GSChicago stopped in at the six week old Old Town Social (455 W. North Ave.) last week and really dug their golden brown pomme frites. Next to the Publican, these are some of our new favorite fried spuds in Chicago. We were sure that the super crispy sticks and sweet oily perfume came courtesy of some contraband Belgian horse fat, beef suet, or at least a touch of pork lard, but alas, they only use trans-fat free vegetable oil.
It may be a pedestrian frying medium, but they’re definitely getting the most out of the stuff, as our other favorite dish here was also fried: delicate fleshed salt cod fritters that melted like a snowball on our tongue. The rich fritters swabbed with a touch of spicy aoli were cut with the juicy acid from fruity fried bread-and-butter pickles.
The food and atmosphere at Old Town Social are totally incongruous, though. It’s like someone dropped a boutique salumeria inside a frattastic club as designed by the Harry Potter folks. Warm woods, vaulted ceilings, rustic exposed trusses and vintage bare bulb fixtures mingle with damask covered banquettes and brocade curtains, and the front room has a gigantic wooden mantle that looks like it was cribbed from Hogwarts
Near the entry way, you’ll find mold-covered sausages and dried ham hanging in the corner meat tasting bar while serious cooks work a vintage hand cracked Berkel meat slicer. Walk a few feet away, though, and you’ll find a room with more retractable flat-screen monitors than the Star Trek Enterprise. Glued to those monitors is a pantheon of genetically gifted Icelandic looking buff dudes and their colitish girlfriends. At any minute you expect the booming Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix sountrack to be interrupted by the song “What is Love” with a guest appearance from the A Night at the Roxbury crew. No matter though, as chef Jared Van Camp’s housemade peppery finocchiona redolent with fennel makes it worth enduring the raucous beats.