If you're a raving fan of the central time zone, you'll want to camp out at Central Standard, a cavernous new River North restaurant themed around our very own time zone. I can't say I've ever craved this particular niche, and the idea of bouncing around from Fargo to New Orleans on the same menu comes off a little gimmicky. But I appreciate the creative extension from the whole local sourcing thing, which gets bandied about so much it's lost all meaning. Brunch at Central Standard offers a concise selection of central time zone-inspired items. It gets a little confusing though, because I'm not sure where items like the skinny Benedict are supposed to represent. Arkansas?
Presumably all items on the menu at Central Standard are sourced within this time zone. So I guess that means crab for the crab cake Benedict ($18) must come from the Gulf of Mexico. Regardless, these are damn good crab cakes, pleasantly saline and loosely formed. The crab meat is plump and juicy, striated with tender spinach and sauced with a vivifying lemony hollandaise. A pair of perfectly poached eggs trickle into the crab when pierced, enriching the nautical pucks with their buttery, centrally sourced goodness. It comes with a cute cup brimming with home fries, which are nicely cooked and crispy.
Nothing says "I set my clock in the Midwest" like silver dollar pancakes and fried chicken, right? Well that's exactly what you'll be thinking as you gnaw your way through the chicks in a blanket ($13), a hefty platter of crispy chicken tenders (it's been a long time since I've used the word "tenders" and it kind of hurt to type) and the largest silver dollar pancakes I've ever seen. A riff on pigs in a blanket, it's really more of a DIY chicken slumber party, as the crackly morsels are strewn atop the pancakes, leaving it up to you to roll them into bundles yourself if you so desire. The pancakes were a bit gummy and dry, but when pancakes fall short, maple syrup swoops in to the rescue. The tenders had a mild buffalo sauce flavor to them, which was an odd pairing with the maple and pancakes, but otherwise they were well cooked and succulent. I like that the crust was fairly delicate and restrained, though they certainly did look unnervingly akin to something I might order through a drive-thru window at the end of a tragically rough day.
Okay so brunch may not be the best representation of Central Standard's time zone philosophy, but if you look past the gimmick, you're faced with food that is at once humble and comforting, which I like to think is a good representation of the Midwest in general. Not to turn this into a sappy PBS special or anything.