I have a thing for Spain. For all things Spanish, really. My first trip to Europe, over 25 years ago, was to Spain. I studied the Spanish language for 10 years and I grew up in New York City surrounded by an enormous number of Spanish-speaking people. I have always believed I was Spanish in a previous life. So, when I caught wind that one of the best chefs in Chicago, Chef Ashlee Aubin of the restaurant, Wood in Lakeview, was overseeing Salero, a new Spanish restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood , I was very intrigued and excited. Salero is not another overpriced tapas bar, folks. It’s the real freakin’ deal!
Salero has been open for business just 2 months now and, normally, I would wait a bit longer to visit a new restaurant so it could work out any kinks. However, I love Chef Aubin’s food and I worked up an appetite for lunch at the gym this morning. So, I hopped the CTA Green Line to the Clinton ‘L’ stop and I walked just 1 block south and 2 blocks west to the corner of Randolph and Desplaines were Salero has made a home.
Salero is a bright, clean, intimate and rustic space with about 25 tables in the main dining area. There is a beautiful long bar, a communal table and a few high tops in the front of the restaurant. There is exposed brick and lots of candles lining the walls.
Currently, Salero is open for lunch and dinner. They also offer a $25 prix fixe lunch menu from 11:30-2pm which is a rare find these days. You can choose from one of 3 entrada (starters), 3 plato fuerte (main entrees) and 2 postre (dessert). Here is how my lunch went down.
Since soup is one of my obsessions, I started off with the Soup d Ajo which is a garlic soup made with ham stock, onions, toasted bread and the most perfectly poached egg and fresh herbs. This is a very traditional Spanish soup and it is rare to find it offered on menus outside of Madrid. There is no such thing as too much garlic and this soup did not disappoint. Needless to say, I was a very happy camper!
Next up was my plato fuerte. I chose the scallops with roasted cauliflower, peptita pesto (pepitas are the new “IT” food right now), raisins and roasted squash romesco. Were the scallops perfectly cooked? Yes, they were! The balance of roasted cauliflower, toasty, spicy pesto, along with the sweetness of the raisins brought out the flavor of the scallops more so without overpowering their own natural sweetness and freshness. By the way, Salero is flying in its seafood from Massachussetts fresh (not frozen) daily. I pray this dish is never taken off the menu. You want this dish, trust me!
I washed my starter and main course all down with a nice Albarino wine.
Let’s move onto the postre (dessert), shall we? I sampled both (HA!). First let me tell you about the the flan de queso fresco. It was made with annatto seed and fresh cheese-infused custard with blood orange gel and caramel. Jealous? You should be. You think you know flan? HA! You don’t. This was the lightest, most fresh flan I have ever had. The blood orange in this dish put it OVER THE TOP. I can still taste the orange many hours later! And, it was sooo pretty!
Next, I had the audacity to accept the churros y chocolate which was fried churros with whipped. salted chocolate with milk jam and espresso pudding. These churros were as delicate as a young, proper lady with a little side of “naughty.” It was out-freaking-rageously delicious!!!!
People, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. So, let me say this. If you are into very authentic, flavorful Spanish food, get your butts over to Salero as soon as possible. Great things are happening there. I know I cannot wait to get back!
Salero is located at 621 W. Randolph St.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Green or Pink Lines to Salero. Save gas money. Avoid traffic and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!