Inconspicuous Interurban Boathouse influenced by Asian, French & Midwest flavors

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former pastry chef at Charlie Trotter's has been quietly running a bakery out of an alley location the past few years, but now she's got a more high profile spot, right on the Chicago River.

But our Hungry Hound says it's not what you think. This location is a former boat house next to the Cortland Avenue Bridge, and since the building has been vacant for so long, there's a good chance you might have passed by without even noticing.

Three meals a day in a renovated space the chef-owner did pretty much all on her own.

There are influences from Asia, the Midwest and even France, but everything with an eye toward high quality ingredients, learned from years of high-profile experience. After stints at Trotter's and a long-gone dessert nightclub in River North, it's time to use those experiences to make excellent, affordable breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Pancakes are definitely worth a try at the new Interurban Boathouse, which sits next to the Cortland Avenue Bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River. The space was vacant quite a while, but Christine McCabe put some elbow grease to work, and now runs it as an all-day cafe - a far cry from her previous location in a Lincoln Park alley.

"A lot more entrees, more appetizers, full bar and a lot more pastries," said McCabe.

Breakfast is usually quiet. A good time to try one of her homemade pastries, like these delicate pop tarts, or a Japanese-inspired pancake, loaded with cabbage and carrots, but then topped just like a traditional okonomiyaki, with the sweet-savory sauce, a fried egg and some bonito - the smoked-and-dried tuna wisps that add a punch of umami, or savoriness.

"I really like to eat a lot of veggie-focused meals so, that's my way of incorporating that into a healthy-ish breakfast so you can eat all of the pastries," she said.

Publican Quality bread is toasted, used as a base for her homemade uni butter. That sea urchin adds a saline burst to her butter, which melts into the bread, and then gets topped with some fish roe and parsley.

Later in the day, try fish and chips - the tempura-fried cod is excellent, especially when paired with homemade chips and tartar sauce. A number of excellent, homemade sandwiches grace the menu as well, such as a Cuban, with homemade bread slathered with mustard, then layered with ham, pickles and pulled pork, then pressed until crispy. Homemade coleslaw is also notable - crunchy, creamy and satisfying. But do save room for dessert. It's where much of her training comes from, and her sweets are indulgent without being too decadent.

"Incorporating a lot more fruit now that we're getting into the summer, so we'll be doing a lot more fruit desserts and fruit tarts," said McCabe.

In Steve's Extra Course video, he takes a closer look at one of the pastries from the case at Interurban - a salted caramel chocolate cake.

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In Steve's Extra Course video, he takes a closer look at one of the pastries from the case at Interurban - a salted caramel chocolate cake.

Interurban Boathouse
1438 W. Cortland
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