A Rare Find on Ada Street

September 4, 2012

Entrance to the restaurant
 I had always wanted to try a newish restaurant from the folks at DMK Burger Bar and Fish Bar, located in an off-the-beaten-path warehouse. Ada St. is a modern American small plates restaurant carved out of a former warehouse on an empty street in Noble Square. Upon arriving to the restaurant, my friend Sara and I both wondered if we were in the right place! Luckily the front door confirmed our whereabouts.
Upon entering the restaurant, you're immediately placed in a dark waiting room, complete with candelabras and vintage furniture.

In the waiting room
Backyard space
I had heard about Ada St.'s backyard area, so I requested a table outside. We were led through the narrow restaurant, past a bookshelf of vinyl records that were being played, a fully stocked bar and wooden end tables. The backyard was complete with astroturf, picnic tables, fold up chairs and tables with gingham tablecloths, a ping pong table, grill and hanging lights. This unique space really made you forget you were sitting outside in an industrial area!

Backyard space
Backyard space
To start our meal, we began with some specialty cocktails. I tried the Whole Lotta Love which featured gin, basil-cucumber syrup and lime. Admittedly, I did not really like the taste of it, so our server gladly let me try something different.

Cocktail menu
Whole Lotta Love: gin, basil-cucumber syrup, lime
Sara and I both went with the Where There's Smoke There's Fire cocktail comprised of mezcal, vermouth, chile, egg white and lime. The spiciness of the chile really came through with the frothy egg yolks. It was quite an interesting cocktail!

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire: mezcal, vermouth, chile, egg white, lime
Whole Lotta Love & Where There's Smoke There's Fire
The menu at Ada St. is divided into bar bites, specials and limited offerings and grilled items. We decided to order a handful of plate across these categories to share. The first plate was one of our favorites of the evening, a beef tenderloin sliced atop a bed of arugula and topped with shaved parmesan and horseradish cream. The beef was rare and tender and was delicious with the salty parmesan and spicy horseradish.

Grassfed beef tenderloin, arugula, parmesan, horseradish cream
We were also given some complimentary crispy black eyed peas. This battered snack was a tad too salty but they were fun to munch on between small plates.

Crispy black eyed peas
Sara tried the daily soup for one which came in a shot glass. It was a cold soup of pureed mint and peas. She seemed to enjoy it but it wasn't one of my favorites.

Soup of the day, cold pea with mint
Next up was roasted summer squash tossed in chile and mint. This dish was probably the freshest tasting dish we tried and was perfectly seasoned. You could tell it had just come off the grill merely feet from our table.

Roasted summer squash, chile fresno, mint
We were convinced by our server to try the fried green tomatoes which were served with a bacon jam underneath. The batter on the tomatoes was perfect and not at all greasy. I was used to tasting fried tomatoes with a ranch sauce, but the bacon jam was amazing. The salty and smoky bacon flavor really came through and it almost tasted like bbq pulled pork.

Salmon tartare with bacon two ways & fried green tomatoes with nueske bacon jam
The last dish of the evening also came recommended by our server. The salmon tartare was mixed with what else, bacon, and was topped with roe and served with crostini. This was my least favorite dish of the night, and one we left most of on the table. It was too salty for me and had an odd texture.

After a few rounds of ping pong, we couldn't complete our meal without dessert. We tried one of the dessert specials, a peach and plum cobbler. This simple dessert concocted from oats, brown sugar and fresh fruit,  was a sweet ending to an interesting meal.

Peach and plum cobbler

Our to-go packages
Overall, I was pleased with the unusual restaurant location, unique backyard atmosphere and the inventive cocktail list, however, the service especially fell short. Although the food was high quality, complex and flavorful, our overall experience was soured by a lack of attentiveness. We frequently had to ask for water to be served, plates cleared and everything in between. We even had to listen to our neighboring diners and servers for the daily specials because our server failed to give us the complete rundown. I would return to Ada St. for a cocktail and small plates in the backyard, but only if the service is improved. I think the atmosphere is quite a unique one in Chicago, it just seems they have a few kinks to get worked out.

Ada St. gets 3.5 stars for a unique ambiance, flavorful local dishes but lackluster service.

Ada Street
1664 N. Ada Street
 Chicago, IL 60642
Reservations at OpenTable.com

Ada Street on Urbanspoon


  1. Hey Amanda, do you have an email address where I could reach you? I'd love to ask you some questions about Chicago. Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Frank! You can contact me at amandatopper [at] gmail [dot] com


  2. They say that they offer good food here, but for me, they don’t just offer good food but they also offer a nice and comfy place. I was very happy when we had the chance to visit this resto; the place was set perfectly, the tables and chairs were perfect for the place.

  3. Hey Georgina!

    I really liked the atmosphere, especially the tucked away patio. I think that's what makes Ada Street such a hidden gem if you're looking for al fresco dining.


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