Aba Chicago: the rooftop patio is open (and warm)

Aba Chicago: the rooftop patio is open (and warm)

Tired of waiting for summer?

Why wait?

The snow may be lingering outside but that hasn’t stopped Aba from opening up their spectacular outdoor patio.

Look up and you’ll see the heating elements above, Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Look up and you’ll see the heating elements above, Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

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

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.

“Outside” at Aba. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

“Outside” at Aba. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Menu

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. 

Brunch

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.

Starters. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Starters. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

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.

The Vibe

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. 

A taste of California in Chicago. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

A taste of California in Chicago. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

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

Andersonville Restaurant Week
February 21 to March 1

Andersonville’s restaurants are 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.

Lake Forest Lake Bluff Restaurant Week
February 28 to March 8

Head North to Lake Forest and Lake Bluff Restaurant Week for special restaurant week deals.

For more upcoming restaurant weeks and food news, click here.

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." 

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap will be serving up three special fish-forward dishes for Fridays during Lent:
  • Salmon Burger ($13.95): 6oz. salmon patty, bok choy kimchi, roasted shiitake mushrooms, sriracha mayo, sesame bun
  • Fish Tacos ($12.95): fried tilapia, guacamole, pico de gallo, corn tortillas, chipotle-lime aioli
  • Shrimp & Chips ($14.95): 1/2 lb. fried butterfly shrimp, firecracker sauce, and house-made fries.

St. Paddy’s Day

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

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