Celebrate Anglophilia with well-heeled style at Owen and Engine, Chicago's answer to the Brit gastropub.
Logan Square may not be the first area Angophiles head to for an authentic Brit pub atmosphere, but the neighborhood edition is a perfect, homey edition for those hopping off the Kennedy in need of a little comfort food. A joint effort headed up by the owner of Fat Willy's Rib Shack (a great place to get a little messy) and a former chef at MK Chicago, neither purport to do incredibly authentic "British" food. Instead, they teamed up to make a friendly gastropub, with in-house smoked salmon and house-cured sausage with beer mustard soaking up hand-picked drafts and ales. Of course, classics like bangers and mash, fish and chips or Yorkshire pudding appear, but the off-the-beaten-path selections like cauliflower soup with a parmigiano reggiano and chive garnish or pan-seared sea bass with braised endives keep the fare from treading into blood pudding territory. No pinky-up wine sipping tonight—the beer selection is formidable—but keep things refined with British-inspired tailoring, like a smart jacket, a cozy cardi or pleated pants for the evening.
Owen and Engine also is known for their meaty and rib-sticking brunch fair, so put on a pair of chunky, but not super high heels for Saturday strolling and enjoying the curious culture clash of a gastropub on Western Avenue.
Owen and Engine, 2700 North Western Avenue (At West Schubert Avenue). (773) 235-2930.
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Instead of being stuffy or provincial, Bistronomic takes advantage of the expansive space that once housed Eve, but darkens the interior with heavy wood and drapes, chalkboards scrawled with specials and dim overhead lighting. Cutting edge design this is not, but Noguier opts for romance and warmth over the modern. His menu reflects this manifesto, emphasizing what the French do best: rich, buttery foods and great pasta, an expansive wine list and, of course, cheese. In fact, the lacto-intolerant need not apply, as the restaurant prides itself in cheese flights, warm cheeses, artisanal cheeses, even a much-lauded grilled cheese. A mix-and-match charcuterie plate is a great way to start off a dinner—nothing is more mouth-watering than crusty bread, hand-picked cheese and a great glass of wine.
Large plates like a roasted chicken breast or steak au poivre are delicious and filling, but cozy up next to your date with a sampling of shared small plates. The oxtail ravioli is nearing legend status, but don't forget the lighter (but still satisfying) chiogga and yellow beet salad with truffle oil. Understatement is a gift, but there's no better time to drop a few jaws than while noshing on paté and sipping a well-crafted Bordeaux. Since this is French food in its most sensual state, don't forget a smashing red lipstick and a bombshell outfit that would fit in next to the Seine.
Bistronomic, 840 North Wabash (Between Pearson and Chestnut Streets). (312) 944-8400.
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Vegetarians, be forewarned: Not only is the cuisine at the Western-chic Frontier for your more, um, red-blooded brethren, but the decor is not for the PETA participant, either. Think massive mounted deer heads, large and wood-roasted animals served whole, and a giant stuffed bear. But in terms of a rustic mountain-top vibe, Frontier certainly is named appropriately: not only does it nail the aesthetic and food, but it also fills a much-needed gap carnivore gap in the Chicago dining scene.
True, the West Town spot isn't exactly at the edge of civilization—and the scene can get indeed rowdy when a Bears game is on—but the food will have you wondering what it'd be like to live in an era where shearling wasn't a luxurious option, but a necessity. Though the weather is turning away from rib-sticking grub, the venison chili is to die for, topped with salted cojita cheese and worth whetting your appetite. Another great starter is the creamy oyster and artichoke dip, served with a sweet corn pancake. But who are we fooling? Frontier's visitors are here for the barbecue and roasted game, so try the incredibly tender blackberry BBQ rabbit, with fingerling potato salad and, of course, succotash. Pulled pork gets an update with wild boar, and the delicate meat is smoked and served with a house-made BBQ sauce on a dusted French roll. For the adventurous group, give Frontier five days notice and you'll receive a slow-roasted pig, boar, goat or lamb—with all the fixins, like five-cheese mac or candied hazelnut green beens.
Hand-crafted cocktails are present, but the extensive beer list may have you thinking sudsy. And since this is a finger-lickin', barbecue sauce-heavy feast, you might want to leave your power pumps behind, getting into the mood with plenty of buttery leather and delicate, draped earrings. When lots of rich hues are called for, we love a nude lipstick and a couple of poppy hints of color. Just remember: when eating BBQ, napkins on your laps, please.
Frontier, 1072 North Milwaukee Avenue (At West Thomas Street). (773) 772-4322.
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Still hungry? Check out The Best of Fashion Plates: Los Angeles.