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Oh, What a Nightwood

If there’s any restaurant worth the trek to Chicago’s out-of-the-way artist’s corridor, Pilsen, it’s Nightwood – the progressive American eatery headed by Jason Vincent, who just won Best Chef by Food and Wine Magazine.

While you won’t get bells and whistles coming out of his kitchen, you can expect simple genius. Unlike most of what has made headlines lately, Vincent’s claim to fame is cooking delicious food backed by his serious skills, not science. This is easy to witness if you pick a seat at their open-kitchen counter, which is precisely where we headed last Friday night.

NW_kitchen

Most kitchen tables are reserved for the elite – those willing to spend a little extra to sit closer to the magic. At Nightwood, it’s first-come, first-served for front-row seats to the all the action – and I mean all of the action. There are no other areas for prep, boiling, broiling, mashing, mixing, baking, or frying – so when you post up in a chair, you are in for seeing, hearing, and smelling it all. Foodies, rejoice.

NW_open_kitchen

We began with the olive oil poached Albacore Tuna salad which came dressed with a four-minute egg. Fresh lettuce and an oozing egg was the perfect combo to buy us time to decide what we’d enjoy for dinner.

NW_salad

Because all pastas are made in-house, we went with their spaghetti dish, which we saw pressed from a pasta maker right before our eyes. It came with four veal meatballs arranged delicately in a line for pretty plating. My dining partner took notice of how many “order-ins” there were for the cheeseburger, and decided to add one more to the line by opting for one of those. Two patties, a buttered bun, and some special sauce made this classic a total hit.

 

Homemade Pasta & Veal Meatballs

Homemade Pasta & Veal Meatballs

Saving room for dessert is a must at Nightwood, as their pastry program is one of the best I’ve seen. For a sweet treat, we sprung for the soft pretzel bread pudding, which was nothing short of heavenly. In sum, it was a custard cup of sweet, salty, soft, crunchy warm gooey goodness topped with a ball of vanilla ice cream with flecks of chocolate covered pretzels.

soft pretzel bread pudding

soft pretzel bread pudding

Service wasn’t as warm as I had hoped, which is the one thing that prevents Nightwood from being the total package.

NW_diningroom_full

Aside from the open-kitchen counter seating, there is bar seating and tables scattered throughout the front of the dimly-lit space. The place gets packed fairly quickly, especially on weekends, so a reservation is encouraged if you’re okay with sitting a traditional table. Brunch is served on Sundays and note that with a farm-to-table focus, the menu changes often based on what can be sourced locally for the season.

Emily Belden

Emily Belden

everyone's favorite no-one | nerd trapped in a cool kid's body | writer, blogger | cooler online than in real life | doesn't come home to stuffed animals |

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