Yesterday was a beautiful day in Chicago! Temps hit 70 degrees and sunshine was abundant. What better way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than to head over to one the most lauded new restaurants in town, The Duck Inn.
The Duck Inn is located in
Chicago’s historic Bridgeport neighborhood near the Chicago River. Being the mass-transit gal that I am, I hopped the CTA Orange Line to the Halsted ‘L’ stop then caught the #62 bus to the corner of Eleanor and Loomis where The Duck Inn has made a home. Since the restaurant is more than 5 blocks from the Halsted ‘L’ stop and I am nursing a minor injury, I took advantage of the bus connection 🙂
Open only 4 months, The Duck Inn is the latest venture from award-winning Chef Kevin Hickey who is also Partner/Director of Food & Beverage for Rockit Ranch Productions (Rockit Ranch, Sunda, Bottlefork – http://rockitranch.com). I love Bridgeport but it can definitely use some fabulous new dining options. Who better to provide one than Chef Kevin who grew up in this neighborhood and knows it well? Wonderful!
The Duck Inn’s changing menu is best described as upscale, contemporary-American. The offerings are not extensive and that is a very good thing because it means that Chef Kevin is tightly focused on doing a few items really well.
I started off with the sunchoke salad which was accompanied by chanterelles, ricotta cheese and rye crisps. This dish was zesty, sweet, earthy and pretty. Loved it!
For my main entree, I ordered the bone-in short rib with fiddlehead ferns, spring onions and a morel sauce. The moment this dish hit my table I was flooded with memories of my mama’s special brisket gravy. It really caught me off guard. But, I digress. This is hands-down one of the very best short-ribs in this city. Period. The meat was quivering off the bone. The fiddleheads and onions were crunchy and sweet. There were hints of garlic and the morel sauce was a semi-thick, deep chocolate that still lingers in my nostrils and on my tongue. Wow! How decadent!
I washed it all down with a lovely “Kingdom Of Koryo” cocktail. It was made with very old Barion bourbon, Korean fruit punch, rich punch, lemon juice (my favorite), Gomme syrup and soda. This drink was served in a high-ball glass. It was refreshing, colorful and not too boozy. A perfectly exotic yet comforting cocktail for a fresh Spring Chicago day 🙂
Of course, the thing to have at The Duck Inn is the duck. Chef Kevin’s duck entree serves 2 people but I was dining solo last night. No worries! I will be returning very soon with one of my duck-loving friends to try it 😉 Note: It is recommended that you order the duck in advance of your reservation. I saw this dish fly by my table on a carving board and I can tell you that it looks like a masterpiece.
There is also an interesting tasting menu with wine and beer pairings. However, guests are able to order any of those menu items a la carte. I have my eye on the Foxglove cheese plate with olive oil gelee, almond brittle and apple butter 😉
While I was not planning on indulging in dessert, I could not avert my eyes from the carrot and olive oil cake with cara cara oranges and cheese cake ice cream. It is not very often that olive oil cake, a traditional Mediterranean dessert, is offered on a menu. Since there is no such thing as too much olive oil in my life, I said, “Bring it on!” Sooo lovely 🙂 The perfect balance of sweet, tart and spicy. I will be back to try Chef Kevin’s other desserts but this dish won my heart.
The Duck Inn is located in a pre-prohibition era building which dates back to 1914. The front of the house has a bar and some seating which is both 1960’s retro and sleek. The back dining room, which is separated by French doors, evokes the feeling of eating in someone’s house, as it overlooks a backyard. As if the building’s history and decor was not nostalgic enough, The Duck Inn puts on a BYO Vinyl night on Mondays in the front bar. You bring your favorite vinyl records and they spin them on their vintage record player. Groovy cool!
The cozy, split-level, backyard patio will be opening as soon as the weather warms up. General Manager, John Williamson, tells me that they plan to have some weekly backyard roasts and, possibly, some pizza oven nights out there. I can definitely see myself on that patio rockin’ to some old-school tunes on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Just like being at a friend’s backyard BBQ. Can’t hardly wait 🙂
Earlier, I mentioned that The Duck Inn has been opened for about 4 months. You would never know it. This spot is completely buttoned up, people! The hostess, the bartender, my server, Beth, were all gracious, welcoming, confident and on top of their game. My experience here was just as calm and lovely as if I was eating in a friend’s home.
I cannot say for certain whether The Duck Inn is Chef Kevin’s love letter to his childhood home of Bridgeport, Chicago. If it is not, well, then it surely is missing a very good chance to be 🙂
The Duck Inn is located at 2701 S. Eleanor St. For more information, visit http://www.theduckinnchicago.com.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA Orange Line or the CTA #62 bus to The Duck Inn. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!