Tag Archives: Chicago

Leña Brava

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Leña Brava is the ninth Chicago hot-spot from chef and author Rick Bayless, who apparently can do no wrong. His popular 1996 cookbook Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen and TV show Mexico: One Plate at a Time have promoted Mexican cuisine beyond its most popular dishes for years. So yeah… I had unrealistic expectations going in, but am happy to report those were surpassed by what became my favorite meal of 2016.

img_20161019_150634Leña Brava carves out a unique niche along Chicago’s bustling Restaurant Row, where you can get everything from the legendary burger at Au Cheval to Crispy Pig Face at current it-spot Girl and The Goat. Like those places, Leña Brava manages to invent it’s own version of comfort food. The menu explodes with Baja California inspired dishes that sing from their plates whether kissed by fire or served raw, complimented by a dizzying array of smoldering mezcal.

Starting with raw shrimp in uzu and sunflower seeds set the tone for a night of unexpected texture and flavor. We bounced across the menu enjoying everything from fresh and delicious ceviche to perfectly charred octopus. And don’t ignore the meats. The short rib was spectacular, enjoyed within house made tortillas with a side of buttery plantains worth the price of a plane ticket to Chicago. And I have it on good authority that the glazed chicken is out of this world.

The menu explodes with Baja California inspired dishes that sing from their plates whether kissed by fire or served raw, complimented by a dizzying array of smoldering mezcal.

Surrounded by wood burning stoves and a busy bar, it’s a foodie fantasy for sure. A beautiful atmosphere, spectacular flavors, attentive service, and strong drinks. Leña Brava was the best recommendation I got this year and I’ve been preaching the word ever since.

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The Purple Pig

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Seven years after opening, this place is still packing them in. Friday night and the joint is jumping. Was lucky to scam two seats at the bar and avoid a line you can see from Michigan Avenue. I can see what all the hubbub is about; this place is my jam. Hits all the right notes if you’re a self-serving foodie. Hip atmosphere, lots of energy, great drinks, and a well executed adventurous menu.

The Roasted Bone Marrow was on par with the best I’ve had. Parsley and bone marrow go together like Shields & Yarnell. A little different than Blue Ribbon with some crusty bread in place of brioche and a finer sea salt. On point.

Hip atmosphere, lots of energy, great drinks, and a well executed adventurous menu.

We had to have the Pig Ears with Crispy Kale, pickled cherry peppers and a photogenic sunny side egg. That dish was perfection on a plate. Ideal bar food – unctuous and textured and delicious.

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Because eggs do not grow on trees, we also had the “JLT,” a BLT for your fancy-pants friends. Pork Jowl, tomato, frisee, pesto aioli and duck confit. Note to self, create a shirt that says “Put an egg on it.”

Our attentive waiter kept the drinks flowing and convinced us the Pork Tongue was worth trying. It was, like everything else at The Purple Pig. Now if they would only open in Brooklyn.

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