Fun fact: I am in a book group (well, actually I’m in two, but one is digital and I’m not really starting it until next month)! I love to read all sorts of things and a book group felt like the right thing to get involved in if only to get me out of the house (and some days out of my kitchen) for just a few blissful minutes. Oh, and let’s not forget about audiobooks, which I love play in the background while I cook! That or salsa music, but I digress. Bar Pastoral, located off of Broadway and Wellington in Lakeview (south of Boystown) will definitely be a place I plan to revisit in the near future.
It’s very casual, but intimate and warm with exposed brick, wood accents, and unique rustic lighting (mason jars crafted into chandeliers, for example). Oh, and the charcuterie bar makes for such an interesting focal point, not to mention the dozens of photos of cheese, but who doesn’t like to look at cheese? (Okay, maybe for the lactose intolerant, but still, cheese is a beautiful thing.) You almost feel like you’re literally in a hole in the wall, almost wine cellar-esque, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. But definitely make some reservations before you go! It’s small and can get pretty popular no matter the time or day. (We went Sunday night for reservations at 6:45pm, and when we left, 3/4 of the place was full!)
But onto the food! Naturally, when you go, you want to go with wine & cheese while you’re here (of course). When my fellow bookworms arrived, we ordered a sampling of cheeses: the Quadrello di Bufala (middle; paired with a savory relish), the Gjetost (right; a Norweigan cheese that kind of tastes like peanut butter, which was weird, but very delicious and was paired with some nutella/chocolate spread), and the Barber’s Vintage Reserve 1833 Cheddar (left; paired with a honey dijon mustard spread). All cheeses were excellent, and there were definitely some on the menu that I had never heard of before that I would be very interested in trying next time (along with some of their interesting meats)!
And then, while I hadn’t been planning on eating a main course while I was there, ended up ordering something that always catches my eye when I see it on a menu. Gnocchi. Have I mentioned how much I love gnocchi? I LOVE gnocchi. And while it wasn’t the tenderest gnocchi I’ve ever had (Balena will still take the cake for that honor), it definitely hits top five. On top of that, there was even leek (a new favorite veggie and I’m trying to use as often as I can) and fennel (also a new favorite veggie that I’m trying to utilize more)! And of course they made the sauce with goat’s cheese, which I think only heightens the overall very cheesy experience I was already having! DELICIOUS! I highly recommend this dish!
My cohorts also ordered main dishes: the Roasted Chicken & Butternut Squash Soup. The chicken was incredibly tender and buttery, with an uber crisp skin (I know because I got to snag a bite! What good friends I have!), and the potatoes (which were roasted with duck fat) had a subtle richness that worked very well with the earthy roasted root veggies! For the record, I think parsnips are another veggie that is underutilized in our society! Sure, it’s a little tougher than a carrot, but frankly, I think it’s flavor can take on just as many (if not, dare I say it, more) flavor profiles as the carrot can. The Butternut Squash Soup was also very rich and hearty (again, my friends are very nice to me when it comes to my incessant asking for photos and tastes, just so I can try a little of everything, but I always make sure to offer bites off my plate in return! It’s only fair)! Not too heavy, but smooth and creamy, plus the hint of curry was definitely different and added a lovely kick to a dish that can often times take on just one note.
There were definitely other dishes that I wanted to try, but ended up being too full to eat more, so next time, I have my eyes set on the roasted beets and triple cream fondue (without the mushrooms if I can), or even the arctic char, which is one of my favorite fish when I can find it! Definitely a place to hit if you’re looking for a cute date night zone, or easy-going friends’ hang out!
Bar Pastoral: 2947 N. Broadway Street, Chicago, IL 60657