A bit hesitant at first, yes, though I had walked by it too often and was too curious, so it was only a matter of time before I would open the door to White Oak Tavern and Inn.
Forgive me for being a bit reluctant, but historically, the tiny pocket of restaurants in Lincoln Park on Webster are not always on my list of recommendations. Additionally, John's Place, which shuttered almost a year ago and has since become White Oak, was not a place I frequented.
This newly debuted restaurant, which aims to be a farm-to-table gastropub has a nice menu and the atmosphere is eye-catching. It presents itself with a rustic feel, with wood fixtures throughout, exposed brick and dim lighting. The first room greets you with a bar, intimate tables and a few cozy seats with couches and soft chairs. The main dining room follows in the room next door. The atmosphere was inviting right from the start and sometimes, that's half the battle.
White Oak's chef, John Asbaty, a former Alinea and Trio vet, presents a menu that may seem simple, but there are some hidden gems within it, that will impress you. For instance, the menu first tempts you with nibbles like snacks, breads and boards. Simple, yes, but the breads are baked fresh each day and it shows. There are but three to choose from: whole wheat rye, biscuits and focaccia. I sampled the focaccia and having just come out of the oven, there was still steam rising from the bread, it simply melted in my mouth.
For those interested in a lighter fare, the 'plates' section will tempt you with items such as a kale and swiss chard salad, beef tartare and a beef burger. The kitchen also makes their pasta in-house, which makes the house-made spaghetti plate with wild mushrooms, sheep's milk cheese, smoked bread crumbs and an egg yolk mixed in, even more desirable.
At the base of the menu, there are but six platters, for those who came here with an appetite. There's items to choose from like a whole roasted rainbow trout, a thick pork shoulder, a simple half chicken and smoked sturgeon.
Finally, the dessert menu, sits at the very end of the menu, and may be easy to overlook. It may seem like a simple menu and items you've undoubtedly encountered elsewhere like carrot cake and cookies and milk jam; however, I encourage you to try one. The cookies and milk, though simple, are irresistible. This childhood dish arrives with muffin-like chocolate chip cookies, served warm, accompanied by caramelized-milk icing. I must admit, I am still thinking about this dessert and next time I'm ordering a glass of milk.
To close, there is an amenity about this tavern that may not be widely known yet, but White Oak is also an Inn with two rooms for rent upstairs.
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