Is it possible that the best Cajun food in Chicago is served at a bar in Logan Square? I know this sounds ridiculous. Wouldn't it make much more sense for it to come from some established old-school spot, and not just the latest trendy opening on a block with almost nothing but? What is going on here?
Sorry for the barrage of questions, but Analogue really has me tripped up. It is first and foremost a bar, a place that is dark and moody and doesn't open until 6 p.m. It was also opened by two former bartenders at the Violet Hour, one of Chicago's best cocktail spots. And you can drink well here—I particularly liked the Dandy in the Underworld, a smooth and bitter concoction, with an inviting floral note thanks to dandelion root. But as others have rightly noted, the real reason to visit is for the food, which is finally giving Cajun cuisine its due in Chicago.
Not to get too hyperbolic at the start, but I am absolutely confident that this is the best po' boy around. Most versions around town are sad facsimiles, with soft and spongy bread, and too many toppings. But the cochon de lait po' boy ($12) hits all the right notes: juicy slices of well seasoned pork, acidic pickles, crunchy lettuce, assertive Creole mustard, and just enough mayo to hold the thing together. But the one element Analogue gets right, which no other place in town can quite figure out, is the bread.
Last time I visited New Orleans, I spent more of my time feasting on po' boys than doing anything else (well, maybe drinking). I feasted on juicy fried oysters at Zimmer's Seafood while sitting on the side of the road, stained my shirt trying to eat roast beef with debris at Tracy's, and lost all sense of reality while destroying a soft shell crab special at Parasol's. While the fillings were all unique, each used a similar crusty and flavorful roll, with a crisp and lightly browned interior and a soft and pillowy interior. That's the part the usually gets lost when Chciago restaurants attempt to recreate the sandwich here. Fortunately, Analogue uses the rolls from D'Amato's, the same excellent and extra crunchy rolls used at J.P. Graziano's.
Back to the questions. Why would a bar with such a killer sandwich on its menu take on the task of also dishing out the best bowl of chicken and andouille gumbo ($8) in the area? For that matter, how is the broth so dark and alluring, and not the least bit heavy and gloopy? Each sip has depth and personality, but it never gets tiring or overbearing, leaving you to appreciate everything else floating around, like the incredible hunks of chicken. But why are they so succulent and distinct, and not a mushy mess? I think it helps that the chicken comes from Gunthorp, a great farm located in Indiana. Other details are just as appealing. The housemade andouille has a loose texture, which is a far cry from the homogenous links most places use. The small scoop of potato salad in the middle is a nice touch, too.
But wouldn't all this incredible food be better at a restaurant and not a bar with limited hours? Perhaps. But you know what? Both Parasol's and Tracy's are real deal bars, which just so happen to serve great food. Perhaps Analogue is just the place to do this right, and the fantastic cocktails are just a bonus.