If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for a good gastropub. Namely, The Hopleaf, which you might remember from such drunken posts as this one. Chicago seems to be having a gastropub boom with at least two new ones opening in the past year that I have visited. My heart belongs to The Hopleaf (and their frites…and aioli…and pork belly…), but just because I’m married doesn’t mean I can’t look, right? Damn straight. Bring on The Bristol. Even on a Tuesday night, The Bristol was hopping. We were lucky enough to get in just before a big rush, and were seated right away. People coming in after us, however, had to wait upwards of 45 minutes just to get a seat. At a gastropub, I totally expect this. It is the chunk factor. When people sit down to really good beer and really good food with good friends, they just don’t want to move. I have even waited up two hours at The Hopleaf for a seat. But I know going in that I am going to have to wait, and I am prepared to drink a few hard ciders and chat with some friends. At the Hopleaf, with an upstairs and downstairs bar, this is easy. At The Bristol? Not so much. With just one narrow room, most patrons had to stand along the wall, staring at our monkey bread longingly and giving us “hurry the f up” looks. To someone not already obliterated on artisanal beers at a table, this sucks. But more about the food. We started off with the monkey bread with dill butter sauce ($4 USD), which was pretty good. Blurry picture, but you get the idea.
The little cast iron pot was so freaking hot, we had to dump out the bread just to get at it! But I am sucker for anything in a mini cast iron pot, so it won my heart with it’s tiny adorableness. For appetizers, Adam went with the chicken wings stuffed with chorizo and blue cheese, a twist on the classic buffalo wings ($8 USD).
These were…okay. Tiny. Not many of them. And they were covered by a pile of lettuce, which had no purpose other than to shield a perfectly good perfect from view. For $8, this was not that good of a deal, at least in my book. I got the duck fat french fries with housemade ketchup and aioli ($5 USD).
They were pretty good, and the housemade ketchup was very intriguing with hints of clove in it. But then again, compared to the Hopleaf frites and aioli, these just couldn’t hold a candle to it. Less fries than Hopleaf (for the same price), and the aioli was just okay. Again, not like The Hopleaf, where they try to cram an entire head of garlic into every tiny ramakin of aioli. My friend Davis picked the last app, roasted acorn squash with ricotta.
I am not a huge fan of acorn squash, but the other people really liked this dish, so we’ll give it a thumbs up. For mains, Adam went with the parmesan-crusted sausage (housemade, I assume) with beluga lentils ($15 USD).
These were okay. Sort of seems to be the theme of the night, just okay. It was a fun concept, but the flavor wasn’t really there for me. Davis went with the grilled salmon with Meyer lemon and jasmine rice ($16 USD).
I didn’t get a chance to taste this, but she was extremely happy with her choice. I went with a special from the chalkboard, pappardelle noodles with goat and kalamata olives.
Again, this was just okay. The noodles were delicious, it had a good flavor, but it was almost a bit greasy for my liking, and I found myself wishing I had ordered the burger. Ah well. The one upside of the evening? Dessert: A chocolate semifreddo (or was it a sabayon?) with homemade Nutterbutter cookies (for you international folks, a nutterbutter is a peanut butter cookie filled with peanut butter).
Oh. Ma. Gah. So good. The chocolate was like a cold, light fondue of sorts, and the cookies, while strongly flavored, were light as air. I could eat this all night long. Forget the fries. Forget the goat. Gimme the chocolate and peanut butter fondue! I did wish it came with more Nutterbutters, because the cookie to chocolate ratio was off, and by the time the cookies were gone, you were just left with a cup of chocolate pudding, essentially. You can ask for more cookies, but it costs more money. Nothing is free here. All in all, not so good. I know I was constantly comparing this to The Hopleaf, but I don’t think that affected my judgment. It doesn’t have to be better than The Hopleaf, it just needs to be equally as good in it’s own way, and from the space to most of the food, it just wasn’t. When you can easily drop $50 a person here, just okay food is not cool. Even if you throw in an extra Nutterbutter or two. Ah well. At least I can come back for the cider. ~LTG! ****************************************************************** The Bristol 2152 N Damen Avenue Chicago, IL 60647 (773) 862-5555 thebristolchicago.com