CHICAGO (WLS) --Now that Lent and Easter are over, a lot of people are going back to eating meat. Our food reporter says there are no shortage of beef palaces in the city, but rather than go downtown for a big splurge, he says you can find good steaks and other meaty options in some of the neighborhoods.
Not only can you get a fantastic, dry-aged steak at places like Boeufhaus in Ukrainian Village, there's also a Boutique Steakhouse in Portage Park worth seeking out. For one thing, they're using the same quality product you'll find downtown, but they're also creating uniquely delicious versions of traditional steakhouse fare. They also pay a lot less rent, and pass the savings on to their customers.
The scene looks like any other neighborhood restaurant - diners digging in to hearty plates of pasta and beef and fish. But Community Tavern isn't your typical neighborhood joint. Its Portage Park location, on North Milwaukee Avenue, would indicate casual food; maybe even a little less-ambitious than expense account places downtown. Not here.
"We wanted to do something that was just as high level as places downtown but being in the neighborhood we are we can't charge $70 for steak," said Chef Joey Beato.
In fact, for a steakhouse, their entrees average in the mid-20s, which is unheard of downtown. Start with a salad though. Their version of a classic wedge is actually a baby iceberg head stuffed with blue cheese, avocado, red onion and bacon, with a buttermilk vinaigrette. More interesting is the shaved seasonal vegetable salad.
"Shaved squash that's cured with lime, salt and sugar and that's tossed with champagne vinaigrette, arugula and then a little bit of whipped goat cheese," Beato said.
Flat-iron steak is grilled, served with mashed seasonal vegetables, while short ribs are meltingly tender, served over creamy risotto.
"It's braised in veal stock, vegetables and a lot of balsamic reduction so we take a whole tub of balsamic vinegar with sugar, reduce that down, add that to the liquid, and that's what gives it the super dark color," he said.
Even the beef cheeks - one of the most tender cuts - are cooked down with some braising liquid and radishes, then added to homemade fettucine, showered in grated parmesan.
"So the beef cheeks are a lot more gelatinous, so with that, and with the starch of the pasta water, it just becomes this like really creamy and really satisfying," said Beato.
4038 N. Milwaukee Ave
And in Steve's "Extra Course" today, he talks with Community Tavern's Pastry Chef, who shows him her current dessert menu, in full detail.