All things must pass.
As has been mentioned, Mimi, of the much-praised, now-departed Mimis Specialty Deli on Montrose near Damen, has set up shop of a slightly different sort, reopening for business within The Long Room, a bar on Irving Park just west of Ashland. We stopped by Friday night for a sandwich.
First of all, The Long Room is an attractive and pleasant bar, long as advertised and narrow, though not uncomfortably claustrophobic a la The Matchbox, rather dark, with agreeable rock music playing not too loudly in the background. There was a nice, judiciously small, not exceptionally challenging selection of beers on tap; not an extremely strong selection of liquors; and a decent selection of wines by the glass (i.e., a bit more than merely chard and cab).
Mimi sells her sandwiches here in the evening from a little doorway inside along a side wall. It is a great contrast from her old digs, a bright and airy cafe open mostly for lunch. The setting seems altogether wrong to me; Mimi is only making cold sandwiches right now, and that just does not say bar food or dinner food to me. She told us she has plans to expand her menu in upcoming months, and I expect that the warmed sandwiches in her repertoire will seem more suitable to the setting and to evening dining.
I had the traditional French ham and brie sandwich, and it was disappointing due to the bread. Mimi no longer uses Red Hen bread, and instead is using baguettes from the DAmato bakery. The latter bread is quite respectable, but it is not nearly so fine nor as well suited to Mimis style of sandwiches as were the wonderful baguettes from Red Hen. I actually noticed this change of bread in the last days of her shop on Montrose, but at the time assumed it was just a quirk of her impending closing there. Alas, the change seems to be permanent. Apparently Mimi and Red Hen had some business differences that I gather are unlikely ever to be resolved.
There were some other minor differences - chives have disappointingly replaced green onions, whose more assertive flavor I preferred; and her range of ingredients also seems reduced (no fresh mozzarella, for example); but otherwise the ingredients seemed as good as ever. The prices have migrated upwards yet again; all sandwiches are now a flat eight bucks. Given the rise in price and the dramatic (albeit relative) decline in the quality of the bread, I can no longer feel that a Mimis sandwich is worth eight dollars, nor can I recommend it any longer as a uniquely great place for chow. Very good it certainly remains; but the change from Red Hen bread is a real disappointment.
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