I like meeting people from the Internet. People like Francis who says to me one day, “I’m going to Lima by myself. You should come!” And I say things like “Francis, you can’t say things like this to me because I will actually come with you.” And before you know it, Wendy and Maureen are coming too and Francis turns out to be the TRAVEL MASTER ORGANIZER and has an agenda for us and everything and we eat all the fruit and drink all the pisco sours and leave Lima very very happy.
Francis proved to be the master organizer yet again when he marched us little ducklings off to Tanta, the new Peruvian place in Chicago by Peruvian chef Gaston Arcurio, whom some may be familiar with from World’s 50 Best Astrid & Gaston. (Almost wrote Gastrid and Ashton there. Whoops.)
I’m worried about Tanta’s location. Although it’s in River North, it’s in a bit of a desolate stretch of Grand close to Lasalle. Signage is also a little discreet for River North, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. I can imagine the tourists walking by…”Should we go here? I don’t know…Tanta? What does that mean? Do they have steak here? Do you think I can put ketchup on it? I hope they open at 5.”
But once inside, I love the space. I love the bar and would happily come back here to dine solo. I love that it’s not too uber-stuffed with tables and chairs. There’s an appreciation of personal space here that is just really nice.
That being said, personal space is on overdrive at the back of the restaurant at our table, which is too wide and too long for our party of five. I am the fifth wheel. And the restaurant is LOUD and my hearing is not as bionic as it used to be. I am alone at the end of the table, but the lovely and gracious Mr. Stashwick is a wonderful table-mate.
Enough babble. Let’s talk CHICKEN. I cannot profess my love of a full roast chicken enough. Roast chicken is one of my absolute favorite things to eat and to make. (Yes, you read that correctly…to make!) While I hate restaurant chicken breast entrees (too frozen Restaurant Depot for me), I love a pick-at-it-all-day-and-all-night-long roast chicken. And Tanta’s is probably one of the best I’ve ever had. The presentation is awesome…so many sides and lovely crisp potatoes that are even crisp the next morning when I polish them off as leftovers for breakfast. Seriously, this is very good stuff, very excellent, supremely competent stuff.
The Verdict: I will be back here soon. You should go too. Maybe we should go together and drink all the Pisco Sours together.
P.S. It’s perhaps worthy to note that we received special treatment the night we came in because Francis was super-excited about the restaurant’s opening and had been in touch with Gaston Arcurio and staff. The chef came out a few times to talk with us, along with some of the other senior staff. Also, we were comped a few dishes; my apologies but because I was not in charge of the bill, I’m not sure what exactly we were comped but it was a small amount in relation to the overall bill. We tipped as if we had not been comped, of course.
I woke up one morning, craving enchiladas. I can’t explain how these things happen to me, except that they do sometimes. While still horizontally ensconced in Frette, I did a bit of thumbing around on the old iPhone until Flo popped up. Good reviews, good enchiladas, and easily accessible by Divvy Bike, my newest infatuation.
I showed up to Flo by myself and took a seat at the bar. I wasn’t the only one, alone at the bar, placing my order. That gave me instant confidence in this “New Mexico” restaurant. Normally, in this part of town, I don’t run into that many solo diners. Especially this early in the morning. But I was one of at least three.
The enchiladas arrived. They were simple and perfect. And at $9, also a pretty good value. By the time I left, the line for Flo was out the door. Hipsters, families, and tables for one.
The Verdict: I can only speak for Sunday brunch — which I’ve done here now three Sundays in a row — but you should go. Get the enchiladas.
Long-term readers will know that on Fridays during the summer, I can leave work early if I want to. And I’ve been trying to do that this summer, trying to get out there and explore places and do things and see things. Someone told me that I would love Beatrix so I went to Beatrix on one of my Friday afternoons. Because I am trusting like that.
And I did like Beatrix. Sort of. I mean, I liked the chairs. There are a lot of different chairs at Beatrix. It’s one of those new-school/old-school all day free-wifi restaurants with lots and lots of chairs for people so you can sit down or you can stand up or you can stay for 20 minutes or you can stay for EIGHT HOURS (like the people across from me did). Lots of interesting, different chairs. Really, there’s something for everyone. Really, it felt like a total ripoff of London’s Hoxton Hotel.
“Have the burger,” some guy at the bar urged me. “I just did and it was really really good.”
Apparently that man has never had a burger in HIS ENTIRE LIFE.
Because the burger was shite. Super shite. Overcooked sawdust.
And the fries were undercooked.
And the pickled vegetables were still too raw.
When I left, I was angry at myself for wasting my Friday lunch here. Very angry.
All that being said, they were jackhammering the road outside the restaurant and you never would have known it inside the restaurant. That’s some good sound-proofing they’ve got going there.
I eat at Carriage House a lot. Sometimes, I get off the train after work and I think to myself “Whole wheat pasta in the microwave at home or dinner at the bar at Carriage House?” That is WAY too easy a decision to make. I like it here. I like their wines, I like their service, I like their food. Sadly, the Lyonnaise salad and its soft pillows of pork belly is off the menu for now — I’ve been eating a lot of that — but then the asparagus popped up and it is LUSCIOUS. Slow poached egg, sherry and sorghum vinaigrette, cornbread crumbs, crawfish tails and béarnaise. Pretty fantastic. But also, apparently, now off the menu. God damnit.
So here’s what I think of though while I sit at the bar at Carriage House. I look out the window and I see all the people all going to all the sports bars and I wonder…with food this good RIGHT HERE, why would you go to a sports bar for waffle fries? Why?