Best Bites, Chicago

Best Bites: Loaded baked potato gnocchi, chicken nuggets & more, Split-Rail

Loaded baked potato gnocchi with bacon, sour cream, Hook's 5-year cheddar, and crispy potato skin

Loaded baked potato gnocchi with bacon, sour cream, Hook’s 5-year cheddar, and crispy potato skin

I had the chance to talk to Chef Zoë Schor a few years about a female chef-focused Restaurant Week menu and have always been impressed by her food, so when she left Ada Street to open her own restaurant, I knew it would be one to watch. Split-Rail finally opened in June, putting a fresh spin on nostalgic foods of her childhood.

The loaded baked potato gnocchi was a no-brainer, and my favorite take on baked potato since Parachute’s bing bread. It hits the bacon, cheese, chive, and sour cream notes, but the texture of the gnocchi itself – crispy edges, soft interior – is what makes the dish.

Linguine and clams with egg yolk linguine, briny clams, charred leek, and uni butter

Linguine and clams with egg yolk linguine, briny clams, charred leek, and uni butter

I’m glad my dining companions pushed for the linguine and clams, because it ended up being my other favorite dish. It was briny, spicy, lemony, and buttery (uni butter, no less!), with plenty of clams swirled into the rich, eggy pasta.

And then there were the chicken nuggets. The breading was audibly crunchy and perfectly salted, with a grainy honey mustard sauce that had a heavy hit of citrus for extra brightness.

Chicken nuggets with honey-mustard

Chicken nuggets with honey-mustard

The Breakers cocktail with Gamle Ode Dill aquavit, apricot shrub, black pepper, mace, and basil

The Breakers cocktail with Gamle Ode Dill aquavit, apricot shrub, black pepper, mace, and basil

My cocktail, The Breakers, was also a pleasant surprise. The apricot and basil put it in standard summer territory, but adding in the dill aquavit and black pepper made it exceedingly savory. It worked, though, especially with the mustard and chicken nuggets at the start of the meal.

The details: Split-Rail, 2500 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago.

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Chicago, Restaurant Week

Restaurant Week 2014: Ada Street

This is part of a series of posts about Chicago Restaurant Week 2014, held January 24–February 6. Check out the 2013 recap, or browse all Restaurant Week coverage.

Dinner at Ada Street

Spicy Moroccan carrot salad with Greek yogurt, ginger, lime, and grilled scallions, inspired by Alice Waters

Spicy Moroccan carrot salad with Greek yogurt, ginger, lime, and grilled scallions, inspired by Alice Waters

Best Bite: Executive chef Zoë Schor designed Ada Street’s Restaurant Week menu around a unique theme: each option for the three courses paid tribute to a different female chef. As impressed as I was with all the concepts, I was the most wowed by a seemingly simple carrot salad based on an Alice Waters recipe. The flash-blanched carrot slices and grilled scallions were fresh and aromatic, with a cool yogurt sauce that tempered the pleasant heat from chiles and spices. Everyone at our table agreed they couldn’t get enough. See full menu.

Scrumpets with crispy fried lamb shoulder and minted malt vinegar, inspired by April Bloomfield

Scrumpets with crispy fried lamb shoulder and minted malt vinegar, inspired by April Bloomfield

Other notes: I also loved the crispy lamb scrumpets, the only dish that’s also offered on Ada Street’s regular menu. For entrees, the smoked carrot puree that accompanied the pork loin was a brilliant addition, and the classic bouillabaisse did Julia Child justice, down to the last briny, saffron-scented drop. Don’t be swayed by the off-the-beaten-path location: finding this cozy, dimly lit hideaway is totally worth it.

Bouillabaisse with Bangs Island mussels, manila clams, gulf shrimp, cobia, saffron-infused broth, and toasted baguette, inspired by Julia Child

Bouillabaisse with Bangs Island mussels, manila clams, gulf shrimp, cobia, saffron-infused broth, and toasted baguette, inspired by Julia Child

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

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