Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Trenchermen

Trenchermen
Brunch, Dinner, Drinks
Neighborhood: Wicker Park
Address: 2039 W. North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647
Phone Number: (773) 661-1540
Website

Price Range: $15-23 for brunch, $25-35 for dinner
Our Rating: 4.5 out of 5

What We Tried: Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Danish, Pork Flight, Pretzel Bagel, Bacon Mortadella Breakfast Sandwich, Avocado Toast, Kyle’s Breakfast Sandwich (AKA Breakfast Reuben)

Our Take: The building in which Trenchermen now resides opened during the 1920’s as the Luxor Russian Baths, a social space for hard-working immigrants to take a load off, steam, and grab a drink and bite to eat. Though the baths are long gone, many pieces of the building’s past have been incorporated into Trenchermen’s effortlessly hip Prohibition-era décor. More importantly, though, the friendly service and New American-style bistro food keep the Luxor’s “come in, stay awhile” attitude alive almost one hundred years later.

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the exterior of Trenchermen reminded us of afternoons wandering Kensington whilst studying abroad in London

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definitely coming back for drinks

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trenchermen’s prohibition era décor paired nicely with their modern take on classic dishes

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Black Forest Ham & Gruyere Danish, Mustard, Rye

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pork flight: house sausage patties, beeler’s bacon, coffee-cured bacon, link sausage

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avocado shrimp toast with soft-boiled egg on sprouted grain bread

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not your standard cantaloupe/honeydew/pineapple

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swiss & eggs (sub cheddar here), smoked pork Shoulder, caraway sauerkraut, mustard aioli

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bacon mortadella breakfast sandwich: sunny side egg, sharp cheddar, breakfast potatoes

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pretzel bagel, smoked salmon, mustard cream cheese, pickled onion, cucumber, greens

While we vowed to return for drinks and dinner before we even ordered, the food most definitely did not disappoint. The pastries were nearly impossible to choose from, but we decided to split the Black Forest & Gruyere Danish because Carolyn and I are trying to limit our refined sugars this month (we don’t want to talk about it). As a bonus, it’s fun to watch the appointed “orderer” try to pronounce gruyere. At any rate, it was a fantastic choice; the perfectly flaky exterior and soft buttery interior would have been enough, but the ham and gruyere definitely amped up this pastry.

My breakfast reuben looked nothing like I expected but was everything I wanted. Seemingly contrasting flavors married perfectly in this sandwich, with the mustard aioli tying everything together. While the crumpet-like vehicle for this sandwich seemed odd at the time, I didn’t miss my toasted rye one bit (actually, I don’t care for rye so this was pretty clutch).

Even a non-bacon lover such as myself (please don’t kill me) could see the draw to the Pork Flight. Shockingly, because I also despise coffee, the Coffee-Cured variety was my favorite. Confusing, but definite props to the chef on that one! Each portion was generous for bistro-style dining, but still not overwhelming, allowing us to walk away from the table comfortably full.

Major shout-out to Jeremiah, our friendly waiter, potential new life coach, and reason enough to make a return trip. He was able to advise us on everything from vegetarianism to the body’s use of carbohydrates (all solicited advice, mind you). He even brought over a gargantuan book on the subjects, which was both delightful and confusing in the best possible way. We will, without a doubt, be returning for brunch, dinner, drinks, and dessert. It’s only January, but I’m already betting Trenchermen will end up on our Best of the Best 2015 edition!

-Meredith

P.S. Visit Trenchermen on Wednesdays when $10 gets you a burger, a beer, popcorn, and chips/a side! Check out their Instagram for each week’s theme. We stopped in for a Pimento Cheese & Fried Okra Burger with Whole Grain Mustard Potato Salad & a Flywheel Lager, and let’s just say, we were pleased. 

