Hey, guess what? It turns out that Chalkboard, the haute American comfort food restaurant that opened in Lincoln Square at the end of last year to fairly rave reviews, doesn’t offer its menu exclusively via chalkboard, as we had always assumed. It was part of all their first press releases, how the menu will be presented on chalkboard to reflect the seasonal-local-variable nature of the cooking and to create a quainter, more communal atmosphere. But these days, they offer a paper menu in the restaurant, which means that we can offer you the menu electronically. Everybody wins!
And what a menu it is, full of hearty, high-end ingredients and folksy, self-referential commentary that don’t always make literal sense. For example, the wild caught lump crab salad with mustards, lemon, brioche, and “any local greens I can find” ($11; quotes added) is introduced by the following: “All too often I find that the creative mind, ends up too creative…Hence destroying the initial idea. Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you the Chalkboard crab salad.” Now, what the hell does that mean? Maybe that chef and owner Gilbert Langlois had spent weeks tinkering with a crab salad recipe, adding ingredients here and there until it was an unwieldy, indistinct monstrosity of a thing, and he realized in an epiphany that he needed to scale it back to the essence of the crab, supported - but not overwhelmed - only by a few carefully edited accompaniments. Langlois wants us to share in his creative process, so our experience eating the crab salad is as intellectual as it is visceral. Or maybe he’s just crazy?
Yes, definitely that second thing. His salad obsession is spelled out in no uncertain terms in the description of his blue fin tuna sashimi Cobb salad with nitrate free Caw Caw Farm bacon, tomato, lettuces, avocado and Maytag blue cheese ($24), which is: “I can help it, I’m completely addicted to finding the perfect Cobb salad. The balance between the bacon the lettuce and tomato compels me.” But we can’t really blame the guy for wanting to bombard his customers with his bloodlust for food. When he says, about his cast iron skillet pork tenderloin with apple cider creamed corn and fingerling potato-celery salad ($24), “what’s better than a lovely piece of pork seared crispy in a well seasoned cast iron skillet,” it’s a perfectly valid question whose implied answer - “nothing” - is not unreasonable.
We admire the passion, and it seems like lay diners and critics alike admire the end product. We’re happy to finally have Chalkboard’s crazy menu on the site.
Down-Home Barbecue and Upscale Comfort Food [Bergquist/Reader]
Lincoln Square’s upscale-casual eatery earns high marks [Vettel/Metromix]