American cuisine with a French influence

March 8, 2013 8:36:01 PM PST
The 10,000 wine glasses hanging from the ceiling in the bar are your first clue at The Boarding House in River North of what lies ahead. The four-story behemoth has multiple personalities: in the basement, a cocktail lounge and on the first floor, a bustling bar scene; in both spaces, a limited menu includes a half-dozen pizzas and charcuterie boards, featuring cured meats and aged cheeses. On the third and fourth floors, a more refined, lofted dining room, with a larger menu, partly influenced by the chef's roots in Quebec.

"The food is best described as American cuisine but definitely with a French hand to it. But there are Quebecois influences to the menu when it comes to things like the poutine for sure," said owner and sommelier, Alpana Singh.

In the bar, the poutine is simply French fries with cheese curds and gravy, but upstairs, lobster meat is added. There's also a thick-cut pork chop over a bed of polenta, plus, a shareable entrée of chicken three ways: fried legs, braised thighs and a breast that's turned into a roulade, stuffed with dried fruits.

But the focus here is on wine, due to Singh's background, and the by-the-glass program is something she's awfully proud of.

"You know sometimes people think wines by the glass, they may skip over, thinking it might be dull or boring, when in fact wines by the glass are what sommeliers are most excited about for the moment," Singh said.

Her global list spans more than 500 selections, and she says customers are definitely coming in with wine on their minds.

"I've been doing this for a while now and even I'm surprised by how much wine we sell; so people come here with wine in mind and they're certainly drinking. We have a very thirsty audience," she said.

There's also a private dining room on the second floor of the building, with room for up to 50 people.

The Boarding House
720 N. Wells St.