Do you have a reasonably-priced neighborhood joint that serves inventive, upscale food and rocks a drink list with an eclectic mix of craft and mainstream beers? No? Me, either. That means that until my ‘hood becomes trendy, I have to travel to other areas of the city to get my fix. Since every other new restaurant in Chicago seems to be a gastropub concept, it’s a matter of weeding out the good from the bad. Right?
It helps when you have friends who are also into gastropubs. When Sean Parnell from Chicago Bar Project suggested an evening out at Longman & Eagle, there was no arm-twisting. He’s a guy who definitely knows his beer and has good taste in food.
Would Longman & Eagle live up to both hype and expectations and become my new gastropub hang-out? We decided to see…
Since there were four of us with big appetites, we decided to treat the bar snacks & small plates side of the menu as appetizers. That worked out fairly well, though it was more food than expected. The table favorite had to be the parfait of Maine lobster, with sweetly caramelized bits of lobster layered on top of mushroom, smoked bacon, and puree of parsnip. The roasted marrow bones weren’t as popular, and we sent them away unloved and half-finished. A respectable pretzel with Welsh rarebit and meatballs with polenta rounded out our choices and nearly filled us up before the entrées arrived.
Most of gastropubs pay homage to pig and neglect a segment of the population that doesn’t eat it. Longman & Eagle not only has options for non-pork lovers, they also have a whole separate vegetarian menu. I enjoyed not picking through the menu and wondering if everything was truly veg. More restaurant should do this.
I ordered the slow roasted cauliflower served on a bed of Beluga lentils, pickled mango, caramelized onions and golden raisins. That many lentils could’ve been dry and unappealing, but the entire dish was moist, flavorful and impressive. I was equally tempted by the other entrée, a butternut squash risotto flavored with gingerbread sauce. L&E shows that it’s not that hard to put out quality vegetarian choices. I wonder why other places don’t make at least a token effort.
Plenty of meat…
The meat-lovers at the table seemed equally satisfied with their choices. Sean stuck with his favorite wild boar sloppy joe, a spicy and savory sandwich served with a mountain of beef fat fries. My bite had plenty of heat, but not enough to make me grab my beer. I’m sure a sandwich of that size would’ve defeated me eventually.
The pork belly confit and the pork tenderloin rounded out entrée choices. Everyone at the table raved about how perfectly the tenderloin was prepared, but I thought the pork confit with the squash risotto was pretty savory. I also confess to a partiality for the sides that came with them. If L&E wants to offer the grits & Brussels sprouts as a separate dish, I wouldn’t say no.
We certainly didn’t say no to dessert — the roasted chestnut custard and the rum baba ended our dinner. I didn’t care for the chestnut. It had a chalky texture and was heavy after such a rich meal. However, the rum baba was a light, amazing, fruity parfait with golden raisin puree, creme fraiche, rum jelly and poached pears. It was one of those desserts you tried to draw attention away from so you could scrape out every last bit. Sadly, I didn’t fool anyone, but was so full by this point that I doubt I could’ve pulled it off. I want to go back and try, though. Great dessert.
Wrapping up the experience…
Really, the only bad thing about Longman & Eagle is that everyone knows about it. The front of the house becomes a zoo as the evening wears on, so if you’re seated near the door you’ll either get blasted with cold air, bumped by patrons or wait staff, or have the bar overflow hovering near your table. The combination is inconvenient and spoils an otherwise decent atmosphere.
I think Longman & Eagle deserves its accolades, but the crowds will probably keep me from going too often. I do plan to come back to see how the menu changes and to explore more of their beer list.
Expect to pay at least $50 per person for an appetizer, entrée, dessert and drinks. Oh, and if you want to stay overnight, rooms start at $75. Breakfast is not included.
Longman & Eagle
2657 N Kedzie Ave
Chicago, Illinois 60647