Dining while celebrating the holidays in Wicker Park-Bucktown

Dining While Holiday Shopping
Part 2: Hitting the Boutique (Eateries) in Wicker Park Bucktown

by Lee Barrie and Cindy Kurman
Story originally appeared in StreetWise

In part two of our guide to eating while holiday shopping, we journey through the hip, creative and casual Wicker Town/Bucktown area. This neighborhood is teeming with stylish stores that showcase the latest trends in fashion with a strong international flavor. We can say the same for the dining scene. Wicker Park Bucktown is one of Chicago’s leading destinations for cutting edge food with a global influence, offered up with casual chic presentation that appeals to both young and old.

Of note is the fact that Wicker Park Bucktown is also an area where many of Chicago’s finest chefs have chosen to open a more casual sister to their upscale restaurants located elsewhere in Chicago. In addition, several chefs have lay claim to the area as their home base. So let’s take a look at some spots that are worth the time spent away from the boutiques.

Dinner Only: shop first, then eat; eat early, then shop—or forget the shopping and just enjoy dinner with a friend

2118 N. Damen, Chicago
(773) 235-6434; www.duchamp-chicago.com

With one of the more flexible menus we’ve seen in a bistro, this upscale casual eatery is the brainchild of chef Michael Taus (Zealous) and the folks from Lumen bar and lounge in the West Loop. The menu offers many small plates, large plates and sides—mix and match to suit your taste and appetite. Although the menu changes often, you’ll find such small plates as Seared Sea Scallop with ragout of cannellini beans and pancetta and Mini Braised Duck Rillette Tartines & Chilled Cauliflower Puree. Large plate selections include Amish Chicken Paillard with French feta, eggplant gateau and roasted plum tomato sauce; Braised Pork Shoulder with puttanesca ragout, wilted spinach and grilled polenta. One of our favorites is the Duchamp Havarti Cheese Burger with tomato rémoulade—the meat is a custom blend designed by the chef and it’s a foodie’s delight. Brunch is served on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Closed on Mondays.

Adobo Grill
2005 W. Division, Chicago

(773) 252-9990; www.adobogrill.com
Adobo Grill serves some of the better Mexican and southwestern cuisine in Chicago. It’s at least a cut or two above your standard fare and the dishes use fresh, authentic ingredients and employ carefully chosen flavor combinations. For starters, try the signature homemade chunky guacamole, prepared tableside, either mild or spicy. Other good choices are the Ceviche Tasting with several varieties, or the Empanadas de Camarón, corn masa empanadas stuffed with sautéed shrimp, cheese and tomatillo salsa, topped with sour cream and fresco cheese.
Entrées we enjoy include Lomito En Mole Negro, grilled pork tenderloin in Oaxacan black mole, with fresh corn tamal and sautéed garlicky spinach; Enchiladas de Pollo, chicken enchiladas basted in mole rojo, topped with sour cream, añejo cheese, and onions; black Tilapia Al Mojo De Ajo, pan seared tilapia with Mexican rice, zucchini, garlicky salsa; Pollo Al Tamarindo, grilled half chicken in tamarind-chipotle glaze with molcajete salsa, guacamole & charro beans; Arrachera Adobada, grilled flank steak in chile morita quemada adobo, frijoles puerco, grilled tomatoes & onions, and the Camarones En Pipian Rojo, chipotle marinated grilled shrimp with plantain rice zucchini fideos and guajillo-sesame seed sauce.
For dessert, go for the flan or try the Tamal De Chocolate, a chocolate tamal with vanilla ice cream, dried cherries and chocolate sauce.
Every Tuesday, The Adobo Grill offers a mix and match menu for $20, any combo of an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. Brunch is served at 11 a.m. on Sunday, with the restaurant staying open through evening hours.
Open for Lunch: eat and shop—then eat again. Yum.
The Fifty/50
2047 W. Division; Chicago
(773) 489-5050; www.thefifty50.com
This comfort food bar and burger spot is one of the most popular in the area. The $10+ Triple Secret Burger is the drawing card. Start with a sauce: BBQ, Teriyaki, Chipotle Aioli, Buffalo, Marinara, Spicy Garlic. Then add your choice of seven cheeses and then add your toppings, which include the usual suspects plus such goodies as a fried egg, pulled pork, creamed spinach and guacamole.
Other sandwich choices are hearty and satisfying: Pulled Pork, Chicago-style Reuben, the unique “Barbe Cuban” with pulled pork, and the Skirt Steak on Garlic Bread. If you’re super hungry, go for the Smoked Baby Back Ribs, Fried Chicken, Skirt Steak or Jumbo Shrimp.
1927 W. North Ave., Chicago
This high-energy brew pub is about pizza and homemade brew and it’s a great place to hang out and relax between shopping rounds. The rectangular shaped pizza features thin, hand-patted crust, made New Haven-style. Choose plain, red or white sauce and then choose from a variety of interesting toppings, such as spinach, jalapenos, black olives, anchovies, banana peppers, fresh tomatoes, roasted red peppers, sautéed mushrooms, Italian sausage, mashed potatoes, artichoke hearts, fresh basil, bacon, clams, pepperoni, meatballs, chicken, broccoli and ricotta cheese. There are also a number of tasty comfort-food starters plus sandwiches like a Meatball Sub and Eggplant Parmesan.
If you’re a beer aficionado, you’ll appreciate the quality of their homemade beers which run the gamut from a rye beer to a German-style Kolsch Bier, an American-style strong pale ale, a German-style bock and a wheat ale.
If you’re organizing a group shopping party, you can reserve an area of the Party Pit, near the front door. And don’t forget the Dessert Pizza, topped with chocolate hazelnut sauce and mascarpone. OMG.
Hot Chocolate
1747 N. Damen, Chicago
Wicker Park Bucktown is the home this restaurant owned by a James Beard nationally-nominated pastry chef Mindy Segal. We’d be foolish to say just come in for dessert—although that would be quite an experience in itself—because the savory food is delicious and creatively conceived.
At lunchtime, for starters, try the Chicken Salad, made with roasted Gunthorp Farms chicken, or the Green Bean Haricot Vert, with warm butter poached potato pickled mushrooms, Maytag blue cheese honey and chili vinaigrette. There are roughly ten sandwiches on the menu, including Prosciutto with fresh mozzarella, basil, balsamic aioli served on housemade baguette, and the Reuben, made with corned pork belly, house-made sauerkraut, gruyere cheese toasted pumpernickel bread with remoulade.
At dinnertime, starters include Bay Scallops with cider braised spaghetti squash, seared Nantucket Bay scallops, bacon, pickled jalapenos, micro cilantro and cider gastrique and the signature Pretzel: Schlenkerla-smoked, beer-poached soft pretzels, lamb neck rillettes with “pickeled” duck fat, housemade sassafras mustard. A good salad choice is the Winter Panzanella: warm roasted baby beets, toasted pumpernickel Capriole Farm old Kentucky tomme, frisee, clementines and sherry vinaigrette. Entrée choices include Short Rib with blue cheese spatzle, red wine roasted cipollini onions spiced carrot puree, crispy shallot salad and braising jus; crispy skinned Arctic Char with green lentils, pickled white leek salad, green leek puree, beurre; Cassoulet, a rustic French bean stew with pork belly, duck confit, housemade lamb sausage flagolet beans, fennel scented duck broth and duck fat brise, or the Wild Mushroom Lasagna, made with housemade pasta, wild mushrooms, sautéed spinach buffalo milk ricotta, tomato sauce shaved radish salad.
If you come to Hot Chocolate for your sweet tooth you are in for a treat, no question about it. Indulge in one of the amazing milkshakes or hot chocolate recipes. And Mindy’s signature desserts are some of the best anywhere, period. Here are two to consider: A Study In Chocolate Cake, made from chocolate buttermilk and bittersweet chocolate mousse layer cake, Valrhona chocolate cake ice cream “cupcake” with chocolate frosting, fresh honey cream and honey comb, and Ode To The Whatchamacallit, made with milk chocolate peanut butter mousse, malted caramel milk, chocolate cocoa crispies and a shot of peanut butter milkshake.
Note: DineWise is a weekly column appearing in StreetWise magazine. Lee Barrie is on the StreetWise board of directors and he and his wife Cindy own Kurman Communications, a Chicago-based public relations agency specializing in lifestyle, restaurant and hospitality strategic branding, marketing promotions, media relations and social networking. If you’d like your restaurant to be featured on the DineWise blog and in StreetWise magazine, please contact mailto:dinewise@kurman.com
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