2523 N Milwaukee Ave
Neighborhood: Logan Square
Rating: 4 Flutes
I'm starting to get nervous that I have a tiny hipster living inside of me. I've lived in Bucktown for over five years... I'm buying graphic muscle tanks... I'm breaking in my Chucks for Pitchfork... most of my favorite places to go are under-the-radar and dark... and it's all very concerning. But if this tiny hipster leads me to Analogue time and time again, I will welcome that little beanie-equipped friend into my soul.
Analogue is hunkered down right next to The Owl in Logan Square. It's so hipster that the storefront is barely identifiable. You gotta want it, right? They serve dinner every night from 6-11pm and a DJ starts spinning from 10 to close. They also have a killer brunch, but only on Sundays. This always enrages me come Saturday morning when I'm hungover and need chicken and biscuit sliders. (Take one glance below and you will quickly commiserate with me.)
The place was opened in December 2013 by two Violet Hour alums, Henry Prendergast and Robert Haynes. While their cocktails are still expectedly awesome, they are far less serious. Ditto the vibe. It's dark and moody but has a laid back, jeans-and-tee approach.
Chef Alfredo Nogueira is a NOLA native who moved to Chicago after Katrina. He had stints with some pop-ups like Flipside and most recently was at Rootstock (one of my all-time faves). All three of these fellas are musicians, so you better believe the tunage is on point.
I'm pumped they have earned their LTH GNR (Great Neighborhood Restaurant) stripes this year. It's the perfect category for them and very well deserved. (If you don't frequent the LTH site, you ought to start. It's like Yelp! but the people know what the hell they're talking about.)
The bar is very cocktail centric, as you can imagine considering the guys in charge. On top of the aforementioned impressive cocktail selections, the menu boasts purls (bitters & beer), shots (based off classic cocktails served deconstructed or in tiny airplane bottles), fishbowls, daiquiris, select beers and a short wine list. To aid in the tough decision making, there is a printed code of profiles: spirit forward / refreshing / bitter / smoky / fruit forward / wild.
I started with the Serve and Volley and John with the No Regrets. Shockingly, I wanted a clean, bright cocktail that wasn't sweet, and John was looking for a boozy number with some bitterness. They both fit the bill. The Serve and Volley (labeled "refreshing") was a jumble of Pimm’s No. 1, City of London Gin, Poire Williams (pear brandy), lemon and Angostura bitters. It was bright and clean and an easy drinker. The Angostura gave it a touch of bitterness, which I love.
John liked his No Regrets (labeled "spirit forward") which was a shake up of Rittenhouse Rye, Carpano Antica, green chartreuse and maraschino. He said it was like a classic Manhattan with interesting depth from the chartreuse, without going completely out of bounds. (Sounds a bit like our drink selections at Mott Street, wouldn't ya say?)
I moved on to the Various Positions cocktail and wasn't all that impressed. Also labeled as "refreshing," it was a mix of Modest Vodka, lemon, cocchi (a citrusy and slightly bitter aperitif), green tea honey and sparkling wine. It was way too honey-forward for me and just not that interesting, which the bartender warned me about. But obviously since it was topped with bubs, I had to try it.
John moved on to another sinus clearer, the R.I.P. Bad Times, labeled "spirit forward" and "wild" consisting of Old Forester Bonded Bourbon, root beer flavored demerara (simple syrup made with raw sugar) and Amaro Meletti (a bitter liqueur). He said the root beer flavor added a hint of sweetness without overpowering the drink with sugar. Another excellently prepared whiskey cocktail that tasted classic, but new at the same time.
Come here to imbibe, but do not even think about leaving without eating the whole menu. (Bring some friends to assist.) We started with the smoked fish dip, and have ordered it every time we have been here. It's served with a basket of saltines and house hot sauce. (Purveyors, if you're reading, please bottle and sell that shit.) The dip earns its smoky title, without sacrificing brightness or acidity. I could eat four orders. Gimme, gimme more. #itsbritneybitch
We also got a cup of gumbo. It was super flavorful and spicy, but it wasn't overly thick or stewy. Traditionally you would see this loaded with seafood, but theirs has shredded Slagel Farms chicken, housemade andouille and okra. These guys serve it with a dollop of potato salad, like a true homemade version in the south, but for some reason we got a heap of rice instead. Definitely a win, but I wish we had the p-sal to make it stand out even more. (Maybe it's a cup vs. bowl thing. If that's the case, I'll go bowl every time.)
We then split the cochon de lait po boy. Cochon de lait is a classic Louisiana dish made from marinated and pit roasted suckling pig. Chef Alfredo slices the Slagel Farms pork shoulder thin and tops it with creole mustard, mayo, house pickles, iceberg lettuce and tomato on a french roll. Ohhhh my god. The bread held up to all of that goodness with a perfect crusty shell and soft interior, and the pork was perfectly juicy yet crispy. On paper, this sandwich sounds pretty standard. But in reality, the sum is far greater than its parts. Just a perfect combination of all the components.
Now, onto the side pieces. Fries (duh), collards and dirty rice. The fries were seasoned with cajun spices and served with a spicy aioli. Unfortunately, these suckers needed another swim in the oil. The cut and flavor were great, but they lacked a uniform crunch. Maybe next time...
The collards were your standard southern fare braised with bacon, garlic and onions. Nothing shocking, but delicious and a needed balance to the rest of the grub.
And then... the dirty rice. THE DIRTY RICE, YOU GUYS! This stuff was downright filthy. I'm talking Christina Aguilera dirty. In the BEST way possible. (If I'm gonna shoutout Brit, I gotta give Xtina a little love, too.) It's riddled with ground pork, gizzards and chicken liver with a hefty kick of spices. We fought over the tiny bowl. I wanted a ladle so I could claim larger bites and leave less for John.
We've also had the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with their house slaw, pickles and spicy mayo. It was incredible. And for brunch, you gotta get the fried chicken and biscuit sliders as mentioned above. They are life changing. (Don't worry, you can order a nice green salad for balance. I think they cancel one another out.)
I want to go back and get the pimento cheese, catfish fingers and crawfish-stuffed piquillo peppers. I'd also really like to try their in-house boucherie selection, BBQ shrimp and jambalaya. So basically I want to go back and order the remainder of the menu. But I'm really scared about going there and not getting all of the sure things I know and love. Please come with me?!?
P.S. - Did I mention that Chef Alfredo isn't formally trained and has only been self-and industry-taught? Incredible.
P.P.S. - They are building a patio. Perhaps by the time it is ready the summer will have arrived?
Until next time!