Hopefully you don't see my name now and roll your eyes. Today I have a much better report! I really had a fabulous dinner and experience at Meritage last night.
The restaurant is small but very cute. The walls have a nice paint treatment on them, there is a large outdoor area that I am sure will be wonderful in a few weeks with increasingly nice weather. There is a large bar in the front and window tables right on Damen for good people watching. The restaurant wasn't crowded when we arrived (a girlfriend and I) but there was a large group at the bar and a few tables were seated. By the time we left it was a full house with several of groups of four or more. We were seated right away and the barman/host was very nice. Our waitress popped by right away to offer cocktails or wine.
We took a few minutes then I ordered a bottle of wine. The wine list is nice, very interesting selections and the prices are not over the top. My only complaint about the wine was the temperature it was served at especially for a "wine bar". It is a major pet peeve of mine when a nice bottle of wine is served at room temp especially when room temp is in the 70s+ like it was yesterday evening. That aside, the wine and service was great.
We ordered the Ahi Poki to start; we shared this and it was a great size to spilt, a very generous portion. It was a very unique and tasty dish. There was a nice amount of seaweed blended in and a very spicy unexpected flavor I have not experienced with poki before. It was a good dish with a great presentation: served in a tallish column with two large pieces of fried wonton balanced on top and thread-like fried beets (or something of that color) scattered on top, sauce was artistically placed on the plate. There were two specials, one was a fish I believe while the other was elk. I ordered the elk and my friend ordered the scallop dish on the standard menu. All the menu items looked interesting and the vegetables served with them were all seasonal, fresh, and interesting. For example my elk was served with fiddlehead ferns and a purple breed of mashed sweet potato (to die for).
The scallop dish was unbelievable. It was very nicely prepared! The scallops were cooked perfectly, the foie gras sauce was exceptional, and there were several other sides that I did not taste that looked fabulous as well. My elk was also very good. The sauce was lovely and a great accent to the meat. I mentioned above, but the sweet potatoes were amazing! I love sweet potatoes anyway, but I have never seen a purple one the consistency and flavor was amazing. The fresh spring vegetables my elk was served with were crisp and flavorful.
We skipped dessert and I actually didn't see the final bill (I think it was just over $100), but the dinner was great and this is a place I will definitely be headed back to. I already told my husband I cannot wait for him to check it out.
So maybe I'm finally finding my stride, but you see I'm not all doom and gloom about the local spots. :) Anyway I liked Meritage a lot and think it would be great for just drinks or for dinner.
Meritage Cafe and Wine Bar
2118 N Damen Ave (at Dickens Avenue)
Chicago, IL 60647