West Town Tavern is a place I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. We stopped in here around the holidays last year after one of those cocktail reception thingies. I don’t remember much about that reception except it was in a very fashionable work space (glass walls and hardwood floors) with lots of wine, a keg of beer and all these pans of fried chicken. So random. We didn’t stay long, just a requisite visit and some holiday howdy-doodies – and, since we were in the area, we thought we would stop in for a real dinner before heading home.
And the place was packed out! We didn’t have a reservation, so all we could do is stand there at the hostess stand, coveting all the people sitting at their tables with THE best smelling food steaming in front of them as they quaffed hearty drinks and glasses of wine, watching as it spilled down their chins in tiny rivulets as they laughed and reveled in their own exclusive merriment. Because they HAD a reservation. And we did NOT.
Ok, it didn’t happen quite like that – but don’t you hate that feeling? Hoping, just hoping you’ll get in somewhere you really like and then they’re packed and you don’t have a reservation and it’s gonna be an hour and 45 minute wait? Ugh. So that was my first impression of this place.
Fast-forward to this past Saturday night and we actually had a reservation – and it was definitely worth it. I had looked at the menu before-hand online at their website here, so I had an idea of what I wanted. Their menu is basically comfort foods – but done extremely well and with some unique twists to make everything seem memorable, yet still hearty and satisfying.
We shared a plate of calamari – fried calamari is something I always crave and always want to get. I know fried calamari is common, in a suburban, Olive Garden-y sort of way, but I still love it. If I fell in a vat of fried calamari and died drowning – choking on chewy tentacles and soft tempura rings, it would be a wonderful death. But I’m digressing, as they say. Theirs was damn good. I would definitely put it in the top 2 – the best calamari I’ve had in Chicago was at Fred’s and it was life-changing. BUT – the fried calamari at West Town Tavern was right up there as well! It was served in a bed of curried arugula salad, with bits of cilantro that gave it the perfect pop. Definitely worth trying.
We also got soup – I tried their cream of asparagus soup, which came with a lobster deviled egg – sitting right in the middle! We also got the corn chowder with avocado-corn relish. They were both hearty, with a great depth of flavor – both perfectly sized portions with even better presentation.
For my entree, I got the scallops with mushroom-leek risotto. Oh. My. Freaking. God. I’m a sucker for scallops and this dish is exactly why. Perfectly seared and they just fell apart and practically melted in my mouth. They were tender, fresh and right on time. I thought 4 made for a generous portion and I loved each and every one of them. We also got their pasta dish with turkey meatballs. This was also perfectly portioned and using turkey in their meatballs gave the dish a lighter twist. It was presented with a nice pappardelle pasta with roasted tomatoes and nice, meaty mushrooms. Rustic and full of flavor, without being so over-the-top heavy.
We were too stuffed for dessert – we already had some honey lavender ice cream (yeah you read that right – it will be in a future post, don’t you worry), so that’s where our dining adventure ended this time. We did check out their dessert menu – lots of good solid choices, and they even feature a lemon chess pie and buttermilk cake – both of which I grew up with in the south. So we’ll definitely be back with dessert on our mind!
The restaurant itself is very welcoming. Definitely an urban feel with exposed ducts and hanging lights – but the hardwood floors and a charming bar in the front make it feel more accessible and cozy, almost laid back. Not too fancy or upscale – definitely not GTFO. Just the right amount of slightly-upscale casual weekend goodness. Just don’t forget that reservation – you’ll be glad for it!