Spill the Wine
901 W. Lake St.
Spill the wine? Sure, I’ve been known to—but here, It’s. Not. My. Fault. The name of the Lake Street bistro seems to stand, not for my challenged balance, but the outlook of the venue: It’s to drink, casually, copiously, not with a textbook in one hand and scorecard in the other. Just enjoy.
The list is far more diverse, and interesting in pedigree, than many a more snooty bistro around town: over 100 bottles, and 30 by the glass. Plus sipper-friendly happy hour prices and half-price bottles Sunday and Monday evenings. And, should it spill, no big drama. The tables’ reclaimed wood can take it. And the rest of the spacious room—once a bike shop, today the now-standard industrial setting—is built for survival, too (add in lots of sidewalk tables summertime).
Following the move from its original Washington Avenue location to this easier-to-access Lake Street corner (free parking in the rear), the new, open-to-view kitchen, manned by a student of city culinary gurus J.P. Samuelson and Isaac Becker, has enlarged its mission, too. It now partners the wine list, with its flights, BTGs and great Happy Hour specials, with serious food. Small plates rule. (Are the days of supersized mains officially over? Let’s hope!) The menu’s make-up is not especially original, but who cares? Pork belly, check. But here, it’s partnered with kimchee fried rice and chili hollandaise that clears the fat, and then some. It’s carefully prepared and generous enough for sharing. ($6-13 small plates, and a bit more for changing cheese tray and bumper crop of charcuterie, plus a few large-plate offerings if you must: salmon, pork, steak, chicken and such—$19-29). Even a kids’ menu. And late-night hours. Clearly, city-dwellers’ heaven.
OK, we had to try the beets. You’re required to have them on the menu to pass city inspection (well, almost). And they’re mighty tasty. The star of the show, they’re chunked and boiled, then suavely abetted by lavender honey, yogurt and spicy arugula to wake up the palate. And the Brussels sprouts? Can’t open your doors without ’em these days, either, and these particular babes prove downright addictive. Crunchy globes, but not near-raw (listen up, chefs, I’m talking to you), they’re accented with fatty pine nuts, nutty pecorino and, what’s this? Cream! Ever have creamed Brussels sprouts before? Terrific.
More on-trend veggies: browned cauliflower, blackened kale (this time, with grains of faro, and green olives—a bit too strong against the already-rugged greens), all topped with a poached egg and shower of Parmesan. In fact, most of these small plates celebrate garden goodies in place of mega-meat. Yet, you can enjoy mussels (another staple), lobster mac and cheese (ditto) and a classic burger with fries (but fries upgraded to first class with Old Bay, lemon aioli and, um, ketchup). Or slurp the gnocchi nuggets tossed with chicken confit, Gorgonzola cream and spinach.
Come back for brunch, where you’ll find many of the above standards (along with kale this time as partner in a Benedict) as well as eggy fare. In fact, come back anytime, you’re more than welcome.