Monday, November 4, 2013

Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: Wicker Park Revisited

I'm prepping a handful of posts for you about our recent getaway in Wisconsin (and you've likely seen tons of photos of that already if you follow me on Instagram), but in the meantime I realized that I have a serious backlog of restaurant updates for you. I think it's time to share. So today, let's check out a few more Wicker Park hot spots!

Oh, Wicker Park. So many delicious and different restaurants in one neighborhood... and still so many to try! You can always count on great food with a bit of an edge in this neighborhood. And everything feels a bit more authentic here-- more like a cluster of restaurants for locals who love food and less trendy or touristy than the downtown restaurant scene has become. I just can't get enough of Wicker Park dining!

Antique Taco
Wicker Park

Antique Taco is such a fun little place. It's a super casual taco stand meets antique shop. It's very funky. It's very Wicker Park.

The restaurant runs in a more fast casual style where you place your order at the counter, seat yourself at table with a number, and then the staff brings your order to you. It was especially nice to dine here in the warmer months because they have several cute picnic tables for al fresco dining.


The menu here is small, but everything that we tried that evening was great-- simple and fresh. We started with an order of chips and guacamole (a staple at every Mexican restaurant, of course) along with a pitcher of their signature seasonal agua fresca with vodka. The combination of vodka, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and pureed watermelon was sweet and refreshing like an adult Kool-Aid.


Tacos are served two to an order at Antique Taco and they have about a half dozen to choose from. Never being able to decide on just one, I was lucky enough to be dining with my equally indecisive friend Alexis. We swapped one of our two tacos with each other so we got to sample more than one kind. We ordered the fresh and flavorful Garlic Shrimp Tacos served with a sweet corn, avocado, and onion and the Pork Carnitas, which we both loved. The combination of glazed pork, fresh spinach, bacon, onion, and avocado was rich and savory.


The real standout menu item here though, is the chili cheese curds. Fried cheese curds are a delight in and of themselves, but the folks at Antique Taco really take them to the next level (as much as I despise that phrase). Battered and fried cheese curds are topped with a spicy chorizo chili, sour cream, pickled onions, tortilla strips, and scallions. It was like a mash-up of mozzarella sticks and nachos-- two already decadent snacks made even more so when combined. I would highly recommend you snag an order of these for your table when you head to Antique Taco.


Last, but not least, if you have a sweet tooth you should give the Abuelita's Pop Tart a try. Flaky pastry crust is filled with Mexican chocolate and marshmallows (like a s'more!) and served warm with a side of ice cream. It's the perfect sweet ending to a really delicious modern Mexican meal.
Antique Taco on Urbanspoon

The Bedford
Wicker Park

While Wicker Park has always been known as a hipster haven, in the past few years several hot spots have been opening up all over the neighborhood giving the area a totally different vibe. One of those places is The Bedford, a bar and restaurant that I have been dying to try for months now. The Bedford is a trendy take on an old fashioned supper club, similar in some respects to Untitled, which I have told you about before. It is located on the ground level of what used to be a large bank, so the vintage architectural details (including a giant vault turned private dining room) are really breathtaking against the more modern streamlined decor that they added in turning the space into a restaurant. As a former architect, I was loving it.


And excuse the photography, please. Part of the appeal of the ambiance here is definitely dim lighting-- great for setting the mood, bad for being an annoying food blogger and taking photos of your plates.

And the food followed the same theme-- upscale takes on classic American dishes and ingredients. Alex and I have a few "go to" menu items that, when we see them, we have to order them. For both of us that's fried cheese curds or pickles (so embarrassing to admit that random fried foods are our "go to" items. Yikes!). Separately, for me it is anything with beets or Brussels sprouts and for him, it's deviled eggs. Lucky for us, they had both on the menu!


Alex started with an order Grandma Ann's Deviled Eggs, served with hot sauce and bacon powder. They must have been delicious because they were gone in about 60 seconds. I ordered the roasted beet salad, which was a perfect starter. The flavor combination was classic and really perfect going into fall: beets, arugula, oranges, and walnuts in a light vinaigrette. It's the kind of salad I have yet to master at home-- simple and delicious.


For entrees, Alex went for the Bedford Burger. He is a sucker for burger with a fried egg on top, so this was right up his alley-- and he loved it. They also give you the option to order your fries poutine-style, which he took them up on. The fries were served smothered in gravy, cheese, and scallions. And I stole more than a few forkfuls from his plate.


Ordering was easy for me. As soon as I saw the sweet potato gnocchi I knew what I was getting. Like the salad I started my meal with, the gnocchi was a combination of all of my favorite things: kale, manchego, pepitas, and pomegranate seeds, all dressed in a light sage brown butter sauce. I want to eat this every night! The gnocchi were plump and soft, and just enough of the chewiness you expect from a good homemade gnocchi.


I would love to get dressed up and come back here for a girls night-- for cocktails, dinner, or both!
The Bedford on Urbanspoon

Takito Kitchen
Wicker Park

Takito Kitchen is a really unique spot tucked into a little space on West Division Street. It's not a traditional Mexican restaurant, but the menu is really heavy on Mexican influences and seasonal ingredients. A lot of the menu features items made with market produce, which I love because you know you're getting something fresh, local, and in season.

The restaurant is laidback with a cute patio with some communal tables, where Alexis and I enjoyed brunch on a recent weekend when the weather was warmer.


We enjoyed two cocktails each while we were there: an excellent way to start off your Saturday, if I do say so myself! For our first round, we chose the seasonal margarita. That day it happened to be a fresh pear margarita and it was delicious-- fresh and full of real pear flavor, with a lovely pear slice garnish. We went back to the menu for our second drink and both went with the caliente margarita. I am not sure which I liked better because they were both so different-- this one had  great spice and a smoky chipotle flavor that complimented the fresh lime juice really well.


We were both starving when we got to the restaurant and decided to share a little pre-brunch appetizer. Our waiter recommended the salsa and escabiche sampler, so we decided to give it a try. It comes with 3 salsas: Tomatillo Pistachio (which I loved!), Tomato Hibiscus Ghost Pepper (spicy, as you may imagine), and a seasonal salsa, and escabiche (a selection of pickled market vegetables and peppers). It is all served with delicious little flatbreads and rice crackers, so it is a really fun and fresh spin on run of the mill chips and salsa.


For my entree, I chose the poached egg over polenta... and I fell in love with this brunch. The warm creamy polenta and the soft poached egg was like the perfect little comfort food breakfast. I should probably mention that I'm picky about my poached eggs. You know how sometimes you order them and the whites aren't cooked all the way through and they're almost as runny as the yolk? This can turn me off to an entire dish when it happens, so I generally don't order them. I'm happy to say that Takito nailed the egg though and I devoured my brunch.


This dish was also served with market veggies-- a combination of corn, peppers, zucchini, and onion and garnished with cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds. I loved every bite of it!
Takito Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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