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En Passant

Restaurants, Contemporary European Avondale
Recommended
3 out of 5 stars
En Passant
1/5
Photograph: Garrett Sweet
En Passant
2/5
Photograph: Garrett Sweet
En Passant
3/5
Photograph: Kim Kovacