Best Bite: As I mentioned in my Restaurant Week preview, Ada Street’s menu was inspired by the last meal requests of famous criminals. Of all the creative options, my favorite actually ended up being the fourth course, a silky after-dinner drink based on the simple black cup of coffee that was requested by serial killer Aileen Wuornos. The top of the drink was frothy and cocoa-dusted, and it immediately reminded me of a dark, boozy version of Julius Meinl’s iced mélange, an all-time favorite of mine.
Other notes: The pork loin entree had great textural contrast, particularly because of the crunchy pickled onions. This dish was based on the last meal of Rainey Bethea (the last person to be publicly executed in the U.S.), whose request included pork chops, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumbers, and cornbread. I also enjoyed the combination of rustic strawberry jam with juicy fried chicken, meant to resemble the bucket of KFC Original Recipe chicken and pound of strawberries that were both part of John Wayne Gacy’s request. And for dessert, Jeni’s dark chocolate ice cream with a micro mint garnish made a fine approximation of the two pints of Ben & Jerry’s mint chocolate chip that were requested by Tim McVeigh.
Why it’s another 2013 Best Bite: Honey Butter Fried Chicken was another darling of the Chicago food scene this year, and I finally got to check it out on a recent weeknight. There’s no question that the signature dish lives up to the hype. You really do slather whipped honey butter all over buttermilk double-battered chicken – and then immediately wonder why you haven’t been eating fried chicken this way your whole life. All the sides I tried were exceptional, too: ultra-cheesy pimento mac ‘n’ cheese spirals, green curry-scented creamed corn, and sweet potatoes with puffy balsamic marshmallow, plus the adorable honeycomb corn muffins.
Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: This novel Negroni slushy has appeared in basically every Chicago summer/cocktail/patio/drinking article since Parson’s Chicken and Fish opened in mid-May, even called “the coolest Negroni in the world.” The fanfare is justified, though: it’s an excellent Negroni in a fun format, avoiding the watery or overly sweet fate that befalls most frozen beverages. With locally made Letherbee gin and citrusy Luxardo bitter, it’s mellow, refreshing, and just bitter enough.
Snack-wise, I was torn between the shrimp and pimento toast, and though I still plan to try the seafood variety next time, I was more than satisfied with pimento. My Midwestern upbringing didn’t involve a lot of pimento cheese, but especially as Southern-influenced cuisine becomes more popular in Chicago, I’ve now tasted several knock-out versions (including Zingerman’s, my favorite to have at home) and am starting to understand its following. At Parson’s, the pimento spread is smooth (no coarse shreds) and ultra-cheesy atop buttery toast. The sourness and acidity from pickle relish and charred radishes beautifully round out each bite, punctuated by the pea shoots. I also appreciated the portion of three moderate slices, enough to share easily.
Of course, I liked the fried chicken, too – though I found it to be best on its own, without any of the housemade sauces – and the mezcal margarita gave the slushy a serious run for its money. Check out more photos below of the food and atmosphere.