Chicago: The Bristol

These are the dishes that lured me into The Bristol: an heirloom apple salad with big chunks of Manchego; grilled flatbread with bacon and melted onion; an oversized raviolo stuffed with ricotta and a runny egg.

Then there are the dishes that kept me away after my first couple meals: dry chicken wings stuffed with crumbly blue cheese; bland dill-and-sea-salt monkey bread; an even blander watermelon ice.

And then we’ve got the dishes that brought me back for brunch this past weekend: biscuits with ancho-maple butter; braised-pork chilaquiles; a duck-confit-and-potato skillet.

What does it all mean? That, clearly, I’m a sucker for a good menu description—even when the restaurant in question sometimes seems to describe its food better than it can cook it. Although inconsistency was the main thing I took away from my first few meals at The Bristol, my persistence paid off: This joint is way too enjoyable to ignore, missteps be damned.

The brainchild of three Chicago restaurant veterans, The Bristol is almost uncanny in knowing what people want. Mostly that means upscale junk food—Scotch eggs; grilled sardines with aioli; duck meatballs. But it also means a convivial room with two huge communal tables, a good Moscow Mule, and prices that mostly hover around $10 (the most expensive item on the menu, grilled skirt steak with blue cheese ravioli, is only $18). Which leads me to think that as good as chef Chris Pandel’s food can sometimes be, price may be one of the real draws at this place. Sure, I might walk out of the Bristol having had a boring bite or two, but I’ll also have eaten some great dishes without breaking the bank. So I may be a sucker, but I’m still a happy man.

The Bristol 2152 N. Damen Ave., Chicago (773-862-5555)



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