The Barn in Evanston: Upscale dining in an alley barn

The Barn in Evanston: Upscale dining in an alley barn
Inside the Barn. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

It seems that nothing can stop Amy Morton--not the actress--but the lady who's been taking Chicago's restaurant scene by storm.

Amy, who grew up in the restaurant biz as the daughter of steakhouse legend Arnie Morton, is putting together her own stable of restaurants with her latest, The Barn, that opened in November in a former barn in Evanston--thus, the name.

Her first hit, Found, also in Evanston came to life in 2012--a combo of Nicole Pederson, a Lula Cafe veteran, in the kitchen and Morton in the dining room--is still going strong.

Now the Morton/Pederson duo has found the secret to a second hotspot, The Barn.

First and foremost, The Barn, is a steakhouse--offering a small but spectacular line-up of cuts from the cow: a 14-oz bone-in New York ($46.95); a 16-oz bone-in Rib Eye ($48.95) and an 8-oz Filet Mignon--all prime heritage Angus beef.

Calves liver at The Barn. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Calves liver at The Barn. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

But there is more. Surprises like calves liver ($22.95). When was the last time you had calves liver, if ever? And comfort sides like Butterball Potatoes ($6.95) & Mac and Cheese ($12.95), why not?

Most entrees are served à la carte, so you'll want to pay attention to the appetizers and sides, of which, there are many creative and tasty choices.

The smallish menu runs the gamut from retro to contemporary,  with offerings like the caviar sandwich—a nod to New York’s Grand Central Oyster Bar that sits comfortably side by side with more contemporary fare such as a whole roasted branzino served with baby romaine, wilted leeks, celery, carrots, and lemon-shallot beurre blanc ($34.95).

Although there is no alpaca on the menu, there is one on the wall (see photo at top of post). I'm not sure of the reason why but the alpaca, named George, is definitely a showstopper. I sat opposite George and found myself constantly being drawn to him—distracting, no…strange, yes.

Weekly specials are definitely worth checking out--with Saturday Night's special the Veal Chop ($48.95)--a seasonal offering--perhaps the best of the bunch.

Interior of The Barn.

Interior of The Barn.

The space, complete with a soaring 20-foot rustic ceiling hung with twinkling chandeliers, the original hayloft, an inviting bar and an outdoor patio is casual, elegant--maintaining the charming elements from the over 125-year-old horse stable meshed with an eclectic mix from today.

Tableside preparations from salads to the deboning of fish to flaming desserts add a touch of nostalgia. The Little Gem Salad ($11.95), which we split, was prepared on a small cart wheeled next to our table. The salad with Dijon dressing, chopped egg, pumpkin seeds, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pickled Vidalia onions and topped with a white anchovy was a twist on traditional Caesar--a winner in my book--and something I wouldn't hesitate to order again.

The Little Gem salad prepared tableside by general manager Stefan Bosworth. Photo: John Konstantaras / Chicago Tribune

The drink menu offers a nod to the glamour days of old Hollywood. There's the French 75, a gin-based cocktail straight out of Casablanca—the drink of choice for Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and James Bond would feel at home with his fav, the Vesper on the menu.

The bar at The Barn.

The bar at The Barn.

There is a full bar with top brand spirits--so you can order yours straight up, on the rocks or stirred, not shaken. There is also an extensive wine list with a wide range of choices of both old world and new world wines--available by the glass or bottle.

A little disappointing, on the night we were there, the restaurant was down to only one Rosé wine of the three listed on the menu—it seems, according to our waiter, the restaurant had a run on Rosé wines earlier in the week. With Binny’s only a few miles away you’d think they could have come up with something.

What: The Barn

Where: 1016 Church St. (in the alley behind Church St.)

When: Open Tuesday-Saturday for dinner, starting at 5 pm.

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