Wednesday, May 16, 2007

bin wine cafe

bin wine cafe
1559 N. Milwaukee Ave.

I've walked by this place hundreds of times, and the Project's the first reason I've ever had to give a second look. This stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, which contains an Urban Outfitters, a Harold's Chicken, and a bar-themed-on-an-older-and-cooler bar, just smacks of being designed for intracity tourism, and not for serious diners like ourselves.

All that being said (and annoying bell hooks-style syntax notwithstanding), bin wine cafe is a solid, respectable spot that we'll almost definitely be returning to. The whole "wine cafe" shtick means a menu of upscale pub food built around a curated list of wines available in themed flights or by the glass (or, presumably, by the bottle, but that's kind of missing the point). The mandate seems to be to make wine and cheese accessible without being silly, and from my vantage point, they're doing this well (little slips of paper that accompany wines and cheeses provide a guide and a souvenir, if you're so inclined).

bin wine cafe

For no other reason than that we were born to do it, we started the meal with the "A Little Italy" cheese flight (okay, that's a little silly).

bin wine cafe

L to R: mozzerella, robioloa, brigante pepperocini, Parmigiano Reggiano. Also pictured: rye/bagel chip-type things, apple slices, Adam, and some kind of grape gelatin palate cleanser.

No complaints about the cheeses: they were fresh, tasty, and artfully presented. A bit safe, maybe, but that's Italian cheese for you.

About this time, the power went out and emergency lights clicked on. It was only early evening, and sunlight kept the place sufficiently illuminated. Sirens went off at random, but were quickly silenced. Waiters started coming around with baguettes and olive oil, which made me wonder why there's no bread in the first place. For the most part, though, the kitchen and waitstaff just kept humming, which is a good and promising sign.

The burger, as always, was our M.O. TOC's description is intriguing and, oddly for them, descriptive:

Beef chuck is marinated in olive oil, shallots, thyme, parsley, pepper and garlic, ground daily and hand-formed into half-pound patties. The finished product gets oven-dried tomatoes (instead of a tomato slice), house-made giardiniera (in lieu of a pickle) and your choice of artisanal cheese on a brioche bun.

Here's what you get:

Burger @ bin wine cafe

Looks like the Erwin burger, right? To be honest, the TOC description had me expecting something a little more visually impressive; this is nice, but the vegetables looked kind of pale, the tomatoes just looked withered, and they were scattered around the plate. But, to be fair, it was probably pretty dark in the kitchen by that point.

The marinade and fine grind of the meat makes this a pretty unusual burger; the taste is more akin to a brisket (Adam's impression) or meatloaf (my impression) sandwich. This seasoning combined with the sheer girth of the patty overshadows mild toppings like the giardiniera or blue cheese.

bin wine cafe

Rock of ages, Ma`oz Tzur

So, this burger kind of caught me off guard and wasn't exactly what I was expecting, and I'm not sure it's my preferred type of burger, but it was definitely tasty and well-prepared, and I've got to give bin their due for doing their thing and making something interesting (that happened to go great with that glass of wine pictured above). The fries were better than average, but not great.

Selfishly, we were both a little disappointed that our waiter (who, by this point, was pretty much running the entire restaurant) hadn't come over to apologize for something completely beyond his control that had barely affected the flow of our meal and offer us, like, free desserts or something (I mean, come on). Instead, we ordered desserts and were casually handed our check, from which the wine, the cheese, and the desserts were conspicuously absent.

As a notable CBP associate might say, "Ching, ching."

The damn thing was done: Adam had three small pots au creme, and I had a chocolate mousse with mint-Oreo ice cream and crispy chocolate things; both were great.

Pots Au Creme @ bin wine cafe

bin wine cafe

Sorry, we started eating before we even considered taking pictures.


Unknown said...

You must try Kevins hamburger Heaven, their "One & Only" with cheese and bacon is godly!
PLease let me know what you think when you try them out!

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If you have a business reunion and you wanna got to a nice place where you can get appetizing food and a good bottle of wine, this is the best option.
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