Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie for Three!

November 17, 2012

When I heard my favorite local cheese and sandwich shop was opening a wine bar, I knew I had to be one of the first to check it out. Pastoral Artisan, a local cheese shop with three locations in Chicago, opened Bar Pastoral, an intimate wine bar adjacent to its Pastoral Artisan location in Lakeview.

My two girlfriends and I arrived on the Friday of their opening week. At 7pm. We were feeling bold. We were told there would be an hour wait, less for a spot at the bar itself. We gave the host our phone number and  plopped down at a dive bar across the street to grab a drink while we waited. After about 25 minutes, we were called and they had a spot for us at the wine bar. Win.

We walked into the small storefront which was packed with patrons at each of their 10 or so tables plus the cheese bar in the back and the wine bar in the front. The wine bar was actually quite comfortable. Even though we were in a tight space, I never felt the people around me were on top of me. I actually really enjoyed watching all the wine pouring action up close and personal.

Drink menu
Bar Pastoral offers a selection of beers, cocktails and wines by the bottle, glass and half-glass. I perused the wine list and ended up trying nearly every white wine on the menu. I kid you not. Our server was beyond generous and patient in helping me fine the perfect wine to accompany my cheese-filled feast. I'm sorry for my indecisiveness!

Wine bottle list
I ended up selecting a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon after finding the whites either too dry or too sweet. What can I say? I have picky taste buds at times! I was given a generous pour and what's even better is the fact that all wines by the glass are just $10 and all half glasses are $5. Fairly reasonable if you ask me.

Full glass of 2009 Bodega Gougenheim Cabernet Sauvignon
Our goal for the evening was to try a variety of items off of the menu. The menu not only features cheese boards, but also snacks, small and large plates and a selection of charcuterie.

We started off with each of us selecting one cheese for our cheese board. Our trio of cow's milk cheeses included a softer Liebe Rot cow's milk cheese, Reserved Bandaged cheddar, and a Challerhocker. The Liebe Rot was very soft and creamy, similar in texture to brie. We found this one to be a tad too bitter, but I did enjoy the texture. This one was served with a side of pickled plums and a baguette. The crumbled cheddar was in a cup along with some peanut brittle. I loved how the sweetness of the brittle cut the saltiness of the cheddar. Lastly, the Challerhocker, both our favorite of the cheese board and the most fun to pronounce, was served with a pumpkin seed brittle. I loved the semi-firm texture and grassy taste. It nearly moo-ed when I bit in.

Cheese board and pizza nuts
Since I tend to do some research on what to order before I dine out, I knew I had to try one of Bar Pastoral's snacks, the pizza nuts. This cup 'o nuts was a mix of peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds (yes, again) and a spicy blend of what I believe included paprika and some pepper and topped with shavings of podda cheese. The flavor of these could only be described as having the flavor of pizza-flavored Combos, if Combos were spicy and topped with fresh cheese shavings.

Pizza nuts with peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and podda
Next in our lineup was roasted cauliflower, another dish I had read was a must-order. Roasted cauliflower sat atop an egg-in-a-basket made with crusty brioche. The entire dish was generously blanketed in a rich, cheesy mornay sauce. If you couldn't tell, this was by far the favorite dish of the evening. I only wish all vegetables tasted this good!

Roasted cauliflower with egg-in-a-basket, brioche, mornay sauce, chives
Last, and definitely not least, we ordered their take on the all-American grilled cheese sandwich. What's a cheese joint without a grilled cheese sandwich anyway? This version featured cheeses of varying textures and flavors housed between two slices of crusty sourdough bread. The semi-firm Saxony was ever-so-melty and was topped with a smooth ricotta and slices of sweet pears. Toasted almonds added a nice crunch. I now know how to make a mean grilled cheese combination. It was udderly delicious (see what I did there?).

Grilled cheese with pear, ricotta, Saxony, toasted almonds, sourdough
Overall, I was impressed with the variety of both the menu and the wines. I knew Pastoral could make a mean sandwich so I had high expectations for Bar Pastoral. Luckily, they exceeded my expectations with their warm and knowledgeable staff, classy atmosphere and high quality ingredients. The only downside of our meal was a few flaws in the service that evening. It was clear servers were still trying to iron out some service kinks, but I'm sure those will improve in the weeks to come. I was also puzzled as to why an employee thought it was OK to tell my party to "Eat it, don't Tweet it" when he noticed us taking photos of our food. Last time I checked, this is my hobby!

Bar Pastoral gets 4 stars for its diverse menu, reasonably priced wines and welcoming staff. Next time I'll ask to sit at the cheese bar in back. Hey, maybe I'll score a few samples?

Bar Pastoral
2647 North Broadway
Chicago, Illinois 60657
(773) 472-4781 
Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine on Urbanspoon


  1. thanks for the nice review and hope to see you again soon--- BTW I was the one who was joking with you regarding "eat it, don't tweet it"--- it is a running joke with my friends and sorry you took offense
    Greg O'Neill

  2. Hey Greg! No offense taken and I appreciate your reading the post. I'll be back for more cheese and wine deliciousness soon :)



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