This new restaurant is a smart-yet-laid-back addition to Roscoe Village.
Roscoe Village is a neighborhood on the North side of Chicago with an interesting bit of history, as it was first established based on the construction of an amusement park – Riverview Park – which first opened in 1903 and was known as ‘the world’s largest amusement park’.
Riverview Park brought lots of businesses into the area and park workers built homes in the neighborhood as well. The neighborhood soon prospered through the early 1920′s until the Great Depression. Even the end of WW II and subsequent economic boom failed to help the neighborhood return to its former glory.
Subsequently, Roscoe Village was plagued with high unemployment and crime rates, which continued until the 1970′s when folks realized the low property values of the beautiful homes, combined with easy transportation and access to the rest of the city meant this was a neighborhood ripe for rediscovery. Roscoe Village has since seen a steady resurgence in popularity ever since, which has brought about an increase in property values, new businesses and lots of neighborhood beautification.
With that brief history lesson in mind, Endgrain Restaurant is one of the newest residents in Roscoe Village and one of the smarter entries in Chicago’s dining scene. I recently visited for brunch with some friends and had a great time. The menu is pretty limited – since we were there for brunch, we immediately tried a couple of doughnuts, splitting them amongst our small group.
These homemade artisinal doughnuts are what Chef Enoch Simpson is known for – I’ll refer you to this article here; but, rest assured, they’re not from Dunkin Donuts’ playbook.
Crafted in small batches from flavors ranging from butterscotch-bacon to nutella milkstout to blueberry-lemon grass jelly, these alone merit a visit. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. We managed to get a couple of the last 2 referenced above. They were both obviously fresh and delicious, but we all preferred the blueberry-lemon grass jelly doughnut, as it had a brighter flavor.
Several of us also tried tried one of the 3 biscuit sandwich options, which were pretty substantial. Mine was with pork belly, fried egg, aged cheddar, greens, charred jalapeno aioli. It seemed a bit dry as there was very little aioli, but very flavorful and the biscuit itself had great color and structure – it didn’t fall apart, even after being cut in half and held in my grubby hands.
The homemade potato chips and pickles were outstanding and great additions.
Next time I’ll definitely try the fried chicken biscuit. Something about fried chicken and smoked (!) mashed potatoes all on a biscuit that just does something for me. You know?
I also tried their Mushroom and Rapini Tart with cippolini, parmesan and greens. It was presented shaped something like a pouch, with the crust bunched at the top and stuffed full of the mushrooms and veggies. This was a little dry and the dough was a little more tough, yet it was still very flavorful overall.
As fun and fresh as the menu is, our service was an interesting contrast. We sat at the bar and had several people back and forth taking care of us, but the service didn’t seem very attentive, especially toward the end when we waited a really long time to get our plates cleared . . . and then another equally long amount of time to get our checks. The lady who seemed to be our main server was super nice, but not very focused. (She also wasn’t wearing a bra – I’m certainly no prude and this has nothing to do with the service per se, except it was plainly obvious every time she reached for something under the bar. Very obvious. So, there was that.) At one point, reggae music was playing and there seemed to be a very laid back vibe to the whole place – to the point that one of my friends and I (half) jokingly wondered if everyone there was stoned but us?
However, everyone working and taking care of us seemed genuinely earnest and the pride in our meals and its presentation was obvious. The sluggish service (and free show) wasn’t enough to detract from the delicious food and overall experience.
Their website defines their cuisine as “new American casual with the integrity of fine dinning” (sic) and “inspired by the season’s freshest ingredients”. This is evident from their menu, but not necessarily from the service. But, with a little more attention and a few more offerings to expand the menu, this place will settle in nicely as a great destination for both Roscoe Village and the dining scene in Chicago.