Double date idea: The Monarch in Wicker Park

the-monarch-chicago
Small, bustling interior of The Monarch.

The Monarch opened just last week in Wicker Park, on North Ave. where Uberstein was inhabited. It was closed and fully renovated in 10 days, but let me assure you, there are no remnants of a German bar in this tightly-packed, vibrantly updated space. Southern native Chef Andrew Brochu left Graham Elliot to help start this new bustling sports bar with American comfort food.

The atmosphere is a little rowdy for a one-on-one date, so I suggest going with another couple. But be prepared to wait — the space is deceivingly small. No worries, though: grab a cocktail menu at the bar and watch the eccentric bartender with red frames work his magic.

What we drank: They were out of one of the key ingredients of the Cleopatra Pain in the Asp cocktail, so I went with the Place de la Concord, a delightful mix of Hennessy, maraschino, egg and bitters. He had the George Remus, a stiff blend of bourbon, dram and whiskey barrel-aged bitters. I later had the Don’t Ever Play with Guns, the ingredients of which I’ll leave to your imagination.

What we ate: For appetizers, two musts: the soft pretzel (in fact, the softest) with housemade beer cheese. I could resign to never again visit a mall in my lifetime, perusing with an Auntie Anne’s pretzel in hand, if I were given this every week. Secondly, the dill pickle wings. Chuck that baseball right at the target so that I may be dunked into the creamy, dill-infused sauce of these aviary appendages.

The oh-so-soft soft pretzel with housemade beer cheese.
The oh-so-soft soft pretzel with housemade beer cheese.

For entrees, each was in its own way satisfying: the duck confit on toast with shrimp puffs, glazed beef short rib, king salmon with potato puree (although small for an adult Midwestern male), and fried green tomato and gruyere sandwich. The table unanimously decided it was the Southern-style sandwich that reigned.

Dessert was amusingly kitschy: in response to our inquiries of the ice cream truck, the server presented a small Igloo cooler with the contents of an actual ice cream truck: Drumsticks and Strawberry Shortcake bars. This would be acceptable at your average sports bar, but with Andrew Brochu wearing the apron, I expect something a little more ambitious – but still fun – in the near future.

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