The in-laws offered to watch the baby on Saturday night so we decided to head down to River North to grab some dinner with a couple good friends. We let Iman choose the restaurant because, well, Iman eats at a lot of restaurants and knows whats up in the area… That, and we trust his judgement. He ended up choosing Fremont, which he’s been to once before and really enjoyed and after checking the menu before we even left the house, I already knew what I had to try before the night was over.
La Birreria was a nice little bar located upstairs within Eataly that offered an array of beers and wines to drink. I stuck with my normal Vandermill Cider, as did Jillian, while Celeste enjoyed a glass of wine and Iman had a Limoncello Spritz. I knew it was going to be a fun night (and a terrible morning) when I was actually able to finish the entire 16 oz Vandermill can in the 15-20 minutes we had before our dinner reservations. These days I normally crack one at home and barely make it through half the can before I don’t feel like drinking it anymore, but when you get a night away from the baby (who spent the night at the in-laws) you take advantage. And even though you don’t drink a lot throughout the night, we’re not 25 anymore, even 3-4 drinks in a 5-6 hour period can make you feel like shit the next day… ugh.
Located in the River North area of Chicago, just a few blocks for Eataly, Fremont is pretty typical for what you find in that area. It’s a little bit clubby, little bit hip, and a little bit fancy/modern, but not too much of each… at least while we were there eating on the main floor. Later in the night it was clear that things were transitioning more towards a club atmosphere, but it wasn’t overpowering on the main level.
The main floor seating is very open and spacious with a large square bar set in the middle, surrounded by tables and booths along the walls. The decor is pretty modern and the large open garage doors in the front of the restaurant made the place feel awesome on a nice Chicago summer night. We had a booth along the wall which was perfect for four people, but could definitely seat six comfortably.
Waffle Cheese, Porterhouse & Fried Chicken
As I mentioned above, I already knew what I wanted to try before we even left the house, so I was just hoping that everyone else was on board with my choices cause they were definitely made to share.
For an appetizer we ordered the Waffle Cheese, which is a waffle with smoked tomato puree, basil and chive oil. I’m pretty sure there was cheese on there based on the name of the dish, but the menu does not mention what sort of cheese.
The easiest way to describe the Waffle Cheese is if you made a mozzarella stick, but used a waffle instead of the fried breading outside that a mozzarella stick normally has. The smoked tomato puree tasted almost like a marinara sauce, but better, and honestly I’m not sure what the basil and chive oil added, but overall it was delicious. Had we not had two huge platters coming to share, we probably could have ordered another plate of the Waffle Cheese, but we knew we had a lot of food on the way still.
The other dish that I knew I wanted to try, outside of the Waffle Cheese, was the Hot Fried Chicken platter. Ever since our visit to Jacob’s Pickles in New York a few weeks ago, and the amazing buttermilk fried chicken sandwich I had, I’ve been looking for something to replicate that experience, so the Hot Fried Chicken sounded pretty close.
The platter came with a ramen-crusted buttermilk chicken (I think it was every part of the chicken… legs, breasts, thighs), white cheddar mac & cheese, creamy slaw, belgian style waffle, hot sauce, and bourbon maple butter and syrup.
It wasn’t quite as amazing as the buttermilk fried chicken at Jacob’s Pickles, but it was pretty damn good. The chicken definitely has a little bit of a kick to it, but not anything overwhelming. I’m not a huge fan of spicy foods, but I could handle this no problem. The white cheddar mac & cheese was pretty good, but I like my mac & cheese a little thicker and these cheese sauce on this was a bit watery, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious as hell, just my preference to have the cheesiness be a bit thicker. I did not try the creamy slaw, but Iman said it was pretty good. Instead, I dove right into the Belgian waffle which was awesome. Combine that with the bourbon maple butter and the syrup and I kept going back for more. Even though I’m a pancake guy, I could eat that for breakfast/brunch for sure.
So as if that wasn’t enough food, we also got the Porterhouse & Shishito Platter which consisted of a 35 day wet-aged prime grade porterhouse, togarashi, brown sugar & soy glazed shishito peppers, shishito chimichurri, chive sour cream, pickled red onion, cilantro, and corn tortillas. Basically incredible mini fajitas.
The porterhouse steak was cooked to perfection and tasted amazing, especially when dipped in the sauce at the bottom of the plate, which I’m assuming was the brown sugar & soy glaze that had ran off the peppers that were sitting under the steak. I didn’t try any of the different side sauces, or the peppers, and honestly I don’t think any of us really ate any of the peppers or side sauces, the steak was just that good on it’s own rolled up in a mini corn tortilla.
So between those two main platters and the appetizer, it was a perfect amount of food for four people to share. I think we were all actually pretty full after dinner so I’m not quite sure why we decided to go elsewhere and get another drink and desserts… but that’s exactly what we did.
Travelle for Desserts from Pastry Chef Scott Green
Travelle is hidden on the 2nd floor of The Langham hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the normal River North crowd. Honestly, if Iman hadn’t brought us there I probably never would have known it existed.
Everyone was pretty full at this point so our plan was to just stop in for one more drink to cap off the night before heading home. It was on the walk between Fremont and Iman & Jillian’s apartment, so we figured why not… plus I think it was only like 9:30.
We sat down at the bar and Celeste was instantly taken aback by the amount of cocktails on their menu. She opted for something with beet juice in it, I can’t remember what, and Jillian also had one of the fancy cocktails, where as Iman and I just opted for our go-to drinks, Captain and Coke and an Old Fashioned.
After the drinks came out we somehow got on the topic of going to the dentist and the fact that I don’t eat very much sugar came up when discussing why I never have cavities and only brush once a day. This of course lead to talking about dessert, which none of us wanted, but we decided that we would just order two of them for the hell of it.
Apparently the pastry chef at Travelle is world famous for his insane pastry creations so it was hard to say no. He’s on the US Pastry Team, which I didn’t even know was a thing.
We ended up ordering the Banana & Peanut Butter Pot De Creme with nutella and malted milk ice cream and it was pretty damn good. Now like I said, I’m not a big sweets person, and I’m also not a big banana person, but this dessert was pretty solid. I didn’t eat a whole lot of it, but everyone seemed to enjoy it more than the other one that we got, the Mocha Bomb with mascarpone mousse and espresso anglaise. It was still good, don’t get me wrong, but not nearly as good as the other one.
So that was our adventurous night in River North with no baby in tow. We ate some good food, had some great conversation with a couple of amazing people, had only a few drinks, and still felt like shit the next morning. Either we’re just getting old, or I’ve gotta step up my water intake between drinks, no matter how few drinks I have in a night. But either way, another great night.