Most restaurants begin by planning a menu, then tasting wines to complement the chef's food. Not so at Income Tax, a comfortable, approachable addition to the city's Edgewater neighborhood.
"We really started with the idea of wine first and then built the menu around the regions and places that these wines comes from," said General Manager Collin Moody.
That would be primarily France and Italy, with some nods to Germany and Spain as well.
"They showed me their wine list and I thought it would be fun idea to go with the old adage of what grows together goes together, so I thought, let's look at some of those dishes from the areas where they have some of these wines," said Chef Ryan Henderson.
From Spain, tomato bread, or pan con tomate, but in Henderson's hands, a shade different.
"We took that same idea but we make our own saffron bread in house, and put tomatoes from Mighty Vines which is like a local place and we take the seeds of those because they have the most flavor, and then the rest of it we turn into a tomato gel, so you can see the saffron bread we make in-house."
From Germany, a flammenkuchen, or bacon and onion tart, and from France, a salad featuring not just potatoes and celery root, but beets as well. A little aged prosciutto goes a long way to assist those root vegetables.
"So it's a really simple, and really bright winter salad," he said.
From Italy, one of the highlights is a handmade agnolotti, or envelope-shaped pasta. Fortified with carrots, lemon juice and butter, it's a perfect match with wine from Northern Italy.
"What they're known for in that area is agnolotti which is the shape, veal, so we do veal sweetbreads, mushrooms, and nebiolo wine," said Henderson. "So you get the heart of Piedmont in that dish."
The term wine bar can be a little misleading you typically think a big wine list and then lots of small plates that are kind of an afterthought. But the food at Income Tax is just as important as the global wine list. In fact it's probably a lot better than it needs to be.
EXTRA COURSE: ABC7 food reporter Steve Dolinsky talks about Income Tax's unique wine program, which results in the by-the-glass options getting more interesting as the night wears on.
5959 North Broadway, Chicago