When the cute, upscale gastropub below our condo closed down about a year and a half ago, my husband and I were devastated. Not because it was our favorite restaurant, or the best food we had ever eaten, but because it was the dead of winter in Chicago and it was close—like down our stairs and you are there, close. The menu was pretty good, and getting food was a simple as calling downstairs and ten minutes later making a two second dash out the door.
Late last summer, as I saw developers building out what seemed to be a new restaurant, I was so excited. And when I ran into an old acquaintance of mine, Austin Baker, I was delighted to learn it was going to be his new spot. And so in November of last year, Bar Marta was born.
Austin and I met through his fiancée, Cristy, when she and I worked for the same company. They are both culinary geniuses in their own regard; Austin was previously a partner at Hogsalt, the prolific Chicago restaurant group that boasts some of the best restaurants, and helped open and develop restaurants like Au Cheval and Doughnut Vault. When he told me the concept for his new place, I knew it would be a hit. And so it was. Within a month of opening they already had an hour to two hour wait times on a Friday. People were loving this new hidden gem of a restaurant located on the isolated corner of Chicago Ave. and Washtenaw Ave.
I told Austin to give me a heads up on when he was beginning brunch service, so I could come in and check it out. And last month, my prayers were answered by the brunch Gods; Bar Marta debuted the brunch menu. This past weekend, my hubby and I finally got the chance to check it out.
Bar Marta is casual, and I love that about it. It is hardly pretentious, the servers dress casually, and overall it is a really relaxed vibe. Make no mistake, though, there is nothing casual about the food. From house-made pasta, to creative and exotic dishes, even brunch is not simple. You are not going to get over easy eggs and a short stack of pancakes here.
We started with some necessary brunch cocktails. I had been eyeing the Industry Standard, made with cold pressed coffee, bourbon and maple syrup, while Chris was gunning for a Bloody, so he went with Marta’s Mary. They arrived and mine had a beautiful egg white foam on top, while Chris’ bloody was loaded with pickles and veggies. The Industry Standard was delicious; a light coffee cocktail that was perfectly sweetened, cold, and refreshing.
Chris enjoyed his Bloody as well, and we both noted that the reason it is awesome is that it is made with clamato, not tomato juice as your typical American Bloody Mary is made. Technically it was a “Caesar,” Canada’s version of a Bloody, something Chris and I are always anxious to have upon arriving to Vancouver to visit his parents.
For starters, I knew before arriving that I had to have the banana French toast. Austin had told me about the dish a few months ago, and admittedly, after some Yelp snooping, I knew it was something I had to try. The French toast arrived looking bright and fluffy. It did not look like your typical French toast in that it was more egg-y and omelette-like. Topped with sticky bananas and a cornflake crumble, it looked divine and I was anxious to dig in.
The French toast was wonderful. It was super sweet, but not in a bad way, at all. It also was the perfect portion. My only remark would be that I wish there had been more of the sticky, sauteed bananas on top; they were delicious!
For entrées, Chris went for the breakfast tacos. He had them once before, when we stopped in for a midday cocktail one afternoon and he suddenly decided he was hungry. My husband is a typical guy in that he is always hungry and is a creature of habit. He had no hesitation about ordering the breakfast tacos again, but I was okay with that because I really wanted to try them.
The breakfast tacos came out looking absolutely perfect. They are filled with chorizo, scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions, topped with queso fresco, cilantro, and garnished with a lime. There is a side of salsa verde that comes with it, which is a great addition to the dish. Chris loved them, and without a doubt, the next time we brunch at Bar Marta, he will be sure to order them again.
For my entree I opted for the B.L.T. It came out on a plate with pickled veggies and it was massive, but I was hungry and up for the challenge. It was good, although it was a little more meaty than I would prefer. The restaurant uses thick-cut bacon for the sandwich and it made for messy eating and a disproportionate bacon to lettuce/tomato/bread ratio.
I personally prefer more crispy bacon, but they probably use some rare pork belly from a type of pig native to one region in Spain that eats only almonds and is like $200 a pound or something, so I can understand if other people enjoy the dish. Also, the restaurant uses sun-dried tomatoes as opposed to fresh tomatoes, which is a nice, unique element that makes for a bold and fuller flavor.
Overall, everything was wonderful. The service is always great at Bar Marta, even though on this particular day it was slower due to a large party. We have had the same server almost every time we have been and she is delightful and always so open to walking us through the menu and dishes.
The Bitches Say: A. Bar Marta is a delightful spot that gives life to this neighborhood. The food is delicious, the cocktails are great, and the atmosphere makes it the perfect place for a weekend brunch. Also, they have a new patio, which makes the restaurant even better.
2700 W. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622