As I mentioned a few posts ago, Mario and I recently went through a bit of a dinner date dry spell. During the early part of the year, we became complacent with our carry-out/DVR nights and weekend brunches; it was cold and gross, and we wanted nothing more than to spent most of our free time camped out on our couch. However, our attitude completely changed after spring eventually decided to make its entrance and we finally broke our dry spell with a fantastic dinner date a few weeks ago. After our night out, we were jonesing to get out of the house and back into the swing of our regular restaurant adventures, but we weren't entirely sure where to go next...
Yes, that introduction most definitely deserves its own paragraph complete with a dramatic pauses, as Presidio is one of those very special places that leaves you thinking about your experience (and wishing you could experience it for the first time all over again) for weeks after. Based on a single experience, we've both already proclaimed it to be one of our new favorite restaurants in Chicago, thanks to the combination of the delightful atmosphere, innovative and drool-worthy food/drinks, and amazing service. It really is that good.
Open since early March, Presidio is housed in the Bucktown space formerly occupied by Bluebird. The departure of the wine bar last year left the neighborhood with one less option for those looking for something more than a fast-causal restaurant or for those seeking a more grown-up specialty cocktail lounge. Thankfully, attorney-turned-restaurateur and former bartender at Dragon Ranch, Patrick Cullen (alongside chef Shaun Connolly, previously at Chicago Cut & Nightwood) stepped in to fill the hole in the neighborhood market.
Designed to feel like a mid-century modern living space meets lush botanical garden, the San Francisco-inspired, cocktail-focused restaurant/lounge offers a menu of both bar snacks and full entrées, making it the perfect stop for everything from drinks and a quick bite to a full-on dinner. The gorgeous space is fulled with soft mood lighting, twinkling bunches of candles, and a variety of seating options, ranging from more traditional dining tables to cozy, overstuffed couches. Mario and I were seated on one of the plush couches in the lounge part of the restaurant, giving us the perfect view of the bustling bar area, along with Damen Ave. (the ideal people-watching spot!).
We kicked our meal with a round of drinks (an absolute must at a cocktail-focused restaurant!). Mario started with Tommy's Margarita, made with Blanco tequila, lime & agave nectar. This was one smooth margarita!
I took the suggestion of our knowledgeable server and chose one of Presidio's originals, Flash in the Pan: gin, grapefruit, lime, tart cherry, mint & black pepper. This spectacular little cocktail had everything - sweetness from the grapefruit and lime, tartness from the cherry, a refreshing burst from the mint, and a spiciness from the pepper. I absolutely loved it!
The Sun Burst chandelier in the front lounge is made of hand-polished metal meant to reflect light in all directions (it's mesmerizing - especially after a cocktail or two!).
We started our journey through Presidio's menu (seriously, we ate so much!) with one of the most popular of their small dishes, the Foie Parfait with apricot gelee, pistachio butter & grilled baguette. Dubbed the grown-up version of a PB & J, this foie parfait was truly epic; as I mentioned on Instagram, it delivered a little bit of saltiness, a little bit of sweetness, and a whole lot of silky, savory deliciousness. We devoured every last bite of this amazing dish - it is a definite must-try for anyone who visits the restaurant!
Along with the parfait, we ordered one of the nightly specials: Frog Legs marinated in buttermilk and Sriracha and fried in a honey Sriracha sauce with Thai bird chilies. While not currently on their regular menu, this is another rave-worthy dish that is a must-try! The meat was crisp and perfectly seasoned with a nice amount of sweet heat that built quickly.
We rounded out our sampling of the small plates side of the menu with the Steak Tartare, served with parsley salad and baguette. This traditionally prepared tartare was the epitome of meaty perfection - the buttery beef was perfectly balanced by the sharp flavors of the cornichons and onions (although I have to admit that I ate around the onions, being a confirmed hater of raw onions). Mario especially loved this dish and couldn't stop talking about it for days after our dinner!
Before moving on to our next course, we ordered another of their specialty cocktails: Limo Service, made with white rum, cachaca, black truffle, bianco vermouth, salt, orange bitters & grapefruit oil. We were both surprised by the intensity of this drink, as well as by the use of the black truffle. As it has been well-documented on this blog, I am a fan of all things truffle; however, this was my first time tasting it in a cocktail. I have to say that while the truffle was surprising at first, it really was a beautifully balanced drink, as the sweetness of the grapefruit oil complemented the earthiness of the truffle.
For our last two rounds, we moved over to the large plates section and chose two of the offerings that came highly recommended by everyone we spoke to in the restaurant (they're a friendly group that loves to talk food!). Wild Black Bass with potato, spanish chorizo, fennel espelette & pepper. The fennel espelette made a lovely base for the bass and the chorizo added a nice smokiness to the dish.
Finally, we ended our evening with the Royale with Cheese, made with prime beef, American cheese & house pickles, served on a brioche bun. This burger was named one of the best new burgers in the city for a very good reason (and not just its fun nod to Pulp Fiction). Really, sometimes all you need is a simply prepared, perfectly cooked, mouth-watering juicy burger that is bursting with flavor!
You can try all of this deliciousness and more (and yes, you absolutely should want to try it!) at Presidio: 1749 N. Damen Ave, Chicago, IL.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.