One of my favorite things about Chicago is how easy it is to just happen upon a really good restaurant. Going to the newest/most creative/hottest restaurant is always fun, but there’s something about a little neighborhood joint that feeds the soul. Restaurants that keep you returning again and again, such as (for me) Riccardos, Nookies, Fin, and Frasca.
I may have a new one to add to that list: Le Bouchon in Bucktown. The hubby and I were meeting some friends for post dinner drinks at Bristol and wanted to grab a quick bite before. We headed out for Coast Sushi, just down the street on Damen, but aborted course after learning the wait was 45 minutes. I had heard of Le Bouchon, of course, and when we eyed it just down the street, we decided to pop in to see what it was all about.
Bouchon radiated with cozy neighborhood bistro charm; the small, tightly packed tables were crowded with folks clearly enjoying each other, a bottle of wine, and French food. And while I’m not a huge fan of French cuisine, with its emphasis on butter and cream, I instantly fell for the vibe of Le Bouchon, punctuated with its red wainscot paneling, tin molded ceiling, and tiled floors. When we were told a table of two was immediately available, the deal was sealed.
Sometimes all a girl needs is some red wine, mussels, and white, crusty bread for dipping, and Le Bouchon delivered on all accounts with good, solid food and drink. That said, despite loving the atmosphere, there were some bumps along the way. Our waitress seemed distracted and not particularly interested in, well, waitressing. At one point she asked if we were ready to order, I said yes and gave her my order, and then she walked away leaving the hubby in mid sentence with his. When she returned several minutes later, she acted as if nothing had happened. Also, while the wine we had, at our waitress’s good recommendation, was perfect for the night – full, red, and not unnecessarily complex – I felt it was a few dollars overpriced. And there were some questionable up-charges on the bill at the end of the night.
But overall, I really liked Le Bouchon. The place reminded me of when I lived in Buenos Aires and its snug, boozy French style restaurants. It also inspired me to start writing at restaurants, rather than at home, over a glass of wine a la Hemingway. Wasn’t it Hemingway who used to say “write drunk, edit sober.” I think he had a point.
Try Le Bouchon at 1958 N. Damen Ave.
Filed under: Classic Restaurant Reviews