Deep Fried Chicago: Tavern at the Park
Until this afternoon, I was unaware of the joy of one of Chicago's finest luxuries: lunch with a skyline view. What's that old saying? Location, location, something or other? Nevermind. But I think you know where I'm going with this. Thing is, tourists and business lunchers don't always have the most, ahem, particular of palates. Which is why Tavern at the Park (with "Millennium" being the operative descriptor here) shouldn't have to try so hard. It really does, though, with more successful than not fried results along the way.
One bite into the Duck Egg Rolls ($12.00), and all I could think about was P.F. Chang's. But when you're talking duck confit stuffed egg rolls perched atop a sweet, colorful cabbage slaw, that's hardly a slight. Said poultry is rich, with actual ducky flavor, and the toothsome egg wrapper is fried crisp without being overly so. I'm not usually one for raw green pepper, but it adds an unexpected peppery sourness to a slaw that could easily cross the line to cloying. The included dish of tart and viscous mango sweet and sour puts those little carryout packets to shame, and, all in all, this is a dish that is way better than it has any right to be.
If you don't mind adding salt tableside (and I certainly don't), the Goat Cheese Salad ($14.00) will certainly satisfy. The mixed greens base is ho hum, though the abundant apple and strawberry slices add a pleasant fruit bulk. Toasted almonds and biased celery lends a Waldorf-ish crunch, and the quince-based reduction contributes just the right amount of sweetness. The tart, Babybel-sized fried goat cheese disks help maintain the balance, though a smidge less time in the fryer would prevent the cheese from drying out as much.
Someone probably should have informed the Shoestring Fries ($6.00) that it's dangerously close to swimsuit season to be going outside without a tan. Bad joke, ladies and germs—but seriously, another minute in the deep fryer would make all the difference here. That and some salt. Still, the shadow of Millennium Park and a surprisingly well balanced dish of truffle aioli rights all wrongs.
Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed my bright sunlit lunch at Tavern at the Park. The kitchen appeared thoroughly engaged in putting out a balanced, respectable meal, though the spectacular view certainly could've contributed a rose-colored je ne sais quoi to the experience. Either way, after glancing at other dishes sweeping past, I'll certainly be stopping back—business meeting and fanny pack decidedly optional.
Tavern at the Park