Sep 142009
 
Nightwood's heirloom tomato appetizer was beautiful and tasty.

Nightwood's heirloom tomato appetizer was beautiful and tasty.

Nightwood is nestled between the heart of two diverse, ethnic neighborhoods — Pilson and Chinatown, but manages to avoid any homage to its location. It’s a little disconcerting. On the plus side, the restaurant does boast a hearty menu with a focus on locally sourced, sustainable food. What we had was certainly tasty, but did the food quality overcome the rampant trendiness and lack of neighborhood focus? Listen in to find out.

Download Chicago Bites (15.1 M)

Show Notes:
00:00 – 03:54 This place is white and modern
03:55 – 05:37 Web lessons & appetizers
05:38 – 07:58 Adventures with trout
07:59 – 09:30 Ribbons of pasta
09:31 – 10:50 C is for itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie cookies
10:51 – 11:56 Dining ethos
11:57 – 12:53 Turn up the volume
12:54 – 14:45 Comments about amenities/facilities
14:46 – 16:28 Ratings and sign-off

The onion rings were delicious, but a little expensive.

The onion rings were delicious, but a little expensive.

Nightwood
2119 S Halsted
Chicago, IL 60608
Get directions

Bridget’s Ratings Tammy’s Ratings
Food Quality 3 3
Value 3 2
Service 3 3
Ambiance 3 2
Overall 6 5

Average price per person: $50

Want to chat about Nightwood? Drop us a line on Twitter: @chicagobites.

  12 Responses to “Nightwood Chicago Bites #148”

  1. I don’t really understand why Pilsen should have to be “ethnic” just because it’s in Pilsen? What about honky tonk bbq, the skylark, simone’s? I don’t think your reasoning makes sense. Should restaurants only open with the same menu options that other restaurants in the area have already, even if the restaurants there have been doing it for years, or is it interesting to bring a new, farm-to-table restaurant into a neighborhood and broaden the culinary options? By that token, what about “ethnic” restaurants opening in neighborhoods or suburbs that don’t have “appropriate” representations of that ethnicity?
    Personally, I think Nightwood is a really fantastic (and delicious!) addition to a dynamic and diverse neighborhood. 10 out of 10.

  2. i’m a little bothered by your assertion of nightwood’s whiteness and apparent defiance of the neighborhood “flavor.”
    you’re basically making a nasty generalization about the nightwood owners, patrons, and white people in general: they don’t care about what happens to their neighbors if they’re not white.
    the two times i’ve been to nightwood, the clientele has been very racially mixed. i can’t help but think you’re seeing what you want to see.

  3. We’re not making nasty generalizations, but talking about our experience the evening we were there. Would also like to point out that there’s nothing on the menu or in the look and feel of the restaurant that pays homage to either the Pilsen or Chinatown neighborhoods that border that restaurant. If it’s meant to be a reflection of the neighborhood, then we don’t feel it succeeds.
    Peace,
    Tammy

  4. i’m confused about the nieghborhood restaurant title you apply to them, which is where my above comment is coming from.
    where *did* you see them saying that they were one? that’s an actual question, not a challenge — i’d never heard that in any PR or the press.

  5. Most recently, they were listed in the Taste of Pilsen proceedings. I don’t keep press releases, so I can’t cite anything else.
    Admittedly, much of my complaint boils down to a violation of expectations…I was used to Lula Cafe and its integration into Logan Square and wanted a similar experience with Nightwood. I’m not opposed, in principle, to cuisine cross-over in Chicago’s neighborhoods. It’s just that some implementations are more jarring than others. I feel that Nightwood sticks out like a sore thumb, is over-priced, and very, very noisy.
    Others obviously don’t feel that way, and that’s okay by me.

  6. Ah, but Nightwood came to Pilsen with Lula Cafe baggage which I (mentally) dragged along with me that evening. I’m not judging the inclusion of ethnic influences into the neighborhood, but rather stating that Nightwood doesn’t integrate at all. Lula Cafe does. Also, visually, its placement along Halsted is striking.
    Having said that, Nightwood is far from a 10 out of 10. It shows promise, sure, but will it ever be a Moto (definitely a 10) or Alinea (awesome 10)? Uh, no. It’s a mid-range restaurant choice in terms of overall food quality and has a concept that’s been implemented better (Bristol), and nothing I experienced from their menu that evening suggests otherwise.
    I’m glad your experience was better than mine.

  7. i know you probably won’t post this, but you are an idiot.

  8. Tom, thanks for elevating the level of conversation. :)

  9. How did/does Lula “integrate” itself into Logan Square better than Nightwood does in Pilsen? As far as I know, when it opened it was as much an anomaly as Nightwood is now. And when you were driving down the oh-so-Mexican Halsted Ave., did you happen to notice UIC and the Podmajersky Gallery Explosion? Further, if you wanna take it back historical like, you know where the first Pilsen is, right? Just outside of Prague, in the CZ, which happens to be in central/sort-of-Eastern Europe. Not exactly taqueria town.
    What I’m trying to say is that your review seems short-sided in the least. I mean, how offended would you be if the Lula peeps had moved to Pilsen and opened a taco shop? Me thinks the blog clatter would be all, “Gringos! Bah humbug!” Hammel and Tchilds are doing the same thing here they did 10 years ago; namely, opening a challenging (and good) spot in an up-and-coming ‘hood. Shit’s been going on for years. (BTW, where’s the Polish/Ukrainian influence at Bristol?! Inauthentic jerks!)

  10. okay. so at least i can see why you were thinking of them as a neighborhood place, which caught me off guard. i never got that impression at all.
    i did, however sense a pretty big implication in your tone that you felt like it was a case of the man coming to the hood and gentrifying it. particularly in calling the clientele “very white.”
    that’s what i found odd. it’s on a block that’s right on the edge of pilsen, and maybe a block from a row of recently-developed spaces… so it’s not like they’re staking a claim to any new territory in an old neighborhood.
    overall, it sounds like we had a more interesting experience at nightwood than you did. the difference being that we insisted we were seated at the kitchen, (which i always do if i can; i like watching the craft). we made kind of a fuss over being there when we were offered a table instead; i guess the hostess thought we were being given “bad” seats or something. once the kitchen staff saw us there, we were talked to about the farms they source from, shown ingredients, given several amuse bouche, and generally treated like kings.

  11. Tammy, I kind of understand where you were coming from – I certainly don’t think you deserve the backlash you’ve gotten – and I think you raise some valid points. A restaurant can come in a neighborhood and offer something counter to possible ethnic expectation and that can work, but if it misses the mark in a major way, then that difference is a glaring one. I think all that you meant to say is that Nightwood doesn’t fit at its current location. I happen to disagree, but I think that’s what you meant to say, right?

  12. @Dantaniel Yes, I think that summarizes what I was getting at. Thank you.

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