Drink of the week: Breakfast on the Park
Where you can find it: Perennial
The damage: $11.
Why here? Why is it that new condos pop up faster than you can say 'mortgage crisis,' but a new restaurant seems to take ages to open? I would walk past the empty shell of Perennial every day on my way to work for months on end, peering inside to see if its evolving decor signaled that it might be an eatery I'd fancy. I had read about its stellar lineup in the kitchen (the team behind Boka and the former Butter chef) and had also heard buzz about the size of its sprawling corner patio and plans to open a rooftop lounge. So when it finally opened about a month ago, I was eager to see if it had been worth the wait.
How it went down: Apparently I wasn't the only one enthusiastically awaiting Perennial's arrival; on a Tuesday night, the place was packed with a typical Lincoln Park mix of well-manicured twenty- and thirtysomethings and couples on dates. With a half-hour wait to tackle, my friends and I headed toward the bar, a small strip of space with stone floors, a red leaf print on the walls and pop music. It was next to a more posh-looking lounge, with baby-blue armchairs and brown chaise lounges, but we decided to stick to the bar area where we'd be closer to the cocktails. The drink list is heavy on the wine, even including a specialty list of bottles selected by famous Chicagoans, but there are plenty of mixed drinks, too.
I've been curious about egg white-infused libations for some time, so I opted for the Breakfast on the Park, a mix of an ounce each of Templeton Rye and Modern Spirits honey-grapefruit vodka with fresh-squeezed lemon juice and an egg white thrown in. The blend is shaken vigorously to perfectly fold in the egg white, resulting in a frothy head that crowns the tall glass stuffed with ice. Templeton is made in Iowa, so it has a sort-of-locally-made thing going for it, but more important, it's just downright good—full of flavor, spice and just a touch of sweetness. The citrus notes from the vodka and lemon juice balanced out the sugariness of the whiskey. The drink had a lot of grapefruit notes up front and a smooth finish with subtle rye flavor.
Would I want to become a regular? We finally snagged a seat on the patio, which has a rustic, tropical feel to it and is the perfect people-watching perch, located across the street from Lincoln Park at the busy Wells-Lincoln-Clark intersection. We sat on woven chairs next to a huge potted tree and a wood overhang that looked like it should be covered in grape vines. With so many tasty-sounding items on the menu, we decided to order a whole mess of 'em to share, including a foie gras-stocked charcuterie plate, crisp chicken legs with beer-braised onions, and some house-made pasta studded with wild mushrooms and fava beans. Everything tasted extremely fresh, and I enjoyed the playfulness of the dishes, like the blue-cheese foam accent with the chicken legs and the "cheesecake" dessert made with raspberry custard, fluffy cream-cheese foam and graham cracker ice cream. True to its name, Perennial should certainly have staying power.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.