Now there’s a shot and a dish I will never forget (and quite honestly, not something I would typically indulge in), but this is me revolting. I’ve now lived in Chicago for four months and I can only count my memorable meals at restaurants in Chicago on one hand – a city known globally for its food. Unacceptable! Granted, I’m not a deep dish nut, and I don’t eat hot dogs, but there’s no way it stops there. And, so, my goal…no, my mission…is to step out of my near-downtown neighborhood teeming with tourist hotspots and renowned steakhouses and to love more Chicago food! It’s happening – I won’t settle for less!
So, when one long and wintery week came to an end, a relaxing, and DELICIOUS dinner with Sarah, a special friend I met on my first day in Chicago, was just what we ordered. (Pun intended.) When deciding where to go, she asked what I was in the mood for. I said, ‘Something delicious, casual, and in YOUR neighborhood!’ And as it seems I have great taste in friends, she had great taste in her choice: The Peasantry – a cozy eatery in Lincoln Park that serves ‘elevated street food’ on a menu that is so unique, I had to read the menu thrice because so many things caught my eye and the ingredient combinations encouraged us to step outside our normal box and try new bites.
Before I run through our shared courses, I must pay homage to the burger pictured above. Wild Boar. Sarah just started eating meat again after about 6 years of vegetarianism and I don’t typically eat red meat (for health reasons and I just don’t crave it), but something about boar (like bison) is more appealing to me than beef. Not to mention the blackberry compote, brie, and cajun spices just caught our eyes. And so, because of its richness, we split it and it was gooood. The spices included chipotle, which added an awesome heat and combined with the sweet blackberry on a bite of the savory meat, was just heaven in a bite.
Let’s, for one second, appreciate the digital dining experience – loved how the dry-erase-board written specials were showcased on an iPad mini before our meal. This nerdy marketer loved every bit of it.
Let’s move on to the appetizer (a bit out of order). Our first bite was the oyster bruschetta. The bean mash was light, giving a homey texture atop the crispy crostini, layered with roasted tomatoes, and the smoked oysters added a complex flavor and almost mushroom-y consistency to the dish.
We then dove into a very earthy salad and to use a word I often hear on Chopped (my favorite show on The Food Network), very herbacious. After we had ordered, I forgot which ingredients to expect in the dish and one of the elements really surprised me with spices I could not place. When referring back to the menu, I realized it was the very thinly sliced saffron infused pears – just delicious. The warming spices, paired with the sweet figs and sprinkled with fresh mint, spicy arugula, and crunchy walnuts just felt fresh and healthy – so farm to table (yes, I just used that as an adjective).
And, of course, we had to have another course – this time a sweet one. The sweet potato churros were just the right bite size portions, and when dipped in the chai creme, was very rich. I could only have one, and was itching for a bite of chocolate, but the sweet potatoes were again comforting and a perfect autumnal combination with the spices of the chai. Just a lovely bite to end our unforgettable meal.
And, so, maybe I’m not in trouble on my quest to love Chicago food. The Peasantry gave me hope! And, our experience ended on a happy, personal note when the owner, Ellen, stopped by to ask how everything was and to chat for a good five minutes (so nice when her restaurant was packed on a weekend evening)! This is why I love local businesses, getting to meet their owners while experiencing their passion – we bonded instantly chatting about food, the city, and the weather. I’ll definitely be back for another cozy winter evening, and I’ll be back, per Ellen’s recommendation, when the windows open up in the Summer and Sarah and I can sit near the sidewalk, facing outward, taking in the food and watching the walkers by. One final note – I find the name – The Peasantry – quite ironic because we definitely dined like queens and not peasants. But, I can see the nod to earthy ingredients, and a simple nostalgic environment in great company. (Oh, and don’t forget to indulge in their carefully crafted cocktails and reasonable wines!)