Chicago Reader – Restaurant Finder

  • May 23rd, 2004
  • Comments Off on Chicago Reader – Restaurant Finder

Tastefully packaged condiments, pasta, herbs, and the like are displayed on chrome shelves, a banquette of white tables lines a wall, and down-tempo ambient grooves play at a conversational level at this upscale food shop. Owner Lisa Santos focuses on high-quality domestic products, supplemented by a few gourmet imports.

The grocery section sells a variety of honeys, some flavored with star anise and chili, imported pastas, and homemade granola. Among the vinegars, one can find a $49.95 Fini aged balsamic and right below it a French white-wine vinegar priced at $2.50. The store also has a small selection of reasonably priced wines and microbrew beers and a cooler of gourmet cheese and butter, plus carryout items like sandwiches and ginger-carrot bisque.

Then there’s the cafe, which features a stick-to-your-ribs selection of what Santos calls “modern comfort food.” Her interpretations of standard comfort foods are decidedly nonstandard. Her grilled cheese sandwich, for instance, is Brie, spinach, and mushrooms on ciabatta with a couscous-fennel-apple-walnut salad; it costs $8. Also on the menu: a hearty thyme-roasted half chicken served with macaroni and cheese for $12, and Santos’s version of meat and potatoes — beef short ribs slow-braised to such succulence that they dissolve at the nudge of a fork, accompanied by mascarpone mashed potatoes (also $12).

The children’s menu offers such mother-approved standbys as buttered noodles and PB & J with the crusts cut off, both with sides of applesauce and steamed veggies, served on ceramic TV trays.
–Kathie Bergquist

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