Thursday, August 20

Villains

The BF and I recently checked out Villains, a South Loop bar and restaurant featuring an impressive craft beer selection and a seasonal, chef-driven menu. The original Villains opened in 2007 across the street from the current location. The previous version was a neighborhood bar known for its burgers, while the new version is certainly new and improved. The space is industrial yet cozy and though it's been open since May, still has that new car smell.

For starters, the draft beer is gigantic and global, featuring 40 varieties of Denmark's Mikkeller beer alone. Many beers are rare in their own right, or rare to see on menus in Chicago. Each is listed with detailed tasting notes that certainly come in handy. We had the pleasure of exploring the beer menu through a series of beer pairings during our five course dinner. Our favorite beer of the evening was our random selection, Oak-aged Bretta from Logsdon Farms in Hood River, Oregon. We loved it so much, we found a store selling it and purchased it the next day!

Villains Chicago
Beer Pairing Dinner
Chef Dennis Stover's (HotChocolate, Longman & Eagle, Vie, The Publican, Big Star) food menu is not as large as Villains' beer list, but everything is carefully executed and changes seasonally. Each menu item also is listed with two suggested beer pairings. Our first three courses were from the starters portion of the menu which you could easily make a meal of. We started with delicate ricotta agnolotti pasta with sungold tomatoes, Parmesan broth, and a melrose pepper vinaigrette. The dish was light and bright and bursting with nutty and acidic flavor. Our beer pairing was the malty Anderson Valley Boont Amber, and Blanche du Paradis, a witbier from Montreal.

Villains Chicago
Ricotta Agnolotti
Course two featured grilled Norwegian trout with roasted chili crema, cucumbers, and ground cherry vinaigrette. The fish was so delicious and fresh! I loved the vinaigrette and cucumbers as well. This dish was paired with Zwickel Bavarian lager from St. Louis, and Seizoen Bretta, the unoaked version of the first saison we tried.

Villains Chicago
Grilled Norwegian Trout
Moving along, course three was grilled, milk braised pork belly with roasted summer squash, flageolet beans and honeycomb. Now that I've eaten pork belly with honeycomb, I never want to eat pork belly with anything else. Truly fantastic! And that crisp, fresh summer squash and beans made me so happy. Yes, happy, because, before you know it, it's going to be cold. And snowy. This dish was paired with Smuttynose's Old Brown Dog and Half Acre's Navaja, a double IPA that just so happens to be in my fridge at this very moment.

Villains Chicago
Grilled, Milk Braised Pork Belly
Course four is about when we wanted to explode with fullness. But alas, we prevailed. The Slagel Farms dry-aged top sirloin was served with smoked potatoes, sweet corn, green beans, and a leek vinaigrette. While the steak was overcooked for my liking, I did enjoy its flavor and OMG that sweet corn! Amazing. Summer, please stay forever. Our steak was paired with Deschutes' The Stoic, a Belgian quadruple out of Portland, Oregon (a favorite brewery of ours), and Nøgne Ø Imperial Stout from Norway. That quad though...drink with caution!

Villains Chicago
Slagel Farms Dry-Aged Top Sirloin
Last but not least, our dessert was another superb summer creation. The cheesecake surprise (!) was served with honey roasted peaches and mint! It was a nice and light ending to our seasonal meal! We enjoyed this dessert with the rare Mikkeller Beer Geek Dessert oatmeal stout. This was another strong beer coming in at a whopping 11% ABV. Not only was that impressive, what's also impressive is the fact that this beer is brewed once. That's it.

Villains Chicago
Cheesecake with Honey Roasted Peaches, Mint
We truly enjoyed our time at Villains and the staff is incredibly knowledgeable about the beer list and menu. This is definitely the place to bring your craft-beer-loving friends and foodies alike. We will definitely be back to explore the beer list again in hopes of finding our next favorite craft brew.

Note: my meal at Villains was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own.

Villains Chicago
730 S. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60605
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Wednesday, August 19

Firefly Kitchen

I recently ventured out to the border of Evanston and Wilmette to check out a new restaurant bringing "A taste of Brooklyn" to Chicago's North Shore. Firefly Kitchen is a warm and inviting bistro serving upscale comfort food and a curated wine and cocktail menu. Firefly is a collaborative effort between New York native and chef Dean Salerno, and James Pierce, former head of The Bar at The Peninsula Chicago. Pierce features unique local and small batch spirits and a selection of signature cocktails. The wine program also compliments the bistro’s menu.


