Aba Chicago: the rooftop patio is open (and warm)
today at 11:09 am
Tired of waiting for summer?
The snow may be lingering outside but that hasn’t stopped Aba from opening up their spectacular outdoor patio.
We stopped by, the popular Fulton Market hotspot on the final Sunday of Chicago Restaurant Week to sample their CRW brunch menu.
The “outdoor” patio, that is partially-enclosed for winter, was beckoning.
I stepped “outside,” with tables adjacent the snow. Surprisingly the temperature felt quite comfortable due to the blazing fire pits, heating elements in the ceiling and blankets in baskets nearby–just in case.
Let it snow! We were perfectly comfortable at our table adjacent the snow. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer
It was literally a breath of fresh air.
Without hesitation, I chose to sit “outside.” My dining companion agreed. Although the wind was blowing beyond the patio and the outside temperatures were in the ‘20s–we were perfectly comfortable–no blankets required.
We even took off our coats. We weren’t crazy and we weren’t alone as the patio was crowded and most were coatless.
Aba’s menu pays homage to Chef CJ Jacobson’s roots in California, incorporating a lighter style of cooking with influences from the Mediterranean including Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece.
Signature dishes include Crispy Short Rib Hummus, Muhammara, Jerusalem Bagel with Labneh, Char-Grilled Lamb Chops, and Skirt Steak Shawarma.
As I mentioned we went for CRW which ended February 9. The good thing is that the CRW items are all available on the regular brunch menu.
Besides being way too much for one person to eat (unless you just finished a marathon), I have no complaints. The $24 brunch menu offered a choice of two starters and a main entree–all could be easily sharable–as the portions were quite large.
With two of us we were able to order four starters which we shared. We each ordered our own entree. For starters we selected the whipped feta which turned out to be the perfect “dip” for the hot pita bread that is complimentary at brunch. We also ordered the Village Salad ($9.95 on the regular menu)–a fresh salad with mighty vine cherry tomatoes, persian cucumber, red onion, feta and greek vinaigrette. The Falafel was a bit of a disappointment–a little chewy and not terribly flavorful.
The highlight of the four starters was a surprise. The Dark Chocolate Babka ($7.95) which I had to be talked into ordering was outstanding. Babka comes from the Slavic word babcia, which means grandmother. Aba’s Babka is a sweet yeast dough baked in layers filled with dark chocolate, cinnamon, cardamom and raisins. Not only is it good–it is a looker–making it perfect Instagram feed. Feel free to repost my photo.
For entrees we both ordered the Kefta & Eggs ($15.95) with lamb & beef kefta; fried eggs, tzatziki, lemon dill rice. The presentation was colorful, very California, and delicious.
There’s a hipster buzz to the space where Chef CJ’s California roots are evident not just in the menu but in the decor. The “sun-filled” atmosphere offers year around summer–no matter what’s happening outside.
The Bar Program
The bar program, crafted by Lead Mixologist Liz Pearce showcases rare Mediterranean-inspired wines and creative crafted spirits with a California accent.
Small Bites of Chicago
Upcoming Restaurant Weeks
Not unlike the Jimmy Buffet song, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” it seems, especially in the winter, “it’s restaurant week somewhere” in Chicago.
This week (February 21 to March 1) it’s Andersonville’s turn with participating restaurants offering $10, $20, and $30 menu specials and prix fixe offers throughout the 10 day “week”. There’s a great lineup of restaurants participating some including, Big Jones, offering Mardi Gras favorites.
Starting February 28, head north to Lake Forest and Lake Bluff for their Restaurant Week.
Restaurant Week returns to the Village of Rosemont March 1 through March 7. Visitors are invited to take advantage of special prix fixe, three-course lunch and dinner menus at a wide variety of participating Rosemont restaurants.
Time is winding done to indulge before lent. Especially in Chicago, paczki, a Polish pastry is a given, especially for Fat Tuesday (February 25). Some of the city’s best paczki can be found at Delightful Pastries but you have to get your order (minimum of a dozen) in by February 21.
Want to learn more about paczki, check out the 10 secrets of Delightful Pastries to the best paczki here.
To order, visit DelightfulPastries.com or call 773 545 7215.
Where to eat on Fridays during Lent
River Roast’s Fish Fry returns on Ash Wednesday (2/26) and every Friday during lent (2/28 – 4/10). The feast includes battered and fried cod, malt vinegar fries, house pickles, coleslaw, and remoulade ($20 – 8 oz; $39 – 16 oz).
Fat Rice puts an interesting spin on Fish Fridays. Even though cod is not native to the coasts of Portugal, the fish has been a staple of Portuguese cooking since the 14th century. Bacalhau refers to dried and salted cod, a dish treasured across Portugal. Throughout the years, Bacalhau evolved into the main dish served during holiday dinners, from Christmas to Easter, and its popularity surged in the predominantly-Catholic country during Lent — a time when meat is considered forbidden.
At Fat Rice, the Bacalhau da vovó (Grandma’s Cod), is served as a spread with house-made bread, black olive, chilli, and mint. “The Bacalhau has been on our menu since Day 1 — it’s Chef Abe’s great-grandmothers recipe,” says Co-Owner Adrienne Lo. “It is light, creamy, and in our opinion, one of the best ways to eat salt cod. It’s been a staple on our menu for 7 years, and will always be on our menu for everyone to enjoy.”
St. Paddy’s Day
Is it too early to start thinking about St. Paddy’s Day? Never!
City Winery at the Riverwalk will be opening for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and dyeing of the River on Saturday, March 14, at 9:00 a.m.
Gallagher Way in the shadow of Wrigley Field will be celebrating the day on Sunday, March 15, from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. CST. Festivities will include live dance performances by the Trinity Irish Dancers, Irish dance lessons and a 12-piece band from the Old Town School of Folk Music. Guests will be able to watch a special performance by the Shannon Rovers Irish Bagpipe Band at noon, and partake in other activities including lawn games, face painting and family friendly crafts