Red Square adds Russian menu at Turkish steam bath in Wicker Park

March 22, 2013 10:00:06 AM PDT
Red Square, one of Chicago's oldest Turkish steam baths, is being re-born with a strong Russian accent.

Red Square's Wicker Park location hasn't changed, but everything else has. There's now a little restaurant inside, featuring a fairly authentic Russian menu.

For more than a hundred years, the steam bath on Division Street has drawn athletes, politicians and celebrities, for its hotter-than-Hades sweatbox. But after it fell into disrepair, the space was recently re-opened as Red Square, with a completely new look.

"This is the oldest original bath house that's still functioning in the city, if not the only one," said Alex Loyfman, the owner of Red Square. "We have acquired the building and turned it into a more modern version of a spa, restaurant, and also keeping the traditional steam and saunas as they had before."

But all that heat makes you hungry, which is why they've installed a full restaurant and bar.

"We want to kind of have the typical Russian food, but we want to have a little twist to it," he said.

One of the most typical Russian snacks is pelmeni. Kind of like the Polish pierogi, these tiny dumplings are made in-house each day.

"We mix in sour cream into the dough so it's super soft, super rich," said chef Dave Gebhardt. "Pureed veal with lots of onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Very simple."

A simple, traditional fold, then the pelmeni are boiled briefly, followed by a brief saute in a bit of hot vinegar. They're served with a swoosh of dill-embedded sour cream.

Pastas are also notable, but more due to the fact that they're completely overloaded with cremini mushrooms - one of the Russians' favorite vegetables.

"It's a wild mushroom mix with homemade pappardelle that we make here. Again, we try to make all of our pastas here to stay, keep that babushka, that Russian mother in the kitchen thing going," said Gebhardt.

Whole mackerel is grilled, served very simply with a bit of tomato and grilled lemons.. And for dessert, a Russian favorite - delicate blintzes, usually filled with cheese or fruit.

"Right now we're doing a blueberry blintz. It has a sweetened goat cheese inside," Gebhardt said.

One of the really interesting things about Red Square's dining room is you do feel like you are in a train car, looking out the window, rolling through the Russian countryside having some blintzes and a little bit of vodka; as they say in Moscow, nazdrovia!

Plans call for the addition of bed and breakfast this summer, as well as a rooftop deck and outdoor seating along division street.

Red Square
1914 W. Division St.
(773) 227-2284