At CG, the job description states, “candidate must be willing to rap mad shit, speak on the goodness and fulfill other duties as assigned.” Written next to all the analogies and metaphors is the essence of why we put pen to pad: the food.
Be it reputation, ingredients, aesthetic, or waitstaff, we have few stalwarts within the grid that exude tru dinegamery. Long after fair-weather diners fade to black, these spots continue to dominate culinary reinvention and recreation again and again. It should be noted that Chicago’s dining scene recently received yet another fraternal pledge with the emergence of Pilsen’s contemporary, regionally inspired, Nightwood.
One of Nightwood’s first reviewers to place grade-Chuck Sudo-inspired CG swayziness. In the review, Chuck inferred that Nightwood was no Lula (an undeniable force within the localism experiment which helped establish Logan as a community that actually had more than just hipsters in it. Still cant get a muhfucken cab up in that piece). Then there was Julia Kramer and her “Lula’s sibling is a work-in-progress. That can be a good thing.” piece. As far as Chicago Gluttons are concerned, there aint no gotdamn time on the dial for “works-in-progress”. Crunch the digits: total number of ridiculous things to consume – average lifespan just don’t =. CGs fully understand that restaurants take time to develop, but we felt that once Jason Hammel and Amalea Tshilds co-signed on Nightwood, it would have guaranteed instant status. Apparently, not this go round.
But fuck it, we rolled thru anyways.
First thing that we noticed about Nightwood is how diners step into the place. There is no grand entrance & foyer, but rather, an ADA compliant ramp leading to a simplistic wood door on the side of the building. It looks like it should be the dry goods delivery entrance. I don’t get it. Does a minimalist dining space indicate crawling through a doggy door? Still, it aint that deep; as long as the food is proper, they could beam my black ass in.
After a short wait, finding ourselves standing in everyone elses way (if you find the Nightwood bar at capacity, you’re better off heading down to Skylark for pre-sesh), we were sat at a table in the industrial metal and concrete outdoor space. It took some time for the wait staff to get their shit together, but we don’t cry ova Yoohoo spilled as Nightwood was about to open up a culinary summer school on us.
We ordered some Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and commenced our gluttonous gang bang of the Nightwood menu.
Lets get into the appetizers. You know the half; we go with greens first. If the chefs aint taught how to properly construct a salad, they mos def aint going to be proficient in grilling shit.
We started with the mustard green salad with braised short ribs & a soft poached farm egg. The shit was clean and fresh like abstinent prostitutes. We were certain that chef snuck some horseradish into the vinaigrette, but no, it was the glorious bitterness of the mustard greens shining through. You could see the energy coming offa this dish like some Celestine Prophecy shit.
Next up, the Michigan peaches with gorgonzola, almonds, arugula and aged balsamic were properly executed given the strength of each individual component. A glorious testament to summer and all good things that emerge from it.
And finally, the pork shank ravioli with almond butter and amaretto dish which was tight like caskets. Creating homemade pastas should definitely be considered a skilled trade; like lumberjacking or pimping. The pork shank filling was robust and succulent and harmonized well with the pasta bathed in olive oil and fresh herbs.
Then the entrees came on in.
The smoked trout BLT on brioche with a sunny side farm egg & salad was just like Julia promised via tweet. Hot Jehovah, the flavors blew my mind like candles at a 13 year olds birfday. Hidden under the warm pooled oasis of yellow goodness were two thick cut bacon strips which added saltiness to the sweet brioche and sunny side egg yoke. Full bars.
Next was the wood grilled rack of lamb with black kale, beets & rutabaga. This meat had me working my grill like I was at a Black Expo rib booth. The fat portion on the cuts was almost as prevalent as the meat itself, but I got into it like a NAAFA lobbist, incorporating the marbleized blubber in with the cuts of warm lamb. Don’t let me forget the oil and beet sauce that pooled in red on the plate like Christ spoke it.
After a yellow plum sorbet with blueberry compote palate cleanser to get lamb-n-rutabaga off the breath, our server alerted us that a few dessert options had been 86ed. Depression/suicidal tendencies were quickly replaced with elation when we were told of a chocolate bunt made with the same Russian Imperial Stout we drank before. Seriously, after putting my lips on this, chocolate bunt will never be the same. Gone are visions of my wrinkled grandmother sifting flour and squeezing lard; bending over into the oven, putting various saggy extremities in my face. Ushered in are heavenly images of a Cake Product Hall-of-Fame where chocolate stout bunt joins red velvet, rum, carrot and the unfuckable classic country yellow cake.
All told, even in infancy, Nightwood got CGs properly popped. The fact that the kitchen dives into new ventures on the daily-based on the availability of local ingredients-simply cannot be refuted. Don’t get it twisted like phone cords, more time in the lab is required in order to perfect the deliciousness. But, real talk, Nightwood is about to take ova the block and section and become a mainstay for years to come.