No detail goes unnoticed in the space, from the various song lyrics on the walls, to the light fixtures reminiscent of the restaurant's namesake. There's also a lovely 35-seat outdoor patio behind the restaurant which makes you feel like you're dining in a friend's backyard.

Firefly Kitchen
Dining Room
Firefly Kitchen
Dining Room
Firefly Kitchen
Dining Room
Chef Dean Salerno offers a seasonal menu made from scratch and inspired by his upbringing and experience in restaurants in New York City. Trained in classic French, creative American, and Pan-Asian cuisine, Chef Salerno’s menu offerings include comforting dishes like a grilled romaine steak salad, hibachi skewers served on a tableside grill, truffle mushroom risotto, and multiple styles of fries and chips. 

The night I dined I enjoyed a special lump crab cake with roasted fennel and Meyer lemon. This dish was fantastic because it had no filler, just large chunks of crab and seasonings.

Firefly Kitchen
Crab Cake
Another fantastic starter is the Napoleon tartare with salmon and tuna tartare underneath a potato gaufrette. The generous dollop of creme fraiche on top adds a decadent creamy texture.

Firefly Kitchen
Napoleon Tartare
Hibachi skewers appeared to be a popular starter on the night I dined. A mini hibachi grill is delivered tableside along with your choice of chicken, steak, or shrimp skewers. Each skewer is served with a housemade sauce, including an amazing peanut sauce for the chicken, and a chipotle sauce for the shrimp.

Firefly Kitchen
Hibachi Skewers
Entree options are quite plentiful, including salads, sandwiches, fish, chicken, steak, and vegetarian items.

Firefly Kitchen
Firefly Kitchen Entrees
We tried a little of each protein including the pan seared salmon with oven dried tomatoes, escarole and white beans. This was my favorite entree because the salmon was perfectly seared with a nice, crisp crust. The beans and escarole had wonderful garlic flavor as well.

Firefly Kitchen
Pan Seared Salmon
The roasted organic chicken has a beautiful presentation. It's completely deboned, wrapped around itself, and topped with fresh thyme. On the side you'll find potato croquettes, broccoli rabe, and roasted garlic cloves which are perfect for eating (as long as you're not on a hot date).

Firefly Kitchen
Roasted Organic Chicken
The Salerno burger was just OK in my opinion, partially because it was overcooked, and partially because the accompanying fries were lackluster. However, the housemade pickles were a nice touch.

Salerno Burger
We also tried an order of duck fat Parmesan and herb fries from the variety of fry and chip options on the menu. I didn't taste the fat but I did enjoy the roasted jalapeños and sage on top. You can also order sweet potato fries or one of several varieties of housemade chips, which were much better than the fries. We tried the BBQ chips with a chef-made spice blend, and the goat cheese fondue fries which were utterly addicting (not pictured).

Firefly Kitchen
Duck Fat Parmesan and Herb Fries
While Firefly Kitchen does not yet make their own desserts, they do support a local bakery, JR Dessert Bakery, by serving a variety of their cakes and cupcakes. We sampled the carrot cake (my favorite), flourless chocolate cake, and a caramel cupcake. If you're looking for something sweet, it will do the trick, but it's nothing to write home about.

Firefly Kitchen
Carrot Cake
Firefly Kitchen
Caramel Cupcake
Firefly Kitchen
Flourless Chocolate Cake
If you're looking for an excuse to head out of the city for quality food in a friendly and relaxing environment, give Firefly Kitchen a try! It's also conveniently located within walking distance from the Metra Central Street station.

Firefly Kitchen is open for dinner seven days per week and also serves weekend brunch including dishes such as stacked pancakes with passion fruit purée and caramel, and prime rib and egg stuffed Yorkshire pudding.

Note: my meal at Firefly Kitchen was complimentary; however, the opinions expressed herein are my own. 

Firefly Kitchen
111 Green Bay Road
Wilmette, IL 60091
224.408.2464
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