I ride my bike to the windy city's hidden gems, lost goldmines, new kids on the block, and old standbys then tell you what to think and what to order. Check, czech, Česká it out...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Oh You Fancy, Huh? Part 5, Can't Hearty Wait

Chicago is not Paris. Nor is it Bangkok, Madrid or Chichicapa. It's the biggest city in America's very big heartland. We Americans tend to have big attitudes, big ambitions and big appetites; not to mention some very respectable culinary traditions of our own. So, rise up fellow Ameriphiles and embrace your foods, your home, and your girth!

Or so the people at Hearty would like you to believe. This Lakeview/Buena Park dining destination invests almost all of its energy into rethinking the big Americana classics that many of us grew up on. Examples range from beefaroni (with braised short rib, raw cheese spaetzle, and roasted squash and tomato) to Old Bay crab dip to chopped liver. Let the reinvention begin!

Food

Rabbit Corn Dog–

If bacon is the new black then rabbit is the new gingham. The Hearty boys put this poor wasically varmant on a stick, breaded him and deep fried him till he was golden brown and delicious. He did not die in vain however. It would be cliché to say this dish elevates the corn dog to new heights so I'll save that for another post. A more accurate description is that it comes across as a very well put-together blueberry waffle and sausage breakfast...but I ate it for dinner!

–Fried Green Tomato Caprese–
There are two ways to make a caprese salad better: 1. Dehydrate the ingredients so they can survive the extremes of space travel and be rehydrated at a later time while suspended in zero gravity, 2. deep fry something. Hearty chose option number two and for the most part, they succeeded. There was a dearth of balsamic vinegar which shifted the flavor focus to the intensely flavored tomato jelly which was either really good or I just can't read my own handwritten notes.

–Ribs of Some Kind or Sort–
As I failed to write down what this dish is called so we're going to play the game where you make up your own name! (Submit comments in the comment section or your own personal diary). While the ribs possessed a tenderness that sent shivers down my spine, the dry rub was forgettable and the slaw was more pointless and boring than a marshmallow gun dual.

Lobster Pot Pie–
It doesn't take a Nobel Prize winning Foodicist to come up with a pot pie that replaces the carte blanche of chicken with the impressionistic crustacean the Spanish call la langosta. The challenge comes in making the dish intrinsically delish rather than just another upscaled food novelty. The hearty bois' succeeded in some aspects of this with a perfectly flakey pastry top and subtlety citrusy and creamy filling. The lobster was abundant but wasn't outstanding to this otherwise text book pot pie.

Ahi Tuna Casserole–
Ah, tuna casserole. A dish with a much besmirched name and dwindling yet strong following. In my house growing up it was a polarizing meal to say the least. My mom loved making and eating it while my dad made no secret of the fact that he thought it smelled like warmed cat food. The kids (and it's always the kids that suffer) were forced to play both sides; dismissing it when dad was home and embracing like a long lost household pet when mom had us to herself. This dish turned up the fancy (like Hearty does) by incorporating fresh Ahi tuna in place of the Bumble Bee Albacore variety that's typically used. The rest of the so called improvements made little difference to my tastebuds, the overall impression was delicate, sweet and lacking in complexity and depth. Call me a brown nose but I prefer mom's.

–Moxie Chicken–
Moxie, the force of character and vibrancy, is exactly what Bill Clinton's first grade teacher said he had too much of and look where he ended up...married to the Secretary of State. This chicken also has the chops and wherewithal to marry a prominent Cabinet member someday if it so chooses. Mixing a multilayered sauce with perfectly roasted chicken and cheddar cayenne funnel cake made this sassy plate the favorite of the evening. Frankly, I don't understand why we aren't eating funnel cake with every meal as it is a perfect food not to mention an Atkins friendly option for fair goers this Fall season.*

Conclusion
Hearty's zest for rethinking ol' timers is nothing if not laudable. Every dish is imbued with an energetically fun spirit that almost, almost, makes up for the inevitable shortcomings that occur in almost every dish I sampled. They're prices may seem steep to some but, in the view of this reporter, reflect their dedication to locally sourced produce rather than an inflated ego.

*Truth be told I never paid attention to the Atkins diet and thusly am not sure what it entails exactly or if people are still following it.



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