On our final night of our last trip to Chicago we went to the Bristol after getting several recommendations for it from people whose judgment I generally trust when it comes to food. Again, it is another place that doesn’t take reservations, and we got there shortly after opening to find it still empty. So we strolled the neighborhood a bit and came back. It was pleasantly full, but we still got a nice table. By the time we left, it was heaving. And it was a beautiful night and they had the front windows completely open. It was completely lovely (with the exception of a bunch of guys sitting at the communal table wearing backwards baseball caps. I mean, it is a somewhat casual restaurant, but have a little respect for meal time. I’m not asking for a jacket or tie, but baseball hats at dinner? It annoyed me a little.)
So we sat down and were told that we needed to put in our entire order at once, but they would bring out things as they were ready. But we could order a snack course to munch on while we looked over the menu and made our decisions. We were down to the monkey bread (which I had read a lot about) and the duck fat frites (how could you go wrong there?). At the advice of our server, we got the monkey bread ($5). It was served warm with a dill butter sauce and had dill cooked throughout. Ok, I had heard a lot about this bread online and was intrigued. But honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan—the bread was a little dry even with the butter. And hubby confirmed something that he already knew; he is not a fan of dill in many things.
We quickly flagged down our server and added some frites to the order instead (we had already placed our order) ($7). Now these are great. Fresh cut fries that are medium sized, perfectly crispy, with the extra rich taste from the duck fat. They were served with housemade ketchup and a garlic aioli. I loved the aioli, it was nice and garlicky, but I was surprised at how much I also liked the ketchup. Usually I am not a fan of ketchup with fancy type frites, but this sauce had more of a unique flavor. It was tasty.
One of the other things we got at the same time we got the frites was a plate of head on prawns that were sliced in half long-ways, grilled and covered in an anchovy butter sauce and tarragon ($19). These were the best prawns I have had in a long, long time. Seriously. They were so good. You could taste the seared flavor, but they weren’t blackened all over, and the salty butter sauce was so good to dredge them (or maybe a rouge frite) through. You could suck the little bit of head meat out too, giving that extra fatty bit that you rarely get in regular prawns that have been de-headed. The light tarragon flavor (slightly like licorice) was also a great accent.
The raviolo ($12) was good as well, although nothing was as good as those prawns. The raviolo was a large piece of homemade pasta filled with ricotta inside as well as a runny egg yolk. It was covered in a brown butter sauce. When you cut into it, the yolk made a luscious rich sauce when combined with the ricotta. We also had the roasted bone marrow ($14) at hubby’s request—one of his favorite things. These were nice because the bones were sliced in half, making the marrow easier to get to. It was served with toasted sliced bread and a wonderful shallot jam—it was slightly sweet, and slightly tangy, making it perfect with the insanely rich marrow. And I liked that they gave you a little dish so you could use it in whatever proportion you wanted.
Our least favorite savory item by far was the flatbread (I know, what is WRONG with me? Why do I keep ordering flatbread?) ($11). It was a crispy whole wheat crust topped with braised kale, white anchovies and a mild white cheese. The kale was too strong tasting and the anchovies were too fishy. We have had white anchovies other places and I always imagine them as the super fresh, not fishy tasting ones I have had before. Sadly, these were not those. And I don’t know that I have had good white anchovies since Europe. I also really like kale, but this was just too much bitterness. For me, this dish just did not come together. We barely ate any of it.
Dessert though—whoa, was it good. They did their homemade version of nutter butter cookies with a chocolate sabayon to dip them in ($8). The cookies were so good—the crunchy parts of the cookies were so light and studded with some little bits of peanuts. And in proper form, they were filled with peanut butter cream. The sabayon was a rich dark chocolate—almost like a hot fudge consistency, only it wasn’t hot—it is basically like a custard. I couldn’t decide if I liked them better together or apart—the cookies were the star for me though.
All in all, this was a great dining experience and wrapped up what was an awesome, but insanely filling, weekend in Chicago (which is how it should be right?). I would (and have since) recommended The Bristol to others and look forward to returning myself at some point. Especially when they start taking reservations!
2152 North Damen
Chicago, IL 60647