Monday, January 30, 2012

Mad River

Location: 2909 N Sheffield
Cost: Probably around $15 per person, but this was a free tasting.

A friend of mine contacted me because she does PR for a bar called Mad River. I'm usually pretty keen on hitting up restaurants that offer me free tastings of their new menu items, but at first I wasn't all that excited about this one. If you know Mad River you probably think of it as the jam packed DePaul bar with the upstairs that's way too hot. That being said, I didn't realize they even served food and doubted they had anything strong to offer. Then she told me how they revamped their kitchen about six months ago, doing things like pickling veggies in house and switching to grass fed beef. So I figured it was worth a try.

Logistics
Mad River has a strong sports bar setup. They've got plenty of TV coverage and a lot of seating. You probably won't have to wait too long for a table, and bringing large groups should usually go smoothly. They're a Phillies and a Michigan State bar, but otherwise I don't see any major logistical flaws.

We sat in one of the large booths across from the bar. Our service was spot on throughout the meal although that's probably a little biased in this case. Although the meal was comped, in general the prices are very reasonable. Most appetizers are in the $6-10 range and the entrees all float around $10. Everything is huge too.

The Food
We started things off with three appetizers including the Bavarian Pretzel, the Crab Cakes, and the Jumbo Shrimp. The homemade pretzel was pretty standard, but the grainy mustard that they made from seed was the star of the dish. The crab cakes were lumpy and came over a caper remoulade with a rather peppery arugula salad. The shrimps were served over some toast points with some strong garlic and cilantro flavors.

The Bavarian Pretzel

The Crab Cakes

 The Jumbo Shrimp

Then they brought out three of their burgers. First there was the Irish Cheddar and Chips Burger. This guy was served on an asiago bun and was topped with thick slices of bacon, potato straws, drunken onions (soaked in Edmund Fitzgerald Porter), and Irish cheddar. Then we had the Thai Chicken Burger which was topped with pineapple chutney and some home pickled veggies. Finally, there was the Lamb Burger which was topped with goat cheese and a pistachio olive relish. It had a really strong Greek flavor, and was very texturally balanced with the smooth cheese and crunchy pistachios. They also gave us a huge basket of Truffle Fries with these burgers. The best part of those was the side of aioli sauce for dipping.

The Irish Cheddar and Chips Burger @ 9:00
The Thai Chicken Burger @ 12:00
The Lamb Burger @ 3:00 

 The Truffle Fries

Since we weren't full enough at that point, they brought out some other popular dishes including the Mac n' Cheese, the Korean Tacos, and the Wild Mushroom Pizza Bread. The mac had a crispy parmesan crust and was definitely on the creamier side. The wagyu beef on the tacos was nice and savory, and I was impressed that the kimchi for the tacos was made in house. The pizza bread was much sweeter than I expected (which had something to do with the way the mushrooms were pickled), but in a good way by balancing the smoked gouda and goat cheese.

The Korean Tacos

The Mushroom Pizza Bread

 The Mac n' Cheese

Overall
I didn't expect much, but I was really impressed with the meal at Mad River. The amount of effort that went into each dish was probably my biggest surprise. If I had to pick three favorite items they'd be the Crab Cakes, the Lamb Burger, and the Mac n Cheese. Because the meal was comped, there won't be a Pearl rating, but if you say "Jeff Eats Chicago" when you go in, they'll knock $5 off your bill.
 
Mad River Bar & Grille on Urbanspoon

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