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Buffalo Slider with foie gras mayo
Fixture (2706 N. Ashland Ave.), a modestly priced small-plate American restaurant, literally sticks out from its neighbors on a somewhat bleak strip of road. Surrounded by a row of dirtied-by-years-of-Chicago-weather white buildings, its solid black, boxy storefront juts out closer to the street. Had I not already been on my way there for the grand opening party, I would have stopped out of pure curiosity.
The unique wall colors, a strangely soothing mix of robin’s egg blue, aqua and light green, grabbed my attention when I walked in the restaurant. No one could give me an exact name for it, not even owner Chris Peckat, although he did manage to explain that “it’s irritating in the daytime.” The bluish green hues are mirrored in a stripe on the tall dark chocolate brown booths lining the opposite wall and in the subdued panels of colored light glowing across the restaurant.
Awash in blue, yellow, orange, green and purple light, I sat down at the candle-lined bar and grabbed a menu. Guests began streaming in as the DJ spun a relaxing new age beat. Chef Sarah Nelson, (former sous chef at Meritage) and her staff were bustling around in the kitchen when I was overcome by the hearty scent of meat. Mouth watering, I scanned the menu to find out what it could be.
Right on cue, a waiter waltzed over to me with a tray of the mini burgers.
“Try some buffalo sliders?” The air was thick with the aroma of thick savory meat with a tinge of sweetness from the caramelized onions (nothing like it’s overtly oniony counterpart from White Castle). I couldn’t resist. My first bite mingled the flavors of a strong blue cheese, the spicy undertones from the burger, and the sweetness of the onion. I ate slowly, relishing the taste of my tiny gourmet burger.
By the time I finished, the waiter was back. Whatever he had, it looked delicious. “Pasilla marinated lobster ceviche?” My excitement was gone. I don’t like lobster. I never have. It smells funny, it tastes funny, even the texture is funny. Not to mention, I’m deathly afraid of them. But, I didn’t want to be rude. So I grabbed one, braced myself, and threw the whole thing in my mouth. Maybe it was the wine I had been drinking, or maybe it was the other flavors in the dish, but it was tasty. The accompanying cactus pear emulsion and jicama salad provided a sweet counterpoint to the delicate spice of the pasilla. An almost overwhelming flavor of chives lent an herbal aroma to the lobster.
The rest of the night, I sampled more dishes, such as the roasted suckling pig, macaroni and cheese, and bulgogi style short ribs. Everything tasted and smelled delicious.
On to the desserts. The first one I tried was the orange cheesecake and vanilla orange swirl ice cream (a dreamsicle). The orange flavor was almost too much, and had it not been for the soft, flaky crust that almost tasted like a butter cookie, I don’t think I would have been able to eat it. Next was a truffle brownie with pecan ice cream and caramel tuile (a turtle brownie). The brownie had too much cocoa and was rather dry. The last dessert, churros with ancho chocolate ganache, was phenomenal. The churros nearly melted in my mouth with the ancho chiles in the ganache adding a huge kick, setting my mouth afire with flavor.
When the desserts were done, I sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the atmosphere. According to Peckat, “The main idea with the restaurant is it’s approachable and it’s comfortable. You don’t have to come in here dressed in a suit, you don’t have to feel weird if you come in here in jeans. It’s just fun.”
Don’t be fooled by the gourmet vibe of the food either – the most expensive item on the menu is only $14. Fixture is open for dinner daily from 5 p.m. until midnight, with drinks available until 2 a.m. Go and enjoy yourself, but please, don’t tell anyone I ate lobster.
To see more pictures of the food and atmosphere at Fixture, check out our photo slideshow from Hungry photographer Tuan Bui.