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Wicker Park

Fatpour Tap Works

Fatpour Tap Works
Brunch, Lunch, Dinner, Drinks

Neighborhood: West Town
Address: 2005 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60622
Phone Number: (773) 698-8940
Website

Price Range: $10-17
Our Rating: 4.2 out of 5

What We Tried: Lamb Eggs Benny, The Hipster Burger, Bloody Mary

Our Take: Located in the heart of Wicker Park, Fat Pour was voted 2013’s “#1 Beer Bar in the Country” by Nightclub & Bar. With over 50 good beers on tap and a diverse, chef-driven menu, I can see why.

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The Bloody Mary, which comes with a Miller High Life (On, Wisconsin!)

The Bloody Mary, which comes with a Miller High Life (On, Wisconsin!)

The Lamb Benny

The Lamb Benny

The restaurant has a fun, lively, too-cool-to-care attitude, and the waiters all treated us as if we were regulars. While we waited for our food, we kept an eye on the Wisconsin game (note: Fat Pour is a popular Badger bar), and watched beer stream up three stories through the glass keg cooler in the center of the room.

My Bloody Mary came with a can of Miller High Life (I would expect nothing less from Wisco fans), and a spear stacked with spicy pickles and feta-stuffed olives. Though I only recently joined the Bloody Mary bandwagon, I could tell that it was a five star concoction, and I had to make a conscious effort to sip it slowly.

Since we were eating at the post-spin class, is it still brunch, is it still lunch ambivalent meal time of 1 pm, we decided to order one brunch item and one lunch item, and split the two. Between the two dishes, I preferred the hipster burger (balsamic infused, topped with arugula and roasted tomatoes), but the lamb benny was a fresh and flavorful twist on a classic, too—not at all heavy, and the right combination of ingredients.

Fat Pour’s menu is large enough that I could—and would want to—go back a dozen times without eating the same thing twice. Next time I’m looking for a game day lunch or feeling a good beer/good burger kind of Friday night, you’ll find me at Fat Pour, for sure.

-Carolyn

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Dinner, Lunch, The Gold Coast

Hash House A Go Go

Hash House A Go Go
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Gold Coast
Address: 1212 N State Parkway, Chicago, Illinois 60610
Phone Number: (312) 202-0994
Website

Price Range: $7-12
Our Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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Fresh Mushroom, Artichoke Hearts, Sundried Tomato and Fresh Spinach House Hash

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Blackberry Granola Pancake

What We Tried: Blackberry Granola Pancake; Fresh Mushroom, Artichoke Hearts, Sundried Tomato and Fresh Spinach House Hash

Our Take: Before trying out a new spot, Carolyn and I like to check out the restaurant’s Instagram to get a feel for what we’re in for. Our first observation after looking up Hash House A Go Go is that they like to pierce a large number of their meals with steak knives. Maybe it’s to keep these massive meals together? Or maybe it’s the chef’s stamp of approval? Either was good reason enough to check the place out. So we did.

The interior of Hash House has more of a bar-ish vibe (i.e. dim lighting, stainless steel, ironically not ideal for Instragramming), but was pleasant none-the-less. Our wait on a Sunday at primetime (11:45 am) was about an hour, which was okay because we’ve come to realize that wait time is positively correlated with deliciousness (If you don’t believe us, just know the wait at Big Star at 5 pm on Saturday was already upwards of 1.5 hours. And we all know of the deliciousness that is Big Star.). Also, wait time is an opportunity to scope out what other people ordered (an underrated but essential brunching activity).

For as large as my pancake was (and it was large), I was surprised that it wasn’t too dense. It was heavy, sure, but not that undercooked, I-think-I-just-ate-a-small-brick kind of heavy. Regardless, though, I was lucky to take down half of the thing. Bonus points for fresh blackberries and not blackberry sauce because fruit sauce always ends up tasting like medicine.

When you do go, though, I’d recommend going with the namesake dish: a hash. Carolyn’s house hash was positively delicious and led to major order envy. The biscuit was as perfect an accompaniment as the random green sprig coming out of it (the homemade jam wasn’t too shabby either).

tldr; Go for the food not the atmosphere, order the hash, don’t question the steak knives.

-Meredith

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Bars, Breakfast and Brunch, Coffee, Meatpacking District

Little Goat Bakery

Little Goat Bakery
Coffee Shop, Lunch, Bar

Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
Address: 820 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Phone Number: (312) 888-3455
Website

Price Range: $3-10
Our Rating: 5 out of 5

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an autumnal delight

What We Tried: Skim Latte, Gluten-Free Apricot Muffin

Our Take: Little Goat Bakery opened a mere three weeks after Girl & the Goat, to serve as a dedicated baking kitchen for the larger parent restaurant. Since bread at Girl & the Goat is a part of the meal, rather than an appetizer or side, they wanted a place where their bakers could let their flour fly all day long, without worrying about getting in the way of braising goat legs.

Little Goat Bakery is attached to the Little Goat Diner, and contains a pretty swanky bar, too, but I’m going to concentrate on the coffee shop component of the operation. You order your coffee at the back of the bakery, where you can watch the bakers at work through a large glass window. It’s sort of like the world’s greatest cooking show.

When I finally pulled away from watching the bakers fold dough into pie tins (and picked my jaw up off the floor), I walked back to the front of the shop to pick up my coffee and muffin from the espresso station. All of the coffee is Stumptown (say hey!), and all of the breads and pastries are baked that day.

I was a little nervous about my muffin choice, since I’m new to the whole gluten-free thing, but it was soft and perfect and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. My latte was one of the best I have had in a long time, and arrived with an intricate fleur-de-lis swirled on top.

Start off your next Saturday with a cappuccino from Little Goat, or pick up a fresh Italian loaf for dinner…I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

-Carolyn

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Bars, Dinner, Meatpacking District

Grange Hall Burger Bar

Grange Hall Burger Bar
Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: Meatpacking District
Address: 844 West Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60607
Phone Number: (312) 491-0844
Website

Price Range: $10-17
Our Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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PBR so you know he’s chill and casual and **hip~~

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Mac and Cheese is a favorite of my dinner date, but I wasn’t disappointed, either.

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The Michigan Berries and Brie Burger

What We Tried: PBR, Pumpkin Old Fashioned, Mac N’ Cheese appetizer, The Ultimate, and the Michigan Berries and Brie Burger

Our Take: We happened upon Grange Hall Burger Bar on a serendipitous Indian summer evening, in search of good drinks and a better bite to eat; something casual, but cultured. Bingo! Grange Hall is down the street from one of Chicago’s most famous burgers, Au Cheval, but doesn’t deserve a comparison. We tried the cheeseburgers at Au Cheval before a Josh Ritter concert last year, and don’t get me wrong, the burgers earned a solid two thumbs up, but if you can’t get in at Au Cheval—and you probably won’t—keep walking. Grange Hall is just as good.

I ordered the pumpkin-flavored seasonal drink of the day, which was so good that it should be a permanent item on the menu. Since pumpkin spice is the Girl Scout cookie of flavorings, though, I made sure to order one more drink…before it goes away again, you know? Our Mac and Cheese appetizer, which came with potato chips crumbled on top, was lighter than expected and perfect for what it was mean to be—a starter. Because we had to save room for the burgers, in my case, a medium-rare blackberry and brie sensation, and in Alex’s case, a caramelized-onion bacon triumph that he ordered for the arugula.

I should also mention that Grange Hall is Chicago’s only Farm to Table Burger Bar dedicated to grass-fed beef and local fruits and vegetables. Oh, and it was voted one of Chicago Magazine‘s best new restaurants. Plus, the waitstaff is hilarious.

-Carolyn

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Bars, Dinner, River North

25 Degrees

25 Degrees
Lunch, Dinner

Neighborhood: River North
Address: 736 N Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: N/A
Website

Price Range: $10-20
Our Rating: 2 out of 5

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What We Tried: Number One Burger (Caramelized Onion, Vella Tomato, Aderkasse Reserve, Bacon, Arugula, Thousand Island), Craft Your Own Burger (Caramelized Onion, Portobello Mushroom, Cottonwood River Cheddar, Garlic Aioli), Craft Your Own Burger (Caramelized Onion, Roasted Red Pepper, Avocado, BBQ Sauce), Fries, Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Fries

Our Take: If there is one thing that this place has going for it, it is a decent vibe (repurposed garage, exposed brick, etc.). The buck pretty much stops there, though. Let’s start with drinks. The menu suggests you ask your server about the month’s “craft beer” selections. Now I am a loyal Michigander and celebrate Oberon Day like it is birth of my firstborn, but I don’t think having Oberon on your way-too-short-for-a-burger-bar beer list along with Stella and Miller Lite makes it a “craft” beer list. We ended up settling on a few Revolution Rosa Hibiscus Ales (one of like 2 legit craft beers), which was not exactly what we were looking for when asking the waiter but whatevs.

Then we got to the burgers. I asked the waiter for a smoky cheese suggestion (my favorite’s gouda). To my surprise, he didn’t suggest the smoky mozz (too obvious), but a cheddar instead. I went with it because he’s the expert, right? Wrong. It was tangy and way overpowered the other flavors in my burger (not that there were many). Instead of long strips of deeply caramelized onions and a marinated or seasoned portobello, I got a few chopped up and quickly sautéed onion bits and some flavorless shrooms. Then there was the meat itself. Word to the wise: While sirloin is a great cut of meat for a burger, it’s also very easy to butcher (hehe). As in, you can’t just leave it on the grill as long as you want. My medium burger didn’t even have a trace of pink. The bun was a non-factor.

Finally, sides. The fries were just okay. They had good flavor and crispiness, but with the skinny kind you have to either go limp and greasy or dark and crispy. These fries were a very unappetizing pale shade. The sweet potato fries and onion rings were fine, I guessss. Sorry for the diatribe, but I felt strongly about this one. We thought about going back to try the boozy milkshakes, but just poured bourbon over our Ben and Jerry’s instead.*

*This actually happened.

-Meredith

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Bars, Dinner, River North

Bull & Bear

Bull & Bear
Dinner (Also serving Afternoon and Brunch), Bar

Neighborhood: Old Town
Address: 431 N Wells St, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone Number: (312) 527-5973
Website

Price Range: $9-20, additional $5-14 per alcoholic beverage
Our Rating: 2.5 out of 5 for dining, 4.5 of 5 for bar scene

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$30 Pitcher of Homemade Red Sangria (looks better than it tastes)

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Southwestern Salad: blackened grilled chicken, crisp romaine, napa cabbage, black beans, monterey jack (not pictured), aged cheddar, pico de gallo, tortilla strips, cilantro, chipotle lime vinaigrette

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Asian Skirt Steak Salad: mixed greens, green bean, cherry tomato, carrot, red & yellow bell pepper, crispy wonton strips, honey-miso vinaigrette

What We Tried: Homemade Red Sangria, Asian Skirt Steak Salad, Southwestern Salad, Grilled Steak Tacos

Our Take: Subpar. Our first time at Bull & Bear was for a mid-week dinner out, and we were less than impressed. The homemade Sangria (far inferior to the sangria at Citizen) reminded us of our raspberry Kool-Aid days, and really, who actually enjoyed Kool-Aid? The salads were definitely light on the toppings despite their appealing descriptions (ex: compare the Asian Skirt Steak Salad description with the picture), and the tacos were just okay. We did end up returning later in the week for a fundraiser bar event, and to our surprise ended up having a great time. It was a great scene with even better specials. All in all, Bull & Bear is not a lost cause, as long as you don’t actually eat there. 

-Meredith

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