Saturday night I had one of the very best new dining experiences in a long while at Gather in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood. This restaurant has been on my radar for several months now. I am so happy that I finally made it there. My only regret is that I waited so long.
I had heard only the most wonderful things about Gather
, so I saved my appetite all day long. Then, I met my dear friend, Barbara, on the CTA Brown Line and we rode up to Gather, which is located just 1 block east and 4 blocks south of Western ‘L’ stop.
Gather opened in December 2012. It has earned several media and industry accolades, including the Michelin Bib Gourmand award (2014). Executive Chef Ken Carter was given a nod in Zagat’s annual “30 Under 30 list” which honors the “next generation of food industry rock stars.” It is, without a doubt, a well-deserved recognition for Chef Carter.
Barbara and I did not have a reservation. Well, full disclosure…I screwed up our online reservation. Luckily, Gather holds 50% of its tables for walk-ins. We put our name on the wait list and we went across the street for a drink until our table was ready 30 minutes later. Gather really has its systems down. General Manager, David Breo, took down my name, eyeballed the dining room and assessed that our wait would be approximately 30 minutes. He was spot on. I received a text message from him within 30 minutes. He checked our coats and we were seated at the highly coveted few chairs at Gather’s “Kitchen Counter,” which gives new meaning to dinner theater.
The Kitchen Counter seats offer more than a cursory view into Gather’s busy kitchen. They are front row seats to the extraordinary culinary team which is cranking out beautifully executed dishes. We had fun chatting with the chefs as they were cooking and plating some of the most delicious looking menu items which I will definitely be back to consume. Some of those drool-worthy dishes are the mussels, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, grilled octopus, the uovo raviolo and the massive burger.
Here is how our dinner went down:
We started off with the Whipped Ricotta shared dish, which is housemade and served with clover honey, balsamic vinegar and buttered toasted baguette. This was a heavenly pot of creamy, sweet and salty goodness. We killed it in minutes along with a pretty and tasty Overnight Sensation cocktail which was made with vodka, raspberry, blackberry and lime.
Barbara ordered the Diver Scallops for her main entree. These huge, juicy scallops were served with crispy bacon, carmelized treviso, roasted celery root, cara cara orange and a vanilla-scented celery root purée. We loved this dish. All of the elements were incredibly fresh and worked well together. I believe the celery root made this dish sing. Awesome!
I ordered the Pan-seared cod for my main course. It was cooked to perfection and served atop a pillow of rutabaga mash, horseradish créme, apple-dill slaw and fresno chili purée. As I am originally from the east coast, I love cod. So often, restaurants overcook it. But, Gather got it sooo right 🙂
I must mention that the vegetables and fruit at Gather are not only fresh but prepared with a great amount of love and creativity. Vegetarians and carnivores alike will be impressed. In fact, all of the high quality and seasonal ingredients at Gather are sourced locally and they make the resulting dishes soar.
We washed down our main courses with a lovely Verdejo Arindo white wine from Spain.
Last but not least, we decided to try one of Gather’s 3 desserts offerings. This pana cotta was made with vanilla bean, chamomile, lavender, orange/pistachio biscotti, orange and a few other ingredients which I cannot recall. No matter, though. This dessert was light, yet bursting with flavor. We loved the contrast of textures. Delicious!!
The space at Gather is cozy and chic. In addition to the fabulous seating at the Kitchen Counter, there is booth, table and high-top seating available. You can also eat at the bar. I am really looking forward to dining in Gather’s lovely patio when the weather warms up 🙂
I cannot wait to plan my next visit to Gather whether I am with friends or dining solo. In fact, it is the perfect spot for a solo meal, as the entire staff is incredibly warm and welcoming. The Lincoln Square residents who frequent Gather are also very friendly. We met a few of them on Saturday night while sitting at the Kitchen Counter. I would feel very comfortable returning here for a solo dinner or brunch 🙂
A very special “shout out” to our server, Kimberly, who took incredibly good care of us on Saturday.
I highly recommend you stop in at Gather as soon as possible. It is open for dinner 7 days a week. Brunch is available on Sunday.
Gather is located at 4539 N. Lincoln Avenue. For more information, visit www.gatherchicago.com.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Brown Line to Gather. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!