[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Trenchermen recently revamped its bar area to make it more like, well, a bar. Now there is a different, more affordable menu to graze on while drinking the restaurant's many great beers on tap and inventive cocktails. The bar menu is also where you'll find the Croque Madame ($11), but like every dish at Trenchermen, liberties are taken—lots of them.

Where shall I start? Thin slices of creamy and tender mortadella replace the standard ham, a move I wholeheartedly endorse. Gouda makes an appearance, though it's hidden under the meat. But the biggest coup is the chorizo mornay sauce, a concentrated blast of spice and salt, which oddly reminds me of the filling inside one of those cornmeal tamales you find in Chicago (in a great way, of course). And what better way to cap this all off than a fried egg?

The only reason this all works so well together is that nothing is over the top. The bread is thick, but not dense; the cheese is funky, but sparingly applied; the sauce is aggressive, but only drizzled on. Instead, all these flavorful ingredients manage to play surprisingly well together.


2039 West North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60647 (map)

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