The Bristol - Chicago

>> Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Every now and again I eat a meal that reminds me of why I love food and The Bristol in Chicago's Wicker Park was one of those experiences. A self-proclaimed "neighborhood eatery and bar" The Bristol offers local, Mediterranean inspired cuisine at reasonable prices. With a menu that changes daily (they print the date on each menu and I know this because I stole one to accurately write this post) there is something for everyone.

Jef and I met up with my Dad and headed to Wicker Park. Upon walking in I already knew that this was going to be a great experience; a large chalkboard displays the menu and daily specials, a long bar lined with liquor and a friendly hostess that immediately greets us. We are seated quickly (quite a feat, normally they are packed!), ordered a cocktail (the sparkling batida if you must know), and based on recommendations from my friend Kori the monkey bread with dill dipping sauce and the duck fat fries with house ketchup and aioli.  Kori is good. Really good. Dear foodies you may not know this but I have a problem when it comes to the following:

  • Bread, in any sort of capacity so long as it's freshly baked (we're not talking about white sandwich bread - don't insult me)
  • Duck fat - if you haven't had it, then you don't know, and if you have had it, then you know why I have a problem controlling myself in it's presence
The soft monkey bread pulled apart so easily and the dill dipping sauce was the perfect complement to the sea salt that was lightly sprinkled on top. I am not embarrassed to admit that I ate 75% of this appetizer. Then the fries. Much like the meatloaf from the Meatloaf Bakery, I looked up 5 minutes later and was confused about what just happened. I know there were fries on the plate, but now they are all gone...weird. We also got scotch olives with pork sausage and lemon (pictured above), but I am not a huge olive fan so I can't really say. They seemed tasty to me and Jef and my Dad liked them enough to eat them all, so take that for what it's worth. 

After the first round of appetizers, or bar snacks as they call them, we decided that we just aren't ready for the main courses and would like to sample a couple more things. That's right appetizers round two. This time we decided to go with the pretzel crusted smelt with mustard hollandaise and the raviolo with ricotta, egg yolk and brown butter. I have never had smelt before and when the server informed us that you are suppose to eat this tiny fish whole, even I was a little nervous. One bite in and all anxiety was gone. It was the most bizarre and delicious combination I have had in a while. Obviously pretzels and mustard go together, but this little fish really took everything up a notch. It's a really interesting pairing and if you have never had smelt, I would suggest it. The ravilo with egg yolk, was good, not great, but definitely good. The pasta was a little too thick for me and overall it was a little rich after everything we had just eaten. I know that my heart rate officially slowed with every bite. 

Moderately full and ready for the next round, our entrees of chicken with mustard spatzle and crunchy salad (pictured top) and head on prawns a la plancha, anchovy butter and tarragon appeared just in time. I ordered the chicken which is unusual for me, but I just thought that everything had been so good, I imagine the chicken would be no different and I was correct. The chicken was perfectly moist, the spatzle was so different I found myself eating that more than the chicken. Spatzle is a type of egg noodle that is commonly found in German cuisine (thanks wikipedia...) and offered a unique texture and flavor to the dish. Jef ordered the chicken as well and actually thought that the whole roaster that I make was better (aw), but I am awesome so this is no surprise. My dad ordered the pawns and inhaled them before I could try so I can't say with certainty that they were good, but he really left me not evidence that they shouldn't be.

For dessert we ordered the cookie plate and it was delightful. Going again, I would probably be more adventurous but honestly we were so full we each just wanted a little something to nibble on. 

The Bistol is up there with one of my favorite eats in the city. A small, well crafted menu, with a knowledge staff and a chef that obviously cares about the quality and integrity of every dish that he serves. My Dad was so impressed that he said he would gladly take clients there over other restaurants in Chicago. I mean people, it was good. 

You can follow The Bristol on twitter here for daily specials and updates.  

Thanks to Kori for a great recommendation and The Bristol for a fabulous meal. I will be back!

2152 N. Damon
Chicago, IL 60647



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