As I mentioned in my last post, I'm not huge fan of Chicago's SPD craziness; in fact, I usually try to stay away from the masses as much as possible during the height of the celebrations. However, there are a definitely a few things that will make me tempt fate and push my away through the shamrock-clad, green beer guzzling crowds, one of them being a morning filled with delicious eats at one of the hottest new brunch spots in Wicker Park, aka Chop Shop.
Open since 2013, Chop Shop is a multipurpose butcher shop/restaurant/deli/performance space snuggled into a nook on North Ave. directly under the Blue line. The business has some major meat cred behind it, as one of the partners is of the famed Minelli Meat & Deli family. The idea behind Chop Shop is one that appeals to a more modern and younger dining crowd: a pared down and updated steakhouse for those who care about where their meat comes from and who also prefer a more unpretentious, low-key environment. Take away the thick buttery sauces, white linens, and overpriced dishes, and add in a carefully curated beer and cocktail list, an airy, bright space, and a streamlined menu that showcases high quality, affordable meats... voilà, you have Chop Shop!
Chop Shop is split into three distinct dining areas. The front portion of the downstairs area (nearest to the entrance) contains the butcher shop/deli cases, in which you can grab a sandwich and park yourself in front of the spacious windows lining North Ave. The rear portion of the downstairs area contains a bar and few booths (the perfect setting for a casual drink & appetizers). Upstairs is where you'll find the main dining room and patio - this is where you should head if you're there for a more traditional restaurant experience.
While the upstairs area is technically the formal dining room, the space is anything but formal. The dining room has an industrial chic look (metals mixed with worn woods) and is flooded with natural light. While I can definitely see people dressing up and heading there for a nice dinner during the weekend, their recently added brunch hours have a very casual, laid back vibe.
The dining room is also filled whimsical tchotkes embossed with the Chop Shop logo, piles of books, and fun butcher-themed art.
Mario and I kicked off our meal with one of their signature cocktails, the Orange Soda: Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, Solerno blood orange, pineapple juice, orange juice, lemon juice, Fee Bros orange bitters & orange cream soda.
We both fell hard for this tasty little cocktail. It reminded me of one of my favorite childhood treats procured from the neighborhood ice cream truck - basically, a liquified, boozy form of an orange sherbet Push-Up Pop. This was my dream version of the perfect brunch drink and I really could not get enough of it!
For our first round of appetizers, we chose to start with a fairly traditional brunch dish, the Crab Cake: lump crab, spicy aioli, arugula & red onion. The outside of the crab cake was crunchy and the inside was light and flakey. I particularly enjoyed the addition of the spicy aioli and peppery arugula, as they gave the crab cake a tangy punch.
Our second round of appetizers consisted of a Chop Shop specialty (and one of my favorite dishes of the entire meal!), the Parma Prosciutto Wrapped Burrata with sea salt, EVOO & wine reduction. This was such a fantastic dish - the salty prosciutto contrasted perfectly with the creamy burrata. I've had some amazing burrata during my life, but this version most definitely tops the list. I could easily see myself stopping by Chop Shop for a quick drink (the Orange Soda, naturally) and a plate of this swoon-worthy little burrata!
For the main course, Mario chose to order the Butcher's Burger: butcher’s blend of prime cuts, grilled with aged cheddar, charred red onions, smoked bacon & Chop Shop sauce, served with french fries. Mario was super impressed by both the quality and flavor of this hefty burger. He actually said it was one of the best burgers he'd had in a long time - considering that he's a bona fide burger aficionado and always orders the specialty burger at new restaurants, that's huge compliment.
Extreme meaty goodness closeup!
For my entrée, I chose the Lobster Polenta Cake Benedict with poached egg, crab hollandaise, chive & black pepper. I had previously been told by multiple friends that I absolutely had to try this dish - I'm happy to say that I definitely was not disappointed! The large chunks of lobster were smooth and buttery, and the crab hollandaise added a delicious sweetness to the dish. I also loved the substitution of the polenta cake for the traditional English muffin, as it lightened up the Benedict, but still kept it filling and satisfying.
Egg porn ooze is the best!
At the end of our meal, we headed downstairs to check out the extensive deli area (and to do a little shopping!). Chop Shop is a full-service butcher that offers a variety of freshly cut meats and house-made sausages, along with cheeses and anti pastas. They even offer their own meat butchering classes!
After indulging in a fantastic meal, you can knock out a portion of your grocery list - talk about convenience! ;-)
You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Chop Shop, 2033 W. North Ave., Chicago, IL. Brunch is served from 11am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.