Table, Donkey and Stick | Restaurant review
Logan Square just got a lot more rustic.
Are you about to set out on a game hunt? Are you taking a break from an arduous cross-country ski trip? Are you looking for a place to recover from a grueling day of trapping wildlife? Bartering beaver fur? Boy, have I got the restaurant for you.
Come in and warm up. Not in the front room—this awkward, chilly space (formerly Bonsoirée) lacks the necessary warmth (figuratively) of the cozier back atrium, where you can gather with your fellow hunter-gatherer-skiiers at communal wood tables. Tear off a hunk of the rustic buckwheat baguette and spread it with the complimentary pork rillettes. The bread’s interior is too moist, and the rillettes are undistinguished. But who cares? It’s fuel.
Besides, you have wanderteller coming. The German word translates as hiker’s plate, but what it means is charcuterie: subtly smoky, tongue-shaped strips of venison loin; gorgeously rich duck-liver mousse; delicate slices of pheasant galantine. In other words, it’s not exactly amateur hour in the cured-meats department over here. In fact, these snacks, as well as a nice cheese plate (served with honey and sunflower-oat bread), are standouts of a menu that otherwise struggles—these are things you don’t have to be a Mountain Man to appreciate.
The same can’t be said for the roasted sunchokes and squash, a dish of roughage served, quizzically, cold. Nor of the intensely fatty veal breast, nor of the humdrum roasted trout, nor of the grainy pork sausage. The beet soup is an enigma: It’s beautiful in a dark, haunting way. I can’t say it’s something I’d want to eat again—funky strips of blood sausage, soft puffed jasmine rice and all—but I’m glad I had it once, and at $7, it didn’t hurt to do so. That’s the price of most of the appetizers here, and entrées are ridiculously reasonable, too, with only one more than $16. The best one I tried was the braised beef shank, tender hunks of meat intertwined with caramelized kale, centered around a square of sweet potato dauphinoise (thin slices of tender root vegetable layered with cream). It was, like a lot of chef Scott Manley’s food, rich and rustic. Yet, it was so satisfying and well-executed that it did what few of its cohort could: It made the concept of an Alpine-inn-and-obscure-Grimm-fairy-tale-inspired restaurant seem appealing, not limiting.