It’s January, and naturally, for many cities across the country, that means it’s restaurant week! Just when you get in your groove of your resolutions to work out more and eat healthier, this special time of year creeps up on you and says “get out and go eat!” Of course, being the Bitch that I am, this comes all too easily. Give me one good reason to go brunch and I will do it.
If you don’t know this already, I am absolutely smitten with my neighborhood of Ukrainian Village. It seems a new business pops up daily, and, now more than ever, my hood is becoming a culinary destination, thanks to old and highly regarding establishments like Rootstock, and newcomers like Cafe Marie-Jeanne, and Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar. The most recent addition to the ‘hood is a delightful new spot, Split-Rail.
I was so excited for Split-Rail to join the neighborhood, in part because it is mere block from my house. Who doesn’t love a new watering hole? Best of all, it is owned and executed by Zoe Schor, former executive chef at the popular Ada Street and a force to be reckoned with here in the Chicago food scene. After frequenting the restaurant a lot over the last couple of months, I have gotten to know Zoe and General Manager Michelle, and I was delighted when they invited me in for the first weekend of brunch during restaurant week.
Our team in Chicago has grown in 2018, and I am excited to have a new co-editor Julie and a social Bitch Brittani join our team! I invited Julie to brunch with me so we could get to know each other a little more and to give her my tips and tricks of being a brunching Bitch.
I arrived to Split-Rail where Julie was already waiting for me in the lounge on the vintage velvet couch. For restaurant week, Zoe and her team have decided to have “Seinfeld” vs. “Friends” themed menus. As a “Friends” obsessed fan, I was ecstatic when I saw the cool touches they added to the space to go with the theme; the “Central Perk” logo above the couch, a Marcel the monkey hanging from the bookshelf, the Foosball table from Chandler and Joey’s apartment, and the famous purple door with the gold frame, a la Monica and Rachel’s apartment.
Split-Rail is already charming, with its eclectic decor of vintage print fabrics, mix-and-match gold frames, and rich wood and metal accents. It is cozy, and inviting. I also love that they also have an open kitchen, so you can watch the kitchen team make their magic.
Anxious to get started brunching and chatting, Julie and I quickly ordered two coffees and two cocktails to start—dealer’s choice, letting our server pick). The coffee was really good, not too strong. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Our cocktails arrived to the table in charming, vintage glasses. I opted for one of the Restaurant Week cocktails, titled Serenity Now, a smoky concoction made with tequila, ezcal, lime, agave, and bubbly, courtesy of one of my favorite wines, L’Ambrusco. It was perfection. Julie went with Michelle’s suggestion of a cocktail called “Drink the Fat”. Upon hearing it be described, we were admittedly skeptical of the drink, but equally as excited to try it. It was so smooth, we were so happy she recommended it to us. It was made with bourbon, cognac, rum, pineapple, and of all things, clarified milk! They might be adding this to the regualr cocktail menu, to which we say hell yes!
It took us about four times of having our server visit the table before we were finally ready to order, we finally decided on a few delicious-sounding items. The restaurant week brunch menu offers two options for a two-course meal, one for both sitcoms. Each item is inspired by a certain episode from the show, which I found to be especially thoughtful. We decided to share everything. And, though we are both more Friends people, ultimately we both went for the Seinfeld offerings.
One by one our dishes arrived to the table. First, was The Double Dip, a duo of salsas served with house-made tortilla chips. One was a green apple salsa, and the other was a bright orange carrot salsa. Both were extremely delicious and flavorful; the carrot one tasted like a more traditional salsa, while the apple one actually reminded me of a salsa verde, and not just because of its color.
Next came our indulgent dish, the lobster scramble. Not only did it look fantastic, but it tasted absolutely delicious. A tower of soft scrambled eggs were presented with a dollop of krystal caviar and whipped creme fraiche on top. This dish was perfection; decadent and rich, the ingredients worked together wonderfully.
Then came our Seinfeld dishes, the toasted bagel and a coffee cake muffin top. The toasted bagel was meant to be served with a beet cured Arctic char, but the restaurant was using beet cured salmon on this day. The toasted bagel was bright and colorful; purple hued salmon, bright purple beet cream cheese, fresh microgreens, and a fried egg for a pop of yellow all made this dish totally Instagram-worthy.
The bagel was delicious. The salmon was cured perfectly, lightly salted with a hint of beet flavor. It was simple, yet bold and flavorful. Julie and I agreed that this was by far one of the best bagel and lox we had ever had. The muffin top was a nice sweet dish to round out our savory meal. We also ordered a side of bacon because, well, why not?
Despite Julie claiming that she is “not really a sweets person,” I insisted that we try the French toast bread pudding for dessert. It is safe to say that maybe Julie is a sweets person after this dish. We scarfed it down, amazed that we still had room to finish it all. This is one dish that is available during dinner or brunch, so take my advice and order it.
While a lot of these brunch items were created specifically for restaurant week, I am certain they are a good representation of the restaurant’s regular brunch menu. I must say that this was one of my favorite brunches ever, and a really strong brunch to start out 2018 with; it has set the bar high for other brunches to follow this year. The dishes were executed beautifully, the cocktails are unique and yummy, and the restaurant really went the extra mile with the decor specifically made for restaurant week. I am hopeful the team will consider adding a few of these dished to the regular brunch menu!
If you are wondering where to brunch next weekend during restaurant week, I strongly encourage you to put Split-Rail at the top of your list. Our brunch lasted three hours—we laughed noticing that other tables had been there just as long as us, too. And if you can’t make it for restaurant week, then definitely come in another time. The restaurant is fun and relaxed and the food is wonderful. We are so happy to add Split-Rail to our list of “must-brunch” spots.
The Bitches say: A+. Split-Rail is an ideal brunch spot. A perfect gathering place for friends in a relaxed setting, the food and cocktails are what make this spot so incredible and the decor and ambiance are just an added plus!
Split-Rail serves weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.