster hangs here. Freshly freed office workers and the casually cool hang in the gorgeous and maybe too-clean space. Despite the disappointment of one half-hearted bookshelf, the room serves its purpose well as I manage to get some writing done before the arrival of my friend, and definitely while drinking.
“Exploring the Connection between Creativity and Alcohol“
This is the mission statement of, Drinking and Writing, the performance troupe behind the aforementioned theater. Pestering my waitress, I learn that the rear room of the brew pub is indeed a space for events and performances geared toward inspiration and inebriation. The group also performs on stage, hosts a radio program, and an annual festival, which I regrettably missed on May 7. I learn, “They have performed with the Neo-Futurists for years, and some of them are brewers here.” A toast to my potential new best friends!
Haymarket Pub & Brewery
737 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60661
Posted in 4 favorite things, chicago, drinking, eating, performing, west loop, writing
Tagged belgian, chicago, craft brew, drinking, eating, four faorite things, haymarket, IPA, performing, pizza, pork, west loop, writing
Ca Nuong at Le Colonial
Cutting into this salmon dish is like slicing butter; and like butter, the tender protein virtually melts in your mouth. Paired with vermicelli and a ginger-lime garlic sauce and served with greens, the flavors are delicately balanced and the portion is more than satisfying.
Le Colonial has just been added to my list of favorite dining spots in the city.
Goat Cheese Empanadas at Branch27
In my opinion, anything served with goat cheese is an instant favorite. The empanada is substantial and not flakey, and is served with a chipotle aioli and cilantro. Branch27 offers an interesting spin on a hands-on classic. The staff is more than accommodating to our large party, and I note some weeknight specials that will have me returning to this wood-lined restaurant.
Sautéed Rainbow Trout at Duchamp
Another winning fish dish, the trout packs great flavor served simply with lemony, buttery goodness. I must say that I am disappointed by Duchamp’s complete menu change, as well the inability to order from the restaurant’s regular menu. All is forgiven with my first pleasing bite, as Duchamp’s minimalist interior allows its food to be the focal point.
Lychee Martini at Le Colonial
Did I mention enjoying Le Colonial? The food, the service, the ambiance are all exceptional. I can list each element of our meals here, but that would be to overlook the delicious libations menu. Our favorite is the refreshing and flavorful lychee martini that goes down a little too well.
Pho at Le Colonial
Altovinium Evodia Garnacha at Branch27
Posted in 4 favorite things, bucktown, drinking, eating, events, exploring, gold coast, west town
Tagged branch27, bucktown, drinking, duchamp, eating, events, gold coast, le colonial, restaurant week, west town
In honor of Valentine’s Day I painstakingly narrowed down four of my favorite reasons to love Chicago.
The breathtaking Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural center is one of my favorite hidden gems in the city.
I love popping in to admire the world’s largest Tiffany dome anytime I’m strolling downtown, and the gorgeous marble grand staircase inlaid with authors’ name is blissful to a bibliophile like me. There’s no shortage of museums, exhibitions, and events in Chicago to keep culture vultures occupied year-round.
The “26 miles of magic” of Chicago’s Lakefront is a unique and compelling city feature . Active cyclists, runners, and rollerbladers share the trail with beach bums. Whether sunning in the sand with an illicit beverage or taking in the skyline during a run, the Lakefront is a distinctive Chicago feature I regularly take advantage of. The number of parks and green spaces in one of the country’s largest cities are filled with festivals, movies, and outdoor fun in the months Chicagoans indulge in the sun.
Live blues seven nights a week, two stages, and late night hours – yes Kingston Mines is one of my regular Chicago stops. Whether it’s a house regular like Joanna Connors, up-and-coming artists earning their chops, or legends dropping in for a surprise set, music and merrymaking at the Mines is a favorite pastime. The range of venues in Chicago allow you to get up-close to indie acts at the Empty Bottle, rock out in classic fashion at the Riviera, or lounge on the lawn at Pritzker Pavilion. I don’t know whether there is anything better than festival weekends at Pitchfork and Lollapalooza. As one who spends a lot of my time and salary on show-going, it’s great that obscure or arena-status acts all stop by the Windy City.
There are more amazing restaurants to try in Chi than days in the year or dollars in my paycheck. It’s great to splurge sometimes, but for everyday dining out Chicagoans savor the BYOB. Interesting city liquor laws allow restaurateurs to obtain a BYOB license, which enables guests to booze on the cheap by bringing their own libations. Over 300 restaurants in Chicago are BYOB, ranging from boutique fine cuisine to delicious dives. My favorite Chicago BYOB is Chef Rick Spiros’ new venture The Bento Box. Asian fusion at its finest, the rotating menu features mouth-watering favorites including the spicy beef bulgogi, Jidori chicken, Duroc pork belly with sweet potato chili, and Thai meatballs with lime leaf curry.
Posted in 4 favorite things, chicago, drinking, eating, exploring, listening
Tagged 4 favorite things, chicago, drinking, eating, exploring, listening
Allow me to offer an exploring snapshot of my four favorite things about
The Second City’s mainstage show “Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies.”
Spoiler Alerted, Boredom Averted
The characters and audience face the same limited life span so the cast wastes no time in reliving the spectacle of ourselves. Office politics, reality TV watching, uncomfortable cocktail conversation, and sports spectatorship are all viewed differently when we expect death is knocking.
With each new sketch, I have a harder time choosing a favorite cast member, almost like when I watch Arrested Development. Don’t get too excited this is no AD, but a balance of overt physical comedy, with some smart subtlety, and a little booze ensures this cast of definite characters entertains.
From Sam Richardson’s sassy stylist shtick to an improv interpretation of the Chicago mayoral candidates, the audience-prompted portion produced some of the evening’s most tear-inducing laughs.
Sunday Night LOLs
Maybe more entertaining than church, this show keeps you laughing through the onset of any case of the Mondays, whether or not induced by vodka pitchers available (pitchers!). New rule = I’m only attending Second City on Sundays.
photo credit [1, 2, 3, 4]