American Diner Classics Still Done the Old Way at Central Kitchen & Tap
There's a whole story about how I ran across Central Kitchen & Tap—literally a story, right here for the Chicago Reader—but it had only a supporting part there, sort of the straight man in a comedy about the square earnestness of the Northwest Side. Since doing that piece I've been back to this diner turned tavern-restaurant a few times, and it's time to make it the star of its own story.
Specifically, let's shine the spotlight on the pot roast sandwich. This is the sort of thing people stopped eating in diners thirty years ago, because the odds that it would taste of all kinds of industrial food shortcuts became unacceptably high. Look, if you want the taste of Maggi, just swig the stuff.
Instead, here's a from-scratch-made pot roast sandwich to explain how it should be done. The in-house-roasted beef is falling apart tender, served in its own jus, and piled onto a ciabatta with a side of a tangy horseradish sauce. It's a lot like an Italian beef, in fact, though made from a different cut and without the Italian seasonings. But it's got the same kind of rich beefiness that's as comforting as a warm blanket.
I sometimes think the good American restaurant is rarer now than a dozen cuisines you could name from around the planet, because the food industry put so much energy into canned and frozen products that destroyed its good name.
Central Kitchen & Tap is a friendly place that makes lots of classics, from herb roasted chicken to a porchetta sandwich, the proper old ways. If arguments need to be made for the Northwest Side's square earnestness, a sandwich like this one is mine.