I was recently in Chicago for a conference and while I definitely wanted to try deep-dish pizza, there were also other places I wanted to visit but just wasn’t sure where. Brad was joining me at the end of the conference, so I thought I’d wait for him to arrive before making any decisions. Meanwhile, I was lucky to meet Tavernita’s (151 W Erie, River North, Chicago) Chef Ryan Poli at one of the exhibitor’s booths, where he was doing a short cooking demo and promoting Windex’s new Touch-up cleaner.
I had some time to kill between sessions, so I stopped to watch him make three dishes: gazpacho, sweet and spicy tapas made with strawberry preserves and tapas with prosciutto and cheese. I sampled the last one and it was quite tasty!
I was given a coupon for $15.00 off of Tavernita’s Sunday brunch, so Brad and I decided to give it a try, especially after reading numerous positive reviews on Yelp and Google.
Tavernita has a brunch sharing menu that consists of four sections: Small Plates, On Bread, Eggs and Sweets. You choose four dishes to share ($12.50 per person, or $18.50 if you want to include a signature brunch cocktail.) Our server recommended that we try one dish from each of the categories, so we did and ordered Greg’s meatballs, mini burgers, Eggs Benedict and French toast. I opted for the Tavernita Bloody and Brad ordered a diet coke, but then noticed the Little Market cocktail with reposado tequila, fresh pineapple, chile guagillo, cilantro and pico piquin and decided to give it a try.
The Tavernita Bloody was one of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve ever had! Instead of the usual celery or olive garnish, this one came with giardiniera, which made it spicy and a bit sweet with its pickled carrots, cauliflower, red and green bell peppers, etc. This Bloody Mary bursts with flavor and is a must try!
Brad’s drink was also quite good and refreshing – loved the blend of tequila with pineapple juice! The pico piquin seasoning on the rim of the glass was a nice and tasty touch.
Our server brought out the mini burgers and Eggs Benedict first and we got one of each. The burgers rocked! Cheddar, house pickles and spicy mayo topped perfectly seasoned beef on nice fresh mini buns. The treatment of the Eggs Benedict was a bit different: instead of traditional Canadian bacon the chef used ham. In addition, the brioche was spread with some sort of jam which gave it a sweet taste. The eggs were cooked to perfection and the hollandaise sauce was great.
Next came the meatballs, which weren’t too spicy but had great consistency and flavor that came from a combination of Wagyu beef, pork and a hazelnut-romesco sauce. There were five of them for us to split, which after the first two dishes was just the right amount.
Tavernita’s French toast was served last, and though it took a while for it to make it to the table, it was worth the wait! We split a huge slab of bread coated with cinnamon, blueberries, strawberries, ginger whipped cream and vanilla sauce with syrup on the side. OMG, melt-in-your-mouth decadency!
The restaurant itself is nice and spacious, with two bars and ample seating.
When I met Chef Poli, I asked him about his training and he was beginning to tell me that he had worked in several places in the U.S. and Spain, but was cut short when the demo began. I since found a great article on TimeOut Chicago’s website about him that is a great read — it made me appreciate Tavernita even more! Next time I’m in Chicago I hope to try Tavernita’s regular menu. Check Tavernita’s website for directions and hours at: http://tavernita.com/
- Price: Quite good for brunch, especially if you opt for the cocktail.
- Service: 4.00. Solid and nice.
- Food: 4.50. Loved the Tavernita Bloody, mini burgers and French toast!
- Recommend: Absolutely. If I lived in Chicago, this would be on my brunch short-list.
- Kid friendly: Depends on if they are picky eaters. Most would love the Sweets section!
1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb
Eat, drink and be merry!
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