Last night my husband and I had dinner at Brenda Langtons new restaurant, Spoonriver, which quietly opened on Wednesday.
Spoonriver has a liquor license, so theres a whole new menu of 18 drinks, many of them developed by the bartenders, and they are delicious. There is also a nice selection of small breweries represented in the beer selection, and a good choice of reasonably priced wines.
We did, of course, have to sample more than one of these delectable offerings! My favorites were the Ginger Cosmo (ginger infused vodka, fresh lime juice, Cointreau, and cranberry nectar)a mysterious and complex blend of flavors that was smooth and addictiveand the Moroccan Mojito (Bacardi rum, rose water, cardamom, fresh mint, and lime) that was ambrosia. (I almost had to order one all for myself it was so good.) Theres also the Brendatini (organic Reyka Icelandic Vodka, blueberry nectar, lime juice and Cointreau) that Howard found delightful. These drinks dont taste much like any of the ingredients; they seem altogether like something new, with perfect blending.
The style of the food, as well as the organization of the menu, will be familiar to those who are Café Brenda regulars. There are two daily soup selections. There is a set menu, and once they get the kinks out, there will be daily entree specials, both seafood and vegetarian. And for those in a hurry, there is a pick up counter featuring a variety of foods and beverages to take home.
Only a few of the same items appear on the menus of both Spoonriver and Cafe Brenda: the savory wild mushroom and pistachio terrine (thank heaven Spoonriver has this as well, as its one of my favorites!), the Caspian dips with veggies, etc., and the Caesar salad. Otherwise, everything is brand new and enticing. The meat choices have expanded slightly. Spoonriver offers four selections with chicken, and a roasted lamb has been added.
Even on the second day of business, the food and service seemed already up to par with Café Brenda. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and prompt without being overweening. Some of the wait staff from Cafe Brenda has been transferred to Spoonriver to aid in establishing the level of service.
I had the Mediterranean Salad of lentils in mint dressing, French feta cheese, with assorted additions, and Howard had the Rainbow trout with passion fruit lomi lomi crab sauce. Both were delicious.
For dessert, we had the blueberry panna cotta, which Howard liked a great deal (Im not a panna cotta fan) and I had the vegan chocolate cake, which was chewy, delicious, and not too sweetone of the things I like about Brendas desserts. Desserts, Im assuming, will change daily.
The nice thing about Brenda Langtons restaurants is that you can eat anything you want there, and you dont have to feel guilty.
The space itself was a challenge. It is eleven feet wide and 100 feet long! Can you imagine trying to make a restaurant in such a small space??? The dimensions actually make for a fairly quiet restaurant, which is a real plus as far as Im concerned. The walls are a muted orange on one side, and all glass on the other. The restaurant has a light, airy feel to it, with nice wood tables, subdued lighting, delicate looking chairs and a champagne colored banquette running the whole length of the restaurant. Theres also a bar that keeps the bartender hopping. Tim Kanes art work is on the walls, as it is at Café Brenda. It always deserves a closer look.
Even though most of the immediate area is under construction, the people watching is already great and should be even better once the Guthrie opens and the residences fill up.
And for the dreamers on the list who were looking for outdoor eating areas with no smoking-Alice, I think-there is a large outdoor area that will be all non-smoking. And for the dreamers who want more late night eating places, Spoonriver will be open late on the weekends and maybe other evenings as well.
There's no web site yet, but the address is 750 South Second Street. Chicago is the cross street, and the door is on Chicago. Phone 612-436-2236. You can park on the street, or in one of two parking ramps just across the street.
So go, enjoy yourself, and let us all know what you think. And let Brenda know what you think too. Shes always interested in feedback.
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