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‘Time Out’ Takes a Trip Down Memory Lane at Split-Rail and More Reviews

Plus critical looks at Daebak, 20 East, and The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet

Split-Rail
Nick Fochtman

Morgan Olsen channels her inner 8-year-old self at Split-Rail. The new restaurant from Zoë Schor offers “comforting and familiar” dishes that evoke a sense of nostalgia. Chicken nuggets, which put “anything you can get at McDonald’s to shame,” are “expertly cooked” pieces of ground chicken encased in earth-shattering” fried batter. Like the perfect Friday night, dunking them in the house-made honey-mustard sauce “requires no fork or dignity.”

Fajitas also get reimagined. Skirt steak mingles with roasted red pepper gelee and dots of creamy masa instead of tortilla. It’s a deconstruction that “matches the flavor profile of a sizzling fajita to a T—minus some of the guilt.” Other combinations aren’t as successful: An eggplant and ‘nduja finger sandwich is a “conundrum of competing tastes that [don’t] play nice together.” Dessert ends things on a high note, though, with a “simple but delightful” slice of angel food cake. On the cocktails side, the low-ABV section touts an “herbaceous stunner” called the Breakers that’s akin to “sticking your straw in a liquid garden on a hot summer day.” [Time Out]

The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet is an affordable spot to get cozy with a glass of wine and some delectable plates. The wine selection includes around 200 bottles, 30 of which are available by the glass, and cocktails “are a strength as well” according to Phil Vettel. To complement the alcohol, fried smelt, mixed with fried zucchini and fried Meyer lemon, is an “ode to summer that’s like a miniature fish fry on a plate.” Wild prawns are a “wild and messy” delight served with deep-fried prawn heads while the $18 lamb rack has “excellent flavor, its brilliant-red meat contrasted by a deep-green ramp pesto sauce with a white dab of Greek yogurt.” For dessert, the cheese plates are “terrific” and a “wine-friendly finale.” [Tribune]

Daebak has its charms but the food leaves a lot to be desired. Mike Sula embarks on an adventure at the Korean barbecue restaurant in Chinatown and discovers a pricey menu of grilled meats. Thinly sliced rib eye and boneless short rib are of “decent quality” and the act of cooking and making wraps with them is a “methodical endeavor utterly unlike tearing away at a dino-sized porterhouse.” Pork, though, is marred by so much “shrinkage and mealiness” that it “simply isn’t worth the price or the effort.” Soups also disappoint as the spicy shredded beef soup is so bland that Sula wonders if Daebak is “targeting invalids rather than the cool kids of Chinatown.” Budak, spiced boneless chicken bits with melted cheese, is similarly an “insipid” version resembling “something more like a Denny’s skillet.” All in all, come for the K-pop but don’t expect to be blown away. [Reader]

20 East could be the winner that Talbott Hotel has been looking for, writes Graham Meyer. The menu features “basic dishes, yes, but adroit execution.” An American cheeseburger boasts a “juice-dripping” patty [that] could be a Fourth of July cookout star” and truffles help the mac and cheese go “just past by-the-numbers.” The prosciutto board offers “broadsheet-like” slices of ham alongside baguette ovals, Parmesan chunks, candied almonds, and more, while a “constructably delicious” smoked salmon board stars lox and Texas toast. Overall, “the restaurant may be a straight arrow, but it hits close to the center of the target.” [Crain’s]

The Lunatic, The Lover & The Poet

736 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60661 (312) 919-6135

20 East

20 E Delaware Pl, Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 944-4970 Visit Website

Split-Rail

2500 West Chicago Avenue, , IL 60622 (773) 697-4413 Visit Website

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