I was recently invited to Trellis (2426 N Racine Ave.) to sample the menu at this Lincoln Park wine bar. It happened to be a cold, snowy night that required serious comfort food and warmth. Fortunately, offerings at Trellis include far more than a glass of wine.
The dark, two-tier interior envelopes patrons in a comforting embrace, and the warm, twinkling holiday lights and mood lighting adds to the coziness. If warmth is a priority, consider a table in the back near the kitchen. I don’t know if the wood-fire oven keeps that section warmer or not, but it does provide a view of the stellar dishes leaving the line.
Since we were unable to decide from the appetizers, the kitchen sent out a creamy fondue with a selection of salami, apples, and grapes. The blend of sweet and salty nibbles was an interesting and perfect. It was quickly followed by an equally delicious and tender beef tartar with snappy cornichons, dijon and crostini.
Wisely, we only sampled these dishes before an abundant platter of cheese and charcuterie were laid out. Chef Sarah McDonnell and her staff worked over a matter of weeks to narrow down the list to ten American selections. I was lucky enough to try a few of their choices, including the savory Red Rock Cheddar and a creamy and tangy Montamore. Thin slices of Goose Lamb Salome infused with juniper were a table favorite as was the flavorful Iberico Ham. Believe me, a complete platter would be an excellent meal all by itself.
Reluctantly, we set aside the platter for an order of venison meatballs. We hardly traded down — Chef knows what she’s doing with game meat. The meatballs were tender and lightly seasoned, swimming in a light ragout of vegetables, and served over house-made noodles. This dish is a perfect antidote to Winter.
I had a chance to peek into the small but busy kitchen to see the inner workings, which includes a cheerful wood-fire oven in the back. It wasn’t overly hot inside, though the sous-chef did say it get warm after the burners go all night. I can believe it.
On the recommendation of Twitter followers, we ordered a Fig Jam & Bacon pizza. It was another dish with the right balance of sweet: caramelized onions and figs, and salty: bacon and Mindoro Blue cheese. A light char added a crunch to the crust and it was a perfect thickness to carry the toppings. Again, I would order this to defeat winter’s reach.
Not only do pizzas come out of the oven, but roast chickens and dessert! I saw my apple walnut crostata come out of the oven and then served with a light, peppered whip cream. I seldom find an apple dessert that has enough apple, but this one did. I loved the crust and filling equally, which is harder to find than you’d think.
The kitchen sent out a bonus dessert, which made me wonder if they were trying to kill me with good food. A chewy brownie with caramel popcorn on top? What a way to go.
If you’re overwhelmed by the the choices on the menu, the service here is excellent — whether it’s making wine recommendations or finding the right balance of dishes. Put yourself in their hands.
I like what Chef Sarah is doing at this restaurant now, though she promises to change and update the menu with the seasons. For now, I can’t wait to see if the rest of her menu is as good an antidote to the gloom of Winter.
2426 N Racine Avenue