As with Storefront Company a few weeks back, Phil Vettel goes to a somewhat-under-the-radar restaurant long after its first wave of reviews and finds a place that has grown into a solid, interesting choice with a year or so under its belt. This time it's Irving Park's Bread & Wine and its very whole animal-focused menu, which he gives two stars: "Highlights among the charcuterie are the slightly aromatic 'pig-face pancetta,' a house-cured and cherry-smoked head cheese infused with juniper and coriander; silky chicken liver served in a glass jar; and a tasty blood sausage that's a touch lighter than other versions I've had (a good thing)... Lamb heart, fashioned into an old-school French pate with a touch of bourbon, served over a thick smear of rhubarb mustard alongside tiny croutons and pickled ramps, is one of my favorite dishes (it's an occasional special; grab it when you can)." [Tribune]
Speaking of bread, in the Reader... and probably in the Sun-Times, though not online... Mike Sula likes the bread at Sauce and Bread Kitchen and, therefore, likes the sandwiches: "As far as the rotating sandwiches go, it's [Anne] Kostrowki's breads that advance them into destination worthiness. "Hoagies" are built on demi baguettes that might sandwich thick slices of smoked turkey, house-made bacon, feta, and chowchow, the last brightened by guajillo and tamarind, or roasted eggplant with pimento cheese, pickled fennel, and radicchio marmalade. The thick, buttered slabs of semolina boule that clad the grilled cheese—made with pimento spread, Chihuahua cheese, and mint-walnut pesto—haunt my dreams." [Reader]
Also at the Reader, Sam Worley finds surprising respect for what Kendal Duque does in the unpromising mega-sports-bar environs of American Junkie (and notes that his Chicago menu seems a good deal more sophisticated than that at the Arizona original): "A pile of lobster cradled in a beef bone does well by its shellfish—it's nothing revelatory, but the lobster's well cooked. Wild boar chili cheese fries are way too salty, but it's hard to stop eating them nonetheless; the chili is kissed with cinnamon and the cheese, whatever it is, has a nice, earthy flavor. Hanger steak, on a sandwich, is blanketed by pungent melted Taleggio, which takes particularly well to beef... If you can focus more on the foods than the dudes—and boy are there a lot of them—you might put together a decent meal out of Duque's menu. It's an aggregation of cliches—bacon-wrapped dates, mushroom risotto, soft pretzels—but, like the latest James Bond movies, they're cliches that are largely well executed." [Reader]
Marissa Conrad lays some smackdown on Oregon pizza for not bringing its A-game to Chicago: "What is Oregon-style pizza? If the pies at Homeslice, a new DePaul-area pizzeria, are a true indication of the genre, it's not worth investigating. After two friends and I slogged through a menu that can’t seem to make up its own mind (30 pizzas and a build-your-own option with five types of sauces listed, plus ranch, buttermilk or barbecue if you ask), it turns out our careful deliberations didn’t matter: A puffy, bland dough overwhelmed all the other ingredients on the pizzas we tried—save for the harsh overdose of artichoke hearts on a white pizza called the Miller. After several pies, I still have no idea how the house sauce, allegedly a pesto-marinara blend, is different from the regular marinara." [TOC]
Julia Kramer, on the other hand, regards Takito Kitchen as deliverance from the rest of the Division strip: "If I have one bone to pick with this newcomer, it's that certain of its features (the faux-graffiti logo, the predominance of tacos on the menu, the tequila selection, the late-night hours) might lead one to infer that this is just another Wicker Park taco bar. Within about one bite of Carnivale alum David Dworshak's side of asparagus, I understood how deeply I had underestimated this place. The spears of roasted asparagus were carefully placed over sauce-like, guajillo-flavored ricotta, dotted with bites of rhubarb pickled in a style akin to kimchi and crowned with a bunch of pea shoots. If this is a taco bar, it's one that's been kidnapped by Bruce Sherman." [TOC]
Chicagoist's Melissa Wiley goes for a three-hour tour on the Odyssey, the longtime Lake Michigan dinner cruise boat, and says that a renovation has improved the setting but not the food: "Our voyage’s provisions consisted of a salad bar, a Thai table with chicken pot stickers and shrimp pad Thai, a spread of proteins including tilapia, salmon, and beef, as well as a dessert bar, where the quondam chocolate fondue fountain—once apt to tip deliciously with the tide—was displaced by squat steel tubs of milk and dark chocolate sauce with strawberries on either side. All in all, there was enough to keep us from capsizing from hunger, but only just... the only item remotely worth remembering a few days later was the beef, though even that was needlessly dry." [Chicagoist]
Our reviews of Sous Rising, Tatami and Little Goat are here.