Usually an American disaster, the veggie burger deserves
a gold medal with its tumble of vegetables, brown rice, quinoa,
plus black beans, topped with avocado and tomato piled to
skyscraper heights. And we wolfed down brick chicken and
nicely caramelized Brussels sprouts, two dishes trending in
American restaurants these days.
The woman at the next table kept fanning her face,
thanks to the jalapeño on her “deluxe” BLT, re-envisioned
with applewood bacon, Taleggio cheese and truffle paste.
Meanwhile, we felt part of cafe society—as close to dining
at Paris’ La Coupole as you can get in Chicago since Brasserie
Ruhlmann closed—happy to engage in gossip and the people-watching postures of the French flâneur. BLT American
Brasserie is comfy, classy and oh so good—with complimentary
Gruyere popovers to enjoy—all pumped out of the kitchen by chef
de cuisine Aksel Theilkuhl, who does French American just right.
Salads/Starters $8-$16 Sandwiches/Burgers $14-$16
Grilled items $24-$39 Sushi/Raw Bar $11-$96 (seafood
platter for 4-6) Pizzas $11-$15
833 W. Randolph St. | (312) 432-0500
PHOTO CREDIT: Opposite, Jeff Kauck Photography; bottom left, interior, Potluck Creative; food, Jamco Creative
When darkness takes over the city, this is the place to
be. You’ll feel like you’re inside a mini updated Versailles,
with twinkling candles and glittering chandeliers, a magical
space providing ordinary folks an aristocratic experience at a
reasonable price point. Hey, the busboy propped our sparkling
water in a wine bucket. And the friendly waitstaff treated us
like mini royalty, including coming up with a delicious mock
cocktail (fresh pineapple, cherries from Croatia, lemon and
lime juice, and egg whites) designed, we were told, just for us,
though our neighbors subsequently had the same thing. Every
man a king. Every woman a queen.
As for the food, get ready for a comforting culinary
alchemy unique to talented chef Jared Van Camp, with
sumptuous tastes impossible to describe. While the Stones
may have engaged in nefarious behavior in the stifling basement
on the Cote d’Azur, the prime attraction in this basement
is an innocent flour mill that grinds out 00 regionally grown
whole-wheat flour responsible for stupendous pizzas and
pastas, including radiatore with duck legs, hen of the woods
mushrooms, crunchy Romano beans and duck cracklings. And
if Mick Jagger “can’t get no satisfaction,” he never tried Van
Camp’s sunny side up pizza with organic egg, fontina cheese and
shaved Périgord black truffles. Unlike the drugs passed around
on the Côte d’Azur, this puts smiles, not lines, on your face.
No, Chicago’s Nellcôte is a tender contender, featuring
fresh-faced decadence full of French, Italian and Spanish
influences with Midwest-sourced ingredients, allowing you
to roll on happily with dishes such as shaved pumpkin with
pickled persimmon, mint, Gouda and fried Marcona almonds
with homemade pomegranate molasses. Succulent lamb with
baby-skin-soft gnocchi strums your soul with manchego
cheese, tomato and olive marmalade, guaranteeing more good
vibes thanks to brioche/gremolata breadcrumbs. There’s skate
wing, saffron risotto with fava beans, foie gras torchon, rabbit
loin and much more. And don’t miss the chocolate parfait fabricated by talented pastry chef Nate Mead. Too, too decadent.
Too, too good. Satisfaction times 12.
Don’t “Paint it Black,” paint it Nellcôte.
Prices range from $3 to $15
Will you go to Hades if you wish the Rolling Stones would
“hang it up,” hate the Big Tongue and still adore Nellcôte, the
new restaurant inspired by an actual villa on the Côte d’Azur
where the Stones recorded “Exile on Main Street” in 1971?
OPPOSITE: Grilled Certified Angus Beef New York strip steak comes with roasted
Yukon gold potatoes, roasted bone marrow, chimichurri and roasted garlic at BLT
BOTTOM LEFT: Veal sweetbreads, broccoli/hazelnut purée, honeycrisp apples,
apple saba and pickled mustard seeds on the menu at Nellcôte.