Many Chicago area residents may recall the old days in “Old Town” , the area that runs along Wells Street from Eugenie ( just North of North Avenue) south to Division. While the area has gone from the “good old days” of the 60’s through some very tough times, it loos as if it is coming back strong. Those who visit the theaters on the street, Red Orchid and Second City as well as Zanies Comedy Club are always looking for the perfect ( and affordable) place to dine before or have a dessert after the show. Well, a new place just opened- The Benchmark, a sports bar with walls lined with giant screen TV’s and an open atrium bar that allows the air to flow as you watch the action along the street. Wedged between the famous Topo Gigio and The Fireplace Inn, this bar has a limited menu of popular priced entrees, great appetizers and salads and a dessert “to die for”
We experienced a couple of appetizers, mozzarella coins- fresh mozzarella, breaded and fried to a golden brown crust served with a toasted garlic red sauce- delish! The other appetizer, calamari is served with cajun aioli, but the other items, quesadillas, hot soft pretzels, mini-wiches and buffalo rolls also looked good. We skipped the salads and wraps, although watching them served, almost changed our minds, but being hamburger people ( we love the almost famous Wells burger down the street at Wells on Wells, we decided to give the Benchmark cheeseburger a try and it was wonderful. The sweet potato fries will make you feel as if you had died and gone to heaven Our other sandwich try was the Parisian Steak sandwich, a grilled beef tenderloin with baby arugula, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomato and Havarti cheese served on a soft croissant- it was grilled to perfection and as tasty a steak sandwich as I have ever had.
Their menu, as I said is limited, but the selection offers something for everyone and the majority of sanwhiches are under $11.00, which in todays economy is a solid value. They even have some individual pizzas, that all looked great. I assure you, we will be back to taste more of these menu items. The portions were better than average and in fact, might be split so you leave room for the dessert that will knock your socks off and probably have you working out the next day. It is called The Skillet Cookie, a hot chocolate chip cookie served in a cast iron skillet garnished with two layers of French Caramel, Swiss chocolate,French vanilla-bean ice cream and topped with whipped cream- make sur eyou leave room for this baby!
They have almost every type of beer you would or could want and a great selection of wines, by glass or bottle. This is a wonderful addition to Wells Street and adds a little something to the many dining spots on the street. While Wells has many bar/saloon eateries, many who have added the giant screen TV’s, this one was built for the “now generation” that frequents the sports bar scene and yet, there is a warm and friendly feeling for the more mature diner and I can just see this being a great part of the red Orchid theater experience- good theater and good food at affordable prices and only one time parking the car.
To learn more about this neat new addition to “Old Town”, visit www.benchmarkchicago.com..Benchmark is a division of Four Corners Taverns, a local company that has several other unique and fun places to dine. The address is 1510 N. Wells Street. Enjoy!