Thursday, June 9, 2011


1324 N Milwaukee
Chicago, IL

I impulse-bought a groupon for a prix fixe dinner for two here, and then just as impulsively, my friend Harold and I went in to cash it. I was somewhat skeptical - the place definitely seems to see itself as a lounge/cocktail spot than a restaurant, which always makes me worry that the food will be so-so. As it turned out - the food was mostly fantastic.

The interior is definitely loungy, dimly lit, lots of couches with low tables, and even the more standard dining tables are matched with large red velvet chairs. But it's pleasant, and fairly intimate, even if some of the tables are rather close together. It'd make for a nice date spot, I think. The service was not only extremely attentive, but also very friendly.

There were two options on the prix fixe menu, so we went with one of each and split everything. First to arrive were snacks; plantain chips with a chimichurri type dipping sauce. The chips could've used some salt, but overall, it was quite tasty. It arrived with a cocktail - a guavarita. Tequila, guava nectar, lime juice and basil. Wonderful, especially on a hot summer's day.

Next came a salad; quinoa encrusted chicken on a bed of greens with tomatoes, onions, chunks of cheese and, excitingly, some slices of hearts-of-palm. I was surprised by how delicious it was - it sort of looked like your average salad, but the harmony of flavors was wonderful, in a somewhat counterintuitive way. The other first course was a skewer of meat (veal perhaps) with a potato cake and some large grains of peruvian corn. Wow. The meat was tender and flavorful, the sauce was great, and the corn was big and chewy and neato. Then came two balls of cooked, lime soaked potato with a spoon of some kind of seafood aioli concoction on top. Again, I am generally a big hesitant about fish/meat mayonnaise combos, but this was wonderful. It was accompanied by a bowl of ceviche - fabulous, though the lime was a tad sharp. Then came the mains, which were unfortunately the most disappointing aspect of the meal. A chicken stirfry with onions and peppers on a bed of spaghetti was not bad - it was perfectly cooked, with some crisp left to the vegetables, and juicy chunks of chicken - but it basically tasted like it was marinated in a classed up version of soy sauce. Now, I love soy sauce - I actually eat it by the spoonful, and spaghetti noodles with soy sauce are one of my go-to comfort foods. But it seems a bit... simple. The other entree was a sauteed tilapia. Though the fish was cooked just right, the sauce was pretty bland and uninteresting. If you dredged some rice in it and picked up all the various herbs and such that had sunk to the bottom, it improved somewhat, but in comparison to the rest of the meal, which was so astonishingly good, it seemed like a dud.

Finally, the dessert was a piece of french toast topped with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, and I must say, it was fabulous. Moist, buttery, and just grand. We each got a cocktail to finish with; I had a Perfect Pair, Gray Goose Poire, Amaretto, and lime juice. I think flavored vodkas, especially pear, inspire mistrust in me. I expect them to taste bad, so much so that I can't even enjoy them, because the first impression is a slightly artificial flavor, which leads me to expect some kind of vicious chemical-y aftertaste. When it doesn't happen, I'm relieved, but not appreciative. In other words, this was actually a pretty good cocktail, but I kept expecting it not to be every time I raised it to my lips (why did I order it, you wonder. I have no idea.), and it sort of ruined it for me. Harold got the Spring Lu Lu, St Germain, Hendrick's, and Prosecco. It was fabulous. I was jealous of him.

Overall, I was really pleasantly surprised by Between, and would definitely recommend it. Looking over the menu, there are some promising options for entrees that would probably be more in keeping with the quality of the appetizers/small bites (the ribeye, the duck, the shrimp). It's a nice place, with well executed food and a pleasant atmosphere. Check it out.