Trip Report - Thanks Chicago Hounds!
This is from the request I made here:
Hi All, Big thanks to all the Chicago Hounds for a fantastic week of incredible food. I attempted to do a trip report earlier – and in fact DID do a trip report as soon as I got back, with pictures of the dishes we ate and everything, but after I hit the submit button, I lost everything and failed to back it up. This was disheartening, but I’m giving it another go, since I really do appreciate your feedback and I know I appreciate it when I hear back from folks on my local board.
So, we arrived on a Sunday, just about in time to catch the second half of our beloved Ravens. Fortunately, we were staying right across the street from Gino’s right? Wrong! They had numerous televisions playing, two or three, understandably enough playing the Bears game, but at least one playing a game no one was watching. We let the hostess know we were there to see the Ravens, she went to the bartender to see if one of the bar tvs could be switched, he appeared harassed so the manager was called. He was rude and dismissive. He even surmised that the Ravens weren’t playing til 3:00pm. Huh? Sorry, dude, but they’re playing now. In any event, what seemed to be the middle of our conversation, he simply walked away. We weren’t sure that’s what he had done, until we asked the hostess if that was it. She shrugged her shoulders, and so we walked out. Fortunately, we went down the street to the South Loop Club. A dive bar was just what the doctor ordered. Oh yah. When your server has great big tattoos across her well-endowed, very present breasts, we knew we were in the right place. My husband and I saddled up, ordered a local brew, some wings and sat down for the rest of the game. The Bears and Ravens won, so we left the place pretty pleased and in a good mood. Just in time to get back to the hotel, take a shower and head to Bristol.
Bristol: We took the train and then walked. No big thing at all. In fact, a pretty cool way to go. When we first walked in the hostess eyed us up ever so slightly. There was NO way I was dressing up, since I knew I’d have to every day for work, so I was in over-sized jeans and a t-shirt. No matter, she was lovely, friendly, helpful. Had a table, but decided to sit at the bar. We were well cared for by Dave, the bartender. I started my evening meal with a smoked Sicilian Manhattan. Okay, but I like a solid punch when going for the hard stuff, and I wondered whether there was enough alcohol in the drink. I’m sure there was, but others more favorably disposed to sweeter Manhattans would like this more then I did. Bill let Dave know he doesn’t like a hoppy beer and was promptly given a wonderful IPA that tasted more like a lager. Yum, he says. He followed that up with a nice Pinot Noir. We shared two appetizers; the Pork Loin Tonnato which rested below some frieze lettuce, and was dressed with capers and a lovely resisting with generous flakes of pecorino. Really interesting combo of ingredients which worked well. The pork was room temperature and deli style. That was followed by the Prawns ala Pancha. This dish was grilled, with heads attached, but sliced so you could pick the meat out with a fork provided. Sprinkled with a anchovy butter drippings and tarragon. This was nothing special, but delightfully presented. The winner, though was the seasonably prepared Cavatelli pasta dish with rapini pesto, lemon, pecorino, pine nuts. It was outstanding. I loved the edition of the rapini which is a vegetable I'd never heard of but apparently in the broccoli family. I believe just the stems were used here. Cooked just a tad so they still had that crunchy texture. Yum. We had the Monkey bread with the pasta dish. This was just as yummy as the reviews suggest.
I had a lunch of tamales at La Cocina. Respectable, but I’ve had better at my local stop when I lived in Dupont Circle in DC.
The Girl and the Goat: YES, we got in! We walked down to get in to Au Cheval, but decided to stop at the Girl and the Goat just to see if there was bar room. Not a chance. But since we arrived at 5:00pm, they took us provided we agreed to exit at 6:15pm. Oh yah! No problem. This place is utterly, ridiculously amazing, from the ambience, the space, the service, and the food. Our waiter suggested the beers, and the suggestions were spot on. I had the Bells Two Hearted Ale. Loved it. Never heard of it before. They had a wonderfully eclectic beer selection. Bill had the Edna Valley Pinot Noir. He loved it. Our food frenzy began with the Raw Koshi Muscat Eel Mignonette with Tarragon. Very lovely beginning. We followed with the Kona Kampachi Crudo. Oh dear Lord. That was a WOW. The pork belly bits were simply to die for and we loved the addition of the caperberries. We also ordered the Royal Red Shrimp Ceviche which was very good. Only comment we both had was that perhaps the hummus didn’t work so well with this dish.
Highlight of the meal, and the week was the Wood Oven Roasted Pig Face. You’ve all heard about this dish before, so I won’t add to the commentary, other than to say that it would be quite difficult to talk this one up too much. We weren’t done. We also ordered the Confit Goat Belly, which was outstanding. We thought that perhaps they could have drizzled the bourbon butter on the dish, though, rather than have the dish rest in it. For dessert we shared the Milk Chocolate and Galangal Napoleon. Yum. I ended with a 12 year old Bourbon, and Bill ended with the surprise drink of the week. This was an after dinner Chianti Classico. A 2003 Felsina Vin Santo which was a beautiful cross between a sherry and a port. Worth every penny of that $22. We were so worried we would keep our end of the bargain and leave at 6:15, but our waiter assured us we were fine. We did get out of there before 7:00pm and the place was packed.
Topolobambo: Meh. Whatever. The space wasn’t really very welcoming, the servers were super uptight, and the service was really just okay. Nothing was explained very well, and what was explained was done in a rather rushed fashion. Bill and I ordered a lot of food. And, really, to be fair, it was all very good. They did bring us our main course with our appetizers which we found irritating. They noted this and took it away until we were finished.
Au Cheval: Wow. The cheeseburger with the bacon was absolutely the best cheeseburger I’ve ever had. We got their early so we could be sure to get in, and we did. We sat at the bar, loved our server who recommended some great brew. I had the Firestone Walker Union Jack. We also got the Cripsy Potato Hash with Duck Heart Gravy. Au Cheval and Girl and the Goat were hands down the best two restaurants of the week.
HELP. My husband and I couldn’t bring ourselves to trek for a meal. So, we ended up at Hackneys. I was a good girl and got the split pea soup. It was actually quite good. The food was good here, and the service was fine. It was a fine way to end our week.
You folks live in the most beautiful city in the country. I just thoroughly enjoyed walking around your beautiful streets. It was a pleasure to visit and I hope to do so again soon. Thanks for your help.
Thank you for your report. Glad you had a nice trip. Based on your reviews and what you ordered, on your next visit, I'd recommend considering the Publican, Yusho, Purple Pig, and Avec. Little Goat Diner is an obvious choice too, a modern diner (a la Au Cheval, although I prefer the horse to this goat) from Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat), unless you want to repeat your earlier faves.