Chicago: Pacific Standard Time, Monteverde, and Aba
Cocktails at Pacific Standard Time, Chicago
As most of you know by now, Chicago is one of my absolute favorite cities, and also happens to be the home of one of my closest friends. Lucky for me, I typically get to travel there at least once or twice a year for business, plus my college girlfriends and I have also made it a tradition to take an annual trip there.
Over the years, I’ve covered many of my favorite Windy City meals here on the blog, and most of my recs still stand up. Proxi is an absolute MUST, and I still love Tanta for Peruvian, Momotaro for sushi, and Blackbird for a high end meal.
Roasted Eggplant with charred red onion, feta,pickled jalapeño, pistachios (and that warm pita bread!)
But now I have some new ones to add! At the very top of my list is Pacific Standard Time, a new-ish restaurant in River North serving California cuisine. The space is large, bright, and inviting, with an open kitchen that’s home to two wood burning hearths. I was instantly smitten the minute we walked in the door.
Then came the cocktails. Perfection. Lately it seems that so many restaurants lose me immediately on their cocktail list, but this one did not disappoint. When adult dining, Mama needs a good cocktail with dinner!
Ahi Tuna Crudo at Chicago’s Pacific Standard Time
We ordered a number of dishes, and to be honest, I can’t remember all of them, because for once, I didn’t take photos of it all. Ugh. Kicking myself now, but sometimes I just need to enjoy a meal, right??
I do know the crudo was one of my faves: ahi tun with mushroom sott’olio (translation: vegetables in olive oil), avocado, scallion, dashi, and fresno chile. The absolute standout of the entire experience though was the roasted cauliflower dish. I’ve had cauliflower in what seems to be a million different ways the past few years, but this one was truly outstanding. And if the online menu is correct, unfortunately is no longer being served. Sad face.
Ah well, that’s not going to stop me from making another visit to Pacific Standard Time on my next trip to Chicago. Can’t wait to try whatever the next season brings!
Chocolate budino at Pacific Standard Time, Chicago
141 W Erie St
Chicago, IL 60654
Tigelle plate at Monteverde, Chicago
Confession: as much as I adore Italy, Italian cuisine isn’t typically my first choice when dining out. I’m not much of a pasta eater, and I could never eat pizza again and not really miss it one bit. I know, I know. Crazy, right?
But I kept reading and hearing great things about Monteverde, so when my co-worker suggested it, I was game. Fortunately this spot had much more on the menu than pasta (though apparently this is what they’re known for, so if you love pasta, you should absolutely go here and try theirs, made fresh in house).
Roasted Scallops at Monteverde, Chicago
The Skate Schnitzel was delicious, as were the roasted scallops with green olive pistachio pesto, asparagus, and spinach.
But have you ever had tigelle (pronounced tih-GEL-ay)? I hadn’t even heard of it until my visit to Monteverde, and I feel like I experienced something life changing. An Italian street food, the small focaccia-like buns originated around Modena. They’re taken warm, straight from the pan, split open and then you stuff them with a meats and cheeses to create a scrumptious little sandwich.
Slightly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, our rosemary version was served with burrata, prosciutto, rhubarb mostarda, ramp, and watercress. Hello.
1020 W Madison St
Chicago, IL 60607
EVOO martinis at Aba, Chicago
On this last visit to Chicago in May, the weather was pretty great, so I really wanted to take advantage of it and dine al fresco for at least one meal. Enter Aba, the gorgeous Fulton Market Mediterranean restaurant with an incredible rooftop patio.
Rooftop fun at Aba in Chicago
Even if I wasn’t looking for a place to dine, I’d definitely still go here again just to grab drinks on the patio. It was hopping on the night we were there, and from what I hear, that’s pretty much the norm. Apparently it’s one of the hardest reservations to secure. I booked a month out and still could only get an 8:45 pm dinner slot, but since we wanted some time to chat and drink anyway, we arrived at 7:30 and secured a spot by the outdoor bar.
They won’t guarantee a seat on the patio for dining when you make your reservation, but since we arrived so far in advance of ours, the hostess was happy to make sure that we got one of those tables when it was our turn to be seated. Early bird gets the worm!
Whipped Feta and Crudo at Aba, Chicago
Okay, so here’s the lowdown on the food. Was it the best meal I’ve ever had? No. Was it even the best Mediterranean? Probably not. Maybe we just didn’t order the right things (there’s a lot to choose from, and we barely even scratched the surface), and there was certainly nothing bad, just nothing earth shattering.
Also, I probably shouldn’t have tried to compare their whipped feta with my favorite at Butcher & Bee, because that heavenly feta just can’t be touched. Aba’s was good, and if I’d never had whipped feta before in my life, I would probably have left raving about it.
Aba’s Pork Belly with Orzo
The one dish that did have me raving was the Pork Belly with sumac glaze, served on orzo flecked with diced honey crisp apples. The flavors and textures were incredible, and that dish alone made me super happy. The icing on the cake was the dessert – which consisted of neither icing nor cake.
First up was the Crème Brûlée Pie with burnt honey and apple. I’m a huge creme brulee fan, so this was a must. Then came the Kulfi, a frozen dairy dessert that our server suggested. The simple menu description of “turkish coffee, coriander caramel, marcona almonds” really didn’t get us super excited about what was to come, but wow. Just Wow. Seriously one of the best desserts I’ve had in ages!
So if nothing else, go to Aba to sip fabulous cocktails on the gorgeous rooftop, and then order the Kulfi before you call it a night. I promise you’ll have the sweetest of dreams.
Delicious desserts at Aba, Chicago
302 N Green St, 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60607