This past weekend I was so excited to finally have a brunch date with my husband. Work has picked up for both of us in recent weeks, and quite truthfully, we haven’t seen much of each other. So I was especially excited to spend a Saturday afternoon with him.
Between traveling and all-nighters, there have been weeks when we haven’t seen each other for five, or even six days in a row. But finally, our hard work had paid off and with both of our big work projects finished, and we found some much needed time for each other in these last weeks of summer!
I had been dying to try out Blue Door Kitchen & Garden since its opening just a few weeks ago. Formerly, Table 52, a Chicago staple restaurant and favorite to many, had resided in the space for eight years. Owner and Chef Art Smith, who is well known for once being the personal chef to Oprah among other great accomplishments during his career, finally closed the doors last year, only to bring new life to the space just recently.
Enter Blue Door Kitchen & Garden. Another concept inspired by Southern food and hospitality, similar to the food served at Table 52, has opened and been busy ever since. I never had the chance to visit Table 52, so I was ecstatic to still have the chance to try Art Smith’s legendary fried chicken and enjoy another one of his restaurant concepts.
Chris and I arrived right at noon on a Sunday. The restaurant is so adorable from the front—a cute colonial style house, with white painted brick and it looks like a classic Chicago coach house. It is lovely from the front. Gorgeous wood framing in addition to French doors at the front, which were recently added to the quaint and welcoming environment.
Upon entering, you step into a gorgeous Southern-inspired dining space; hanging lights, Southern inspired artwork, fruit in bowls, and down home china accenting the tables only add to the charm.
Outside, there is a gorgeous patio that seats up to twenty people with large umbrellas, string lights, and flowers in this really lovely space.
We were told a table for two would be about a 15 minute wait. My husband and I grabbed two seats at the bar, and decided to order some breakfast cocktails. After chatting with the bartender, he explained that Blue Door Kitchen & Garden is a partnership with Blue Door Farm Stand, the Lincoln Park spot that pulls in most of its ingredients from local farms, so most of the ingredients are locally sourced.
I was immediately drawn to the brunch cocktails. I was back and forth between having a Bloody or mimosa, so I opted to get one of each and then share with Chris. I have yet to try a green Bloody Mary, something I have been seeing more frequently on brunch menus across Chicago, so I went for it. We also got a sorbet mimosas in raspberry.
The Bloody was made with tomatillo, cucumber, kale, celery, and horseradish; it was spicy, even for me! Unfortunately, I just couldn’t stomach more than a sip or two, it was just too hot. The lovely bartender was kind enough to get me a garden-to-glass cocktail, the gimlet made with fresh basil—it was divine.
After about 20 minutes, the hostess finally informed us we could be seated, and she escorted us to the large dining room table at the front of the restaurant. Too big for two people, she told us it would be communal style. I was fine with this because I loved the light from the French doors and she had said she would open them for me—lovely!
No sooner, we were joined by two other guests, ironically one who I know throughout the blogger circuit here in Chicago. Her name is Sapna and she is the blogger behind @vegtourist. We all were excited to be first timers and it was nice to have another foodie to talk to about the menu!
Unfortunately, it all slowly went downhill from this point on. After reviewing the menu collectively, and then making decisions among our own parties, almost 10 minutes had gone by before anyone came to greet us. Seriously, we were all hungry and this point my husband and I had already been here for 40 minutes.
Finally, someone came to our table. She informed us she thought we were waiting on more people. Okay, that may have seemed to be the case due to the communal table factor, but she still could have greeted us and taken my husband’s coffee order. Regardless, we were happy she was here and anxiously put our drink orders in.
I ordered a latte and my husband ordered a coffee. Across the table, I heard Sapna and her friend order one of their cold pressed juices and a latte as well. After about five minutes, our server returned to the table and informed both parties that the restaurant is unable to make a latte at that time, and that they were also out of the juice they had selected. Our meal was not off to a great start.
I went for a cup of coffee as well and after ten plus minutes, was delighted when it finally arrived, piping hot. They serve Metric coffee and I am a fan, so thankfully it still did the job. We also put an a round of starters, an order of the beignets and then the heirloom tomato and watermelon salad with burrata.
They sent out a starter round of mini biscuits as well; cute tiny house-made biscuits with a fresh jam. They were pretty good. Chris and I enjoyed them with our coffee as we made entree decisions.
Chef Art Smith is famously known for his Southern fried chicken, so I had always had the intent of ordering the fried chicken and waffles. But as we ordered our food, I began to debate ordering it in fear it might be too much food. Also, after our experience thus far, I wasn’t sure I felt like spending that much on a brunch entree at a place I wasn’t quite enjoying. Chris was set on the quiche.
Our appetizers arrived and they looks lovely. The beignets were perfectly shaped and covered in ample amounts of powdered sugar, and the salad looked lovely, as well. The beignets were delicious, with the exception of the last one, due to it being under cooked. Chris had thought they were supposed to be like that, but cold, wet, yeasty dough in the middle kind of ruined the last bite for me.
We had also been done with our coffee at this point and were anxiously awaiting a refill to no avail. It had been about 15 minutes at this point since we finished our coffees. We had originally requested she leave the gorgeous silver pot with us, but she stated she couldn’t.
When it came time to order, I decided not to go with the fried chicken and waffles. I was starting to feel full, and at $22 an order, I just couldn’t invest that much money on a dish when my brunch experience had been disappointing thus far. Still wanting to try some of Chef Art’s staple dish, I did go with the fried chicken Benedict. Chris went to order his quiche and was informed they had just run out. An easy-going guy, he was fine going for the BDK omelet, but it was just another disappointment of our brunch, especially since our server had raved about it.
My fried chicken Benedict was okay. It was less chicken than I had expected (or hoped for!) and there was a lot of gravy. It was probably delicious to someone who loves biscuits and gravy, but since I was all about the fried chicken, I sadly found the dish to be a let-down.
Chris enjoyed his omelet and I had a few bites. It was good. At this point, the young lady had finally come back around with coffee. We were ready for a refill in a matter of minutes, unfortunately.
Satiated and tired from our two hour long meal, we were ready to wrap up. Chris had to extend his parking twice in the time it took for us to be ready to leave and then to finally exit. In waiting for our bill, we chatted with Sapna about her meal, and while they enjoyed all of their dishes, she was disappointed to be told that the chef cannot accommodate them when they did want to have poached eggs on the garden eggs Benedict, seeing that her friend is vegan and does not eat eggs. Sapna had simply requested for a side of egg whites in place of the poached eggs, and was told by our server that the chef really doesn’t like to make exceptions to the menu.
A someone who has worked, dined, and been in and out of the restaurant industry for the last ten years, I was surprised and disappointed to hear that she couldn’t accommodate Sapna and her friend. Blue Door Kitchen & Garden is a fancy restaurant, and while I respect the palates of all chefs and understand some hesitation to change certain menu items, this was a really simple request of a vegan regarding dietary restrictions.
All in all, Blue Door Kitchen & Garden is a really cute spot, and the food and decor are on point. As I said I attest this review to an all around “off” day at the restaurant. Unfortunately for me and my husband, this is the day we came in to check it out. This beautiful spot is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, and if it figures its kinks out I will be back in to try Art Smith’s famous fried chicken for dinner.
The Bitches Say: C-. For the overall experience, it would have been a D if it weren’t for the awesome decor and lively environment of this place. With high hopes for the future of this restaurant, we definitely would recommend it for a birthday or bachelorette brunch, as a result of the ambience and great backdrop for photos. Go for weekend brunch at your own risk; for the price, to go brunch somewhere and have this type of dining experience, we’d say pass for now. The food was good, the experience not-so-much. In the name of fried chicken, though, we might come back to check out dinner.
Blue Door Kitchen & Garden
52 W Elm St.
Blue Door Kitchen & Garden serves weekend Brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.