Bar Eats: Gaslight Bar & Grille

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[Photograph: Josh Conley]

Maybe we all watched too much Cheers, but every bar in the world I think strives to be a neighborhood bar, whatever that means. Surely every bar is in some form of neighborhood. But in my head, this distinction means the place is physically located in a residential neighborhood and is frequented by said residents. And then also by outsiders like me, who come just for the food.

Gaslight Bar and Grille, though near a huge bar area, it is tucked away on a quiet little block of Racine all by its lonesome. It is fairly small, unassuming, and one of four "package" bars with the same owners. The bar is in front, with several tables, exposed brick, and hanging gaslight fixtures. Up a few steps in back is a narrow dining area with several more tables and a massive television housed in a frame. And that's about all there is to the place. It's an Ohio State bar, they have good food and drink specials, and, oh yeah, some pretty killer food.

The goat cheese quesadilla ($10) consists of goat cheese, balsamic caramelized onions, bacon, and candied walnuts in flour tortillas, served with salsa naranja. Wow. First you get the sweetness from the onions, followed by the awesome crunch from the walnuts. A bit of smokiness from the bacon, and then the savory creaminess of this fantastic goat cheese. I would eat this goat cheese with a shovel if I could, but even amid the eclectic ingredients here it still shines. The salsa naranja is equally complex—lots of orange flavor, but layered in with garlic, salt, and jalapeƱo heat. An unexpected joy.

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The lollipop chops ($8 for 2) are Australian lamb chops, lightly seasoned, and grilled to medium rare. I've never been a bonesucker, but these chops had me instantly re-thinking my stance on the subject. Wonderfully tender, savory, simple, and delicious. The chimichurri is rich with garlic and olive oil, and a great complement to the meat. They are served with thin, crispy, well-salted fries. Excellent.

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For the crispy tuna tacos ($12), they use seared sashimi-grade tuna. It is served in big hunks in crunchy taco shells, for a nice change of pace. They top the tuna with modest helpings of roasted corn and avocado slaw and chili spiced pepitas, then finish it with an outstanding wasabi lime crema. Not too spicy, but bursting with big flavors. They come with house-made tortilla chips and pico de gallo.

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For the smoked cheddar mac & cheese ($8) they use shells covered in smoked cheddar, bake it all with parmesan panko bread crumbs, and top it off with scallions. An interesting dish, it lacked the creaminess I normally demand from my mac. In fact, it was pretty dry. But the smoked cheddar was excellent, and still well-represented. The parmesan panko crumbs add a nice little crunch, and you can never go wrong adding scallions to mac.

The thing that sticks out most about Gaslight is the attention to detail. Everything just seemed to be made in-house. While I'm sure that's not quite true, it was enough to make me believe it. And if you're frying up your own tortillas to serve as a side dish only, that's pretty okay in my book. And worth the trip to the neighborhood.

Gaslight Bar and Grille

2426 North Racine Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614 (map)
773-929-7759
Gaslight Bar and Grille

Josh Conley is single-handedly trying to re-introduce the verb beget into the everyday lexicon. He traveled to Easter Island one Christmas out of sheer irony. He excises a hefty syntax, and shamelessly promotes the color orange. His wife begat him two small children that he regularly belittles HERE.

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