Eastern European fare has always been a staple of Chicago, but its crossover potential has never really been utilized. While most 312-ers have had a plate of pierogi in their life, it's not something you'll usually find outside of family-owned neighborhood institutions or street festival booths (likely staffed by those same families).
Lokal and head chef Gabriel Miranda put their hats in the ring for high-end spins on cheaper standards, and the results are a bit pricier than you'd expect to pay for a given dish. However, the results are usually delicious, inventive, and often a decadent and worthwhile reinvention of the item.
For starters, the sweet squash soup or other seasonal varieties provide great flavor for a reasonable $6-7. The soft and pillowy potato pierogi in bourbon date sauce is small but decadent ($12), and the golabki is cabbage rolls with braised ribs, horseradish rice, and chunky tomato sauce ($7) – most likely not your mother's version, no matter what nationality you are. Plates include decadence like a filet mignon trio with black truffle peeling ($24) or simpler affairs like sun-dried tomato, portabella asparagus, pearl barley risotto and red pepper coulis ($13).
For drinks, Lokal has a variety of domestic beers, as well as Eastern European beers like Lech and Zywiec. Several different red and white wines are available by the glass or bottle (ranging from $6-10 and $25-45, respectively). Signature cocktails include the Wicker VIP (with Hennessy Black, brown sugar, lime and red grapes - $10) and the drink-as-accessory of the Burgundy Marie: Pear Grey Goose and Domaine de Canton with a splash of Lambrusco and one big purple flower to sip around ($9).
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Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Dan Morgridge