Chili glaze and celery
The neighborhood eatery is an illusive formula for new restaurants. A place can’t open its doors on day one and expect the whole town to come out to support. This is big-time Chicago, not small-town Illinois. The loyalty of regulars is curated with a thoughtful yet not overcomplicated menu prepared by an experienced chef. The environment must be cozy, and have a familiar feel with a friendly wait staff. Once all of those pieces are in place, a restaurant can claim the neighborhood gem title.
The Bentley Tavern will vie for that title when they open late next week in Lakeview, and they have the right foundation. Built in the late 1800s, it first housed a family-owned business and then an Italian restaurant for 30 years. Now, it keeps the vintage charm with white wanes coating, crown molding and forest green accents. French doors connect the 50-seat dining room and bar to the 50-seat patio. The star of the space is a carved wooden bar surrounded by green and white subway tiles. When not filled with the smells of pouring wine and fresh food, it has that old house scent.
Executive chef Ian Flowers (formerly of LoKal in Wicker Park) makes sure that food not only smells good, but also tastes great. His menu of American bistro fare utilizes local produce and meats. “A nice meal that is not going to break your pocketbook,” is what Flowers said he wants to serve. “We’re not Downtown, so charging an exorbitant amount for entrees is not going to fly here. But that still doesn’t mean that I cant give the neighborhood some quality dishes that are prepared right.”
The expansive menu includes everything from bar bites such as chili-glazed chicken drumettes to crab cakes. Larger plates include an elegant rack of spring lamb with herb-glazed root vegetables and arugula-shallot salad. Like every good corner joint, it has a signature burger with pork belly, egg, mushrooms, pickles and ham on a pretzel bun. A raw bar features oysters to crab claws and a charcuterie selection is also available. Market-inspired desserts complete any meal with port-drenched cherries served with a rich chocolate mouse.
After opening, the restaurant will expand to weekend brunch and host wine dinners. Further down the road, The Bentley will be open during the day and serve café fare.
2834 N. Southport Ave.; 773-477-2283
Chili glaze and celery
Field Green Salad
Shaved carrot, english cucumber and sherry-orange vinaigrette
Buttermilk smashed potato and sweet corn vinaigrette
Aubergine caponata, cheddar polenta and saba reduction
54% Chocolate Ganache
Port cherries and candied orange