Throughout the day, there's a steady hipster vibe at the well-worn Bite Cafe, due in part to the fact it's adjacent to The Empty Bottle, an indie music club. But that doesn't mean the food is any less ambitious. In fact, a recent overhaul has meant just the opposite.
"When Bite opened about 15 years ago in 1995, Ukrainian Village was a little more of a rougher..not as nice of an area. Now, as the area has grown up a little bit, so have we," said owner Bruce Finkleman.
And part of that maturation process means a menu that is ever-so-slightly more refined, without taking itself too seriously. In the morning, there's sweet potato hash embedded with cippolini onions and piquillo peppers, topped off with fried eggs.. plus frut and pecan-draped French toast, accented with maple syrup and sea salt whipped cream. At lunch, a fried chicken leg sandwich is ramped-up with a Tabasco aioli and two pickled elements: the slaw and the jalapenos.
"Well we've kind of gone back to renewing our vow to more of a chef-driven customer relationship," Finkleman said.
Which means the BYOB experience is now somewhat heightened, as guests can start thinking about what to bring to drink.
"It allows the customer to not be held back by what the establishment is offering. They can become their own sommelier, or their own beer enthusiast to pair their own meals," said Finkleman.
From the dinner menu, beautifully-cooked trout has a late-summer corn and tomato garnish.. while cherry tomatoes, basil and parmesan are tangled up in a bowl of bucatini pasta. The results are a kitchen with an invigorated approach to cafe fare, and a customer base now more involved in making their own beverage decisions ahead of time.
"A lot of the times people call up and find out what the specials are because you know a place like this the specials board does reign. So they're allowed to call up and kind of help out with what they're pairing for the evening," he said.
Because the restaurant is next door to the Empty Bottle, diners who forget their bottle of wine or beer can stop by the bar and bring the drink back to Bite.
1039 N. Western Ave.