A Squared: Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: West Side Seafood Spots

Monday, July 28, 2014

Recent Chicago Restaurant Visits: West Side Seafood Spots

I'm not sure what it is, but we are having a real seafood moment right now. Maybe we are having New England withdrawals or maybe it is because there is nothing like fresh seafood in the summertime, but Alex and I have been eating a lot of it lately-- at home and when we're out. In fact, I have dined out at several new (to me) seafood spots around Chicago lately. Who knew that there were so many and that they were all so different?  Today I wanted to tell you about two seafood spots on the west side of Chicago. Stay tuned for a follow up post or two featuring other seafood restaurants around the city coming soon!

The Savoy
Wicker Park

Alex and I stopped into The Savoy for a quick brunch one recent weekend and truthfully, I wasn't sure what to expect. The Savoy sits just outside of the highly trafficked restaurant-packed area around the Damen/North/Milwaukee intersection and on the outside is pretty nondescript. One or two friends had mentioned dining there and since we were in the neighborhood we decided to give it a try. The restaurant has a simple laidback vibe and decor that was great for a quiet Sunday. The menu is heavy on the seafood and many of the menu items are creative takes on more traditional dishes with global influences from French, Mexican, and various regional American cuisines noticeable throughout.

I perused the menu and was immediately drawn to the crab cake BLT-- because I will generally eat and enjoy anything with a crabcake on it. But I was torn between that and the shrimp po' boy, which came highly recommended by our waitress. Alex went with the BLT (which looked delicious) and I ordered the po' boy, which definitely lived up to my expectations. The baguette was piled high with five sizable and perfectly grilled shrimp, herbed ricotta spread, spicy slaw, tomato, and a pickled pepper that was so hot my mouth felt like I was breathing fire. Once I removed the pepper though, the sandwich had just the right amount of heat for me. The tangy spicy slaw with the rich ricotta balanced really well with the shrimp that I had no trouble finishing this sandwich off.

My po' boy was served with a side of homemade potato chips seasoned with Old Bay, a traditional New England seafood seasoning blend. They were crispy and tasty, but Alex insisted on ordering a side of French fries to share which was also a great idea. Do you remember those orange-colored seasoned French fries they served in your high school cafeteria that were so greasy and gross that they were good? That's what these fries reminded me of-- but in a good way. They were super seasoned and flavorful and they seemed almost breaded, which is unique for fries. They were clearly fresh out of the fryer because they arrived to our table piping hot and crispy.

I would love to go back and try dinner at The Savoy sometime. In the meantime though, if you find yourself in the neighborhood and you're looking for a brunch that's special, but still relaxed then wander over to The Savoy and enjoy!
Update: Word on the street is that The Savoy closed its doors yesterday. :(
The Savoy on Urbanspoon

Bow & Stern Oyster Bar
West Town 

Bow & Stern is newer to the Chicago restaurant scene and definitely something out of the ordinary for its location in the West Town/Noble Square area. This neighborhood is a bit up and coming, but restaurants like TWO and Mexique have helped to put it on the culinary map-- and now Bow & Stern has joined the mix! Bow & Stern is a surprisingly large restaurant with a laidback atmosphere and a lively bar crowd. We sat at the bar for a bit while we waited for our table and noticed that this has quickly become a favorite spot among locals. Many of them knew each other and the bartender, which always makes a restaurant feel a bit more comfortable.

Once seated, we perused the appetizer menu and-- don't judge-- since neither Alex or I enjoy oysters (I know, who goes to an oyster bar and doesn't order oysters?) we both agreed to order one of the only seafood-free items on the whole menu. The Burrata & Chips just sounded so good and when the waitress praised our order I knew we made the right decision. This photo does not do the dish justice because it was seriously delicious. I could have been content snacking on this dish all night. Brussels sprouts, kale, sunchoke, cauliflower, oyster mushroom, are cooked until crispy, drizzled with an herb sauce and grana Padano, and then served warm with a generous portion of creamy Burrata. Burrata on its own is amazing, but served with these crispy salty vegetables it was really out of this world. Even Alex, who made a face at the idea of Brussels and kale, was digging in and fighting me for the last few bites. Put this on your Must Order List.

Like crab cakes for me, if Alex sees a lobster roll on the menu there is a 99% chance he will order it. The poor guy's face fell when he picked up his menu at Bow & Stern to find "SOLD OUT" stamped in red next to the lobster roll.

So instead, he went with Bow & Stern's dressed up version of surf & turf: Rolling Meadows Farms pork belly served with seared scallops, braised greens, date gastrique, and cherry mojo. I sneaked a bite off his plate and loved that they incorporated fruit into the sauces for a little sweetness to pair with the salty savory pork belly. The scallops were seared and seasoned just right and the addition of the greens rounded the whole plate out.

And speaking of my undying love for crab cakes, this was my choice for dinner. The crab cake was on the appetizer menu, so I decided to pair it with a salad and call it an entree. The crab cake was a really good size and was super meaty, crispy on the outside and moist inside. Bow & Stern serves it with their special Bow tartar sauce (which has an orange hue from what I imagine is an added spice or hot sauce?) and a small simple salad of arugula, thinly sliced red chiles, and Grana Padano. Honestly, it was satisfying and balanced enough that it could totally suffice as an entree. I was famished though, so the salad I ordered was key-- and really tasty!

The beet salad at Bow & Stern is super fresh and delicious. Huge chunks of pickled beets (both the traditional deep red ones and a lighter pink variety) are tossed with peppery baby watercress, toasted nuts, and shredded carrots in a black garlic Cabernet vinaigrette. It's all plated with creamy whipped goat cheese and an orange beet puree. There aren't that many ingredients, but they all work super well together: tangy beets, peppery greens, and creamy goat cheese... it's just perfect.

So, you probably think we were full by now, right? Wrong.

We definitely wanted a little something sweet and were torn between sharing a slice of their housemade key lime or peanut butter pie. Alex usually goes key lime, but the coconut crust (he's not a fan) pushed him in the other direction. Oh, I am so glad it did! Grandma Greene's Peanut Butter Pie was incredible. The creamy peanut butter filling was whipped to become super light and airy, which made it feel a little less rich. It's layered on top of an Oreo crust (for a little pop of chocolate) and the top is drizzled with a combo of caramel sauce and creme anglaise. We scraped the plate clean so be sure to save some room during your next trip to Bow & Stern-- if you love (or even like) peanut butter, you will not want to miss this pie!
Bow & Stern Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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