I always come to Chicago to eat. I have a running list of places I’ve never been and really should try and then I also look for what’s new and hot so I can try that too. It was a fair amount of eating this trip but even more time in transit since I stayed way north at my friend’s condo in Andersonville. Sometimes I forget how big this city really is.
But all that traveling was worth it and here are the two new restaurants that made an impression on me this week.
The new tex-mex diner from the One Off Hospitality group that includes chef Paul Kahan and restaurants like Big Star, Blackbird and Avec.
Diners are my favorite places to eat uncomplicated food. Breakfast especially. I like sitting at a counter watching short order cooks do their business, the food always arrives hot and fast and I can get in and get out in 30 minutes for $10. However, when famous chefs open diners they serve complicated expensive food and it usually takes forever to get it. While I appreciate the homage, the anticipation and immediate popularity of such places combined with the menu prices eliminate all the great elements of the original concept (fast, cheap, unfussy), leaving only the visuals.
A couple of years ago I tried the Little Goat Diner right after it opened. The wait was SO LONG and the food was only ok because there’s hardly any food in the world worth a 2 hour wait. I haven’t been back to Little Goat and I’ve been leery of famous chef diners ever since.
So, imagine my pleasure when the wait at Dove’s Luncheonette was only about 20 minutes on a Saturday around 1pm and the food was really really good!
I had the chili rellenos. They were super light, fried in tempura batter and filled with fresh farmer’s cheese, the texture of ricotta. I had a spicy bloody maria topped with pickled beans to wash it down and naturally fell into conversation with the friendly group of artists seated next to me. Lunch counter seating encourages conversation with strangers.
I’d recommend Dove’s Luncheonette because the food is carefully prepared and quite great, the window seating has a nice view of passing humanity and it’s literally right across the street from the train station. For visitors, I caution you to temper your expectations. It could be a long wait to sit on backless stools and it’s not a place for a big group. Don’t wait more than 30 minutes or you’ll be annoyed and hate the experience.
Up north in Andersonville is Little Bad Wolf, a new bar from the people that formerly owned The Burger Philisophy
It’s advertised as American food but the menu has a strongly Mexican influence
Like chips and salsa. Ok arguably, chips and salsa have been coopted by every sports bar in the US so they could conceivably be considered American. And these were good ones, fresh hot chips with great salsa options.
Creamy spicy corn? That’s Mexican through and through. The tempura battered avocado was a great touch and I loved everything about this, including the cast iron dish. I wasn’t impressed with the chopped salad we ordered, bland and disappointing (albeit gigantic), but I’ve never seen hard root beer on tap so I had to try it. Too sweet for me but quite an alcoholic kick so… beware.
I liked LBW. It’s a cute neighborhood bar and I enjoy the copper and cobalt
If you go, order the elote.
Tomorrow, a round up of the rest of my brief Chicago visit.