Sunday, April 11, 2010

Crust

THIS RESTAURANT HAS CLOSED SINCE THIS POSTING

This weekend was my sister Lisa's birthday, which meant a celebration was to be had Wicker Park style. The atmosphere all started when I got on the 72 North bus heading towards the North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection (the heart of Wicker Park / Bucktown). The bus was packed, and there was this guy who had all of his crap on the seat next to him. Not only that, but somehow he had this mix between a bike and a razor scooter with him. I have no idea how he was allowed on the bus with this, or for that matter why he didn't just use it as his primary mode of transportation, but ultimately it was just a huge obstruction. Now, as I'm sure most of you know, I'm the example of public transportation etiquette. I give up my seat for old ladies, always hold my bag on my lap, but mostly I just give nasty looks to people violating basic rules like taking up two seats or talking to loud on their phone (thus serving some quality justice the whole bus is hoping for). So I took a better look at this guy for a second and decided he was the epitome of hipster. With his skinny, black, reproduction ending jeans, blandly colored plaid shirt, overall appearance of malnourishment (which seemed to be by choice since his clothing looked expensive), and old school leather briefcase, I knew that I was getting close to my destination. While sounding as disgusted as possible, I asked him to pick up his case and what I can only guess was a copy of  Stuff White People Like and had a seat. Anyways, on to some talk about food.

In proper Wicker Park fashion, the bday dinner was to be held at the first organic restaurant in Chicago city limits, Crust (www.crustorganic.com).


Logistics
If the North/Damen/Milwaukee intersection is the heart of Wicker Park, then the Damen and Division intersection is the brain. With a ton of great restaurants, bars, and interesting stores this area is ripe for hanging out and especially for people watching while you eat on one of the many patios. With a party of 16, we were sat at a lengthy table going through the center of the restaurant. The wall of the restaurant is actually a convertible door that was wide open, and Noam and I were practically sitting on Division (the next best thing to a patio except that it was kind of cold). I think we were supposed to be sat in this backyard patio area they have, which looked really cool with some organic decor, but for some reason it didn't work out.

The general layout is one large room with a long bar and seating for about 50. They have a back patio that could probably take another 20 or so and another room for the brick oven and a carryout station. When we got there, the hostess very casually suggested we go wait at the bar while our table was getting set up, but we soon found out that the bar was far too cramped for any mingling or waiting of any kind and moseyed on back to the host stand. Speaking of the hostess and the entire rest of the staff for that matter, they were all hipsters, and I'm sure if given the opportunity to ride the bus next to me they would've upset me just as much as that other guy. Another thing about hipsters is they must think it's the cool thing to do by providing mediocre service at a slow pace.

The Food
The first thing that jumps out about the menu is the large drink list. From a variety of fruity martinis and microbrews there's something for everyone. The martinis were around $10 and the beers were around $6, so nothing special as far as pricing.

 The Margherita Pizza

The entire rest of the menu is pizza and salad. All of the salads were appetizer style ($8-10), and I wouldn't recommend then for a whole meal. All of the pizzas were personal sized, maybe 12 inches and around $14. I feel like this is pretty expensive, especially since 4 people can share a large Pequods pizza for like $20.

 Winter Beet Salad

Lisa, Noam, and I split the Winter Beet Salad, Grilled Eggplant Pizza, and Margherita Pizza. The salad was delicious with red and golden beets along with a goat cheese crostini. The pizzas each had their fair share of fresh vegetables, cheeses, and sauces, but at a certain point the flavors all came together in somewhat of a mush. What didn't help with the mush factor was that the dough underneath was somewhat soggy and falling apart. My favorite pizza actually wasn't ours, but through a crafty trade I was able to acquire a piece of the Shroom from Lisa's friend Mara. One final point about the pizzas that was pointed out by multiple people was their inconsistency. Since we had a large enough party, we were able to compare multiple items of the same order which had large differences in the amount of cheese, vegetables, and level of cooking.

 Grilled Eggplant Pizza

The best thing besides the salad was this Molten Brownie covered with some kind of Vanilla Ice Cream that Lisa got for her surprise bday dessert. Plus, it came with a sparkler in it!

Lisa with her Molten Brownie

Overall
This place ultimately seemed like one of those gimmicks where people think because it's organic and fresh that it must be good. Also it was pretty darn costly for what it was. Logistically it was in a good neighborhood with lots to do, and they take reservations. Food wise the salad was fantastic, but in a city of amazing pizza, I wouldn't waste my money on this place again. We had a great time with some good friends which was really the point of the night, and I think Lisa had a pretty enjoyable birthday so I'd call the night a success. As far as the new rating scale, I'd give it 2 out of 5 Pearls.


Honorable Mention
The bar we went to after Crust was this place called the Rainbo Club on Damen just south of Division (sorry no website). It was tastefully decorated in a variety of oil paintings with the common theme of ventriloquist dummies (talk about creepy). However, the drinks were really cheap (like $3 shots and beers) and the vinyl playing overhead was quiet enough to have a conversation. When the night came to a close, I noticed that the entire staff from Crust had made their way over to the bar, and it's no wonder that this place is often referred to as the best hipster hangout in Chicago.

Crust on Urbanspoon

5 comments:

  1. Someone has a chip on his shoulder about hipsters...

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  2. Yeah "Jeff hates hipsters," seemed to be the take home message. What's the deal?

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  3. Whoa Whoa. It's not like I love hipsters or anything, but I certainly don't hate them. Some might even say I'm just jealous of their awesome lifestyle. Really though, as a keen observer of people violating clear social constructs, I see lots of fodder for my blog in the hipster mantra so to say.

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