Chicago Restaurant Week 2015: “Last Meals” Dinner at Ada Street

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2015, held January 30–February 12. Check out recaps from 2014 and 2013, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage.

Ada Street “Last Meals” Dinner

Night Moves cocktail, Ada Street
Night Moves cocktail with cold-brewed coffee, Amer Picon, cardamaro, rum, and cream

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.

Roasted pork loin, Ada Street
Roasted pork loin with corn pudding and pickled red onion

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.

View last year’s post about Restaurant Week at Ada Street.

The details: Ada Street, 1664 N. Ada St., Chicago.

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2013 Best Bite #29: Fried chicken and sides, Honey Butter Fried Chicken

Each day in December, I’m celebrating the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2013, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at 2012’s Best Bites.

Honey butter fried chicken with sides
4-piece fried chicken with sides of pimento mac ‘n’ cheese, whipped sweet potatoes with balsamic marshmallow, and creamed corn with Thai green curry

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.

The details: Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 3361 N. Elston Ave., Chicago.

This week’s Best Bite: Negroni slushy and pimento toast, Parson’s Chicken & Fish

Negroni slushy with letherbee gin, luxando bitter, sweet vermouth, and citron
Negroni slushy with letherbee gin, luxardo bitter, sweet vermouth, and citron

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.

Toast with pimento cheese, charred radishes, and pea shoots
Toast with pimento cheese, charred radishes, and pea shoots

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.

Menu and a margarita, another standout cocktail with el buho mescal, torres orange brandy, orange & lime juice, maguey sweet sap, and a sour patch rim
Menu and a margarita, another standout cocktail with el buho mescal, torres orange brandy, orange & lime juice, maguey sweet sap, and a sour patch rim
The interior bar at Parson's, with the negroni slushy machine in the center
The interior bar at Parson’s, with the negroni slushy machine in the center
The namesake fried chicken
The namesake fried chicken
Funnel cake with honey, brown butter, and green peppercorn brittle
Funnel cake with honey, brown butter, and green peppercorn brittle
Striped umbrellas & picnic tables on the spacious patio
Striped umbrellas & picnic tables on the spacious patio (prepare to wait on weekends)

The details: Parson’s Chicken and Fish, 2952 W Armitage Ave., Chicago.