Trip Report from NYC Hound: The Aviary, Publican's New Holland Beer Dinner, Jam, Big Star, Next Restaurant, Sable, Purple Pig
Thanks to Irene, we didn't get to try as many new places as I would have liked, but we did manage to do a lot.
I'm sad we had to cancel our Topolobampo reservations, but at least we actually made it to Chicago, with all of the airport closures on the east coast.
SABLE: As soon as we checked into the Hotel Palomar around 5pm, we headed down to Sable, which is essentially the best hotel bar ever. My husband's Running with Scissors (Hendrick’s Gin, Solerno, Campari, muddled strawberry, lemon) was very good but very bitter despite its red color. Still delicious, though. I had the Dans le Nuit (Pierre Ferrand Ambre, pistachio syrup, Marie Brizard Orange Curacao, lime) which was very good but on the sweeter side. I loved it.
Freddy, the bartender on duty that evening, also made my husband a mezcal take on a Last Word, to pair with the chicken and waffles we'd order (it was only OK, too much waffle in the chicken to waffle ratio).
After a few rounds at Sable, we took a quick cab ride to The Aviary, where we were immediately seated outside on the patio.
AVIARY: Once again, adored the drinks here. Had a past favorite, the Blueberry, with red vermouth, verjus, Templeton rye, fresh blueberries, dried blueberries, pomegranate, strawberries, grapefruit peel, and mint. So good.
Even better was the the "chartreuse" tasting and the deconstructed Bloody Mary. For "Chartreuse" you actually get a wooden box filled with herbs and three glasses: yellow and green chartreuse with pineapple, green chartreuse with mint and honeydew, and carbonated green chartreuse with blueberry. And mint ice cubes in each glass. Great even if you don't like Chartreuse!
The deconstructed Bloody Mary was great, too. Frozen Worcestershire sauce, frozen balls of celery, Fresno chili ice cubes, with "noodles" of white tomato-flavored ice, and a celery stalk, in a glass Freshly squeezed tomato juice, Karlsson’s vodka in a separate carafe. And you get to mix it all together. Great, fun, flavorful drink, and very playful. The antidote to watery Bloody Marys!
Also really liked the Peach cocktail with maple sap soda, Peychaud's bitter ice spheres, and wheat whiskey. Unusual, sweet, fruity, and the wheat whiskey added a very different note.
Aviary is a must-visit if you like cocktails. I can't wait to get back.
PUBLICAN: I'd reserved months ago, but someone from the restaurant called to say they were having a New Holland Beer Dinner that night, and offered to rebook us at Publican or elsewhere, which was very nice. We decided to attend the $55 dinner anyway.
Started with an excellent salad of honeydew, cantaloupe, thinly shaved country ham, and arugula. Really nice flavor combination. Next up was an delicious roasted chicken with perfectly crispy skin, served with a ground cherry chimicurri sauce of sorts. Wonderful, flavorful, and just what I'd expect from the Publican. The next course was grilled flatiron steak, cooked medium rare, with peppers, which was good, but not as good as the chicken. I was also getting kind of full by this time. I still saved space, though, for the Poets Tomme Cheese with a tomato jam that was intense and seemed more like strawberries than tomatoes. Excellent! Finished with a kind of weird dessert. Sweet corn ice cream, coffee streusel, dark chocolate, freeze dried corn kernels on top. Not bad but not especially good either. We were also stuffed by this point.
JAM: Had an awesome brunch here the next morning. Sat outside on the patio. Nice amuse of a tiny orange tea cake. Malted custard French toast, macerated cherries, citrus cream, pink peppercorn was great. Definitely on the less sweet, more subtle side, but I really enjoyed the pink peppercorn notes. Crisp on the outside, custardy on the inside. Also had the Eggs Benedict with crispy pork belly and fennel hollandaise. Very creative, and that fennel hollandaise was wonderful. It really did taste like fennel. The crispy pork belly was also perfectly cooked.
BIG STAR: Quick lunch here. The pork belly tacos were delicious as usual. I really liked the queso fundido but it was definitely on the greasy side due to the cheese and chorizo. The crispy cheese on top was nice, though. Messy! The other item we tried was the Sonoran hot dog, which was interesting but not necessarily something I'd order again. It was a quarter-pound Vienna Beef dog wrapped in bacon, topped with pinto beans, onions and green hot sauce, topped with lime mayonnaise and mustard and served in a bolillo roll. The roll didn't seem to add much as it was a little dry, but the hot dog itself and toppings were tasty. I also had a great highball cocktail of Buffalo Trace bourbon and Sprecher root beer.
NEXT: Loved the whole experience, esp. amazing beef cheek curry (such high quality ingredients and beef that fell apart in your mouth) and delectable desserts. Rose infused dragon fruit served with an actual rose for aroma was one of my favorite things. As well as the incredible coconut dessert. An empty coconut. One half filled with coconut sorbet. Egg pudding, coconut ice, saffron noodles, candied lime, licorice tapioca, star anise syrup, in the other. Obviously the ticketing process was frustrating but the meal itself was definitely worth it. Very high ingredients and care in the kitchen.
SABLE Pt 2: I really had wanted to go to Doughnut Plant but my husband said he didn't feel like having a pile of sugary carbs after having dinner at Next the previous night. As expected breakfast here was kind of ho-hum. Egg sandwich was decent enough as were the waffles, but it was nothing out of the ordinary, just very convenient. Definitely a better place for dinner and/or drinks.
PURPLE PIG: I had wanted to try Uno/Due but we were low on time, so ended up here instead. Not that we disliked our meal! Started off with a fantastic dish of fresh corn, cherry tomatoes, all tossed in an arugula pesto. Summer in a bowl, our server said, and she was absolutely right! Very refreshing and hit the spot for a super hot day. The eggplant caponata with goat cheese was great but very filling. The grilled summer vegetables with farro were refreshing and had wonderful roasted grape tomatoes that exploded with flavor. Good combination of textures, too, and slightly acidic in a good way.
Roasted bone marrow with parsley salad and capers was excellent, just as it was last time we visited. I also loved the morcilla with fava beans and breadcrumbs. Great flavors, and a good contrast to some of our other dishes. Five dishes proved to be a bit much, though, and we took some morcilla and fava beans in a doggie bag. They heated up quite nicely!
So that's our 48 hours in Chicago. I only wish we could have spent more time!
445 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610
2501 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL
500 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611
Thanks for posting your excellent report! I can understand why your reputation on your home forum precedes you. :)
Incidentally, since you mention breakfast at Sable, and French toast at Jam, ... I haven't tried everything on Sable's breakfast menu, but I've had Chef's mascarpone stuffed brioche French toast; if you enjoy sweeter breakfast dishes, hers is really excellent.
If you're interested in trying other versions of French toast around Chicagoland, you might be interested in this photoessay of the best French toast, as it appeared in the Tribune: http://chicago.metromix.com/restauran... I've been working my way through the ones shown there - I've hit 9 out of the 15 that still exist - and so far I'm mostly in agreement with their choices, especially their top pick of Jerry's in north suburban Winnetka. (Yes, Jam is in there too.)