Cru Café and Wine Bar

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
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Photograph: Jason Little

Chandeliers that come down can go up again. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. The 2009 transformation of Cru, a wine bar, to Feast, a casual spot known mostly for brunch, was a reflection of a slower, more burger-friendly economy. But economies change, tastes change, and those chandeliers were in storage three long years, dammit—enough is enough.

So there they hang, lording over neighborhood winos, completing the old-money look of the place. They cast their sparkle on the fireplace mantels and the mocha walls and a very serious server (or is he a maître d’?) in a tight-knotted bow tie. It’s a very Gold Coast scene, and it feels a little off in the middle of summer. I sought the air conditioning of the indoors and couldn’t help but daydream about what the place would be like in the colder months. A table in the corner with a bottle of malbec, a hot buttered rum in front of the fire. I could see it. It would work.

Food notably did not enter my fantasies. I wouldn’t return to Cru for dinner. For a snack, maybe. There’s actually a “snacks” portion of the menu here, and from it I tasted a bowl of creamy egg salad with crispy capers on top, and another bowl of lightly pickled fennel and beets. These were nice plates that were all the nicer for not stealing the spotlight from the drinks. (Wine, naturally. The cocktails are quickly assembled afterthoughts, but sommelier Bret Heiar’s wine list has nice moments—I like his white-wine flight, which is called And Now For Something Completely Different and lives up to its name.)

But when it comes to anything other than a snack, Cru’s kitchen sends out plates that are either confusing or awkward or both. A watermelon-tomato salad was underdressed, which was one reason the flavors didn’t meld. A chilled corn soup was studded with shrimp that tasted tinny. Warm, rubbery chunks of lobster were strewn on a plate of green and white sauces, a truly bizarre dish I had no idea how to eat. And entrées such as skewered, mangled scallops and salty chicken with mushrooms lacked something crucial that wine-bar food should have: finesse.

I liked the burger. I liked the fries. I liked the desserts, especially the brownie with coffee ice cream. Is it a coincidence these are all dishes that very well could have been served at Feast? Probably not. Note to Cru: Those chandeliers don’t need to stay up there forever.

Venue name: Cru Café and Wine Bar
Address: 25 E Delaware Pl

Cross street: at Wabash Ave
Opening hours: Brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch, dinner
Transport: El stop: Red to Chicago. Bus: 36, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 151.
Price: Average main course: $17
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