Thursday February 22nd 2018

Willow Rm. something different on Halsted

Halsted and North Avenues are the gateway to the near north “theater scene” leading to the Steppenwolf complex of theaters and of course, The Royal George Complex, and along the way, many different types of dining experiences await us. Middle-East and Italian have been the biggies and a few other surprises over the years. The newest edition to the mix is “Willow Rm.” at the corner of Willow and Halsted. This restaurant is one with a menu that is unusual and very “eclectic” in nature. On our last trip to Steppenwolf, we ventured in to see the newest dining spot on the street, and with very little time opted to grab a burger and a salad so we would not miss the curtain.

Later, many of my readers asked us to report back on the new space on the street. The word was out. As is the usual case, Jane and I like to bring another couple for the dining experience allowing us to sample many offerings and flavors. This works to give you a better idea on the menu and its selection. Alan and Vickie joined us for this meal, and based on what they said on the ride home, this was an experience that will become part of their season at Steppenwolf, for sure!

We entered the beautiful and bright dining room where we were escorted to what Alan called “Booth Number One “( sort of like the old Pump Room), a very plush velvet booth in the corner with ample room for four (or even six). Our server, Michael was bright and cheerful and well-versed on the menu he was about to share with us. We ordered drinks, Vickie and I had our usual Vodka Martinis. Jane, the special beverage of the day, The orchard (Tito’s vodka, fresh strawberries and fresh lemon juice, chilled to perfection, and Alan had a glass of  wine (Malbec Emiliana) which he said was the best red wine had enjoyed in some time. Flavorful and quenching.

For our appetizers, we enjoyed Cauliflower (a pure delight mixture with zhug, buttermilk, champagne currents and leblebi)-(sure made veggies worthwhile eating for me!), Carpaccio ( pickled shallot, button mushrooms, cured yolk and parmesan), and Mussells (chiles, shallot, celery and baguette) that are delish. I suggest you take the side of bread and dip it into the sauce for a special treat. We also had a smoked trout toast that was tasty and from their “single meat selection”, the duck prosciutto-wonderful!

To explain the “single” selection, they have a list of items that can be purchased as a side for as little as $6 each (besides the duck, pork, chicken and liver) plus if you  want to partake of all six, only $32 and these portions allow for sharing. There is also a selection of cheeses where the same principle holds, $6 each and $32 for all 6. Perfect for drinks and snacks at the bar or in the dining room before or after the theater. But, hold on to your hats! The meals are terrific!

The menu is a bit shorter than the average restaurant, which often I prefer. Less to select from, but items that the chef is proud of and very little waste. Off of the regular items, we ordered the lamb sausage ( two zesty sausages made of lamb, with soubise, verjus apples, mustard seed and pea shoots), the chicken (orzo, curried carrot, smoked banyuls, gruyere), the Rainbow Trout (brown butter, malt vinegar, basmati and mint peas) and the daily special- Surf & Turf (lobster tail, paprika butter and a 6 oz filet mignon, summer squash and charred lemon). I must say, the chef prepared the steak just right for all four of us to partake of.

For dessert, a slice of cheese cake and a dish of ice cream with walnuts along with our coffee completed our evening’s dining experience. The” Willow Rm” is a nice addition to the street and to Lincoln Park. Less than a block away from the theaters on the street allowing us to enjoy something different from those that have been on Halsted for years is a nice treat. While the menu is not large, every item on it was wonderful and the portions were more than enough. A great place for doing some sharing, for sure.

There is a lower level room/bar as well, where they can do private parties and on special events, can use for overflow audiences. Based on the dinner and the staff we met tonight, I see this new dining spot gaining quickly in popularity. They are open at 1800 N. Halsted Street in Chicago’s Lincoln Park:

daily at  5 p.m. until 2 a.m.

Saturday and Sunday, Brunch menu starts at 9:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. then they close and re-open for dinner again


5 p.m. until 2 a.m.

For reservations call 312-82-2151 or online


Enjoy! I know we did!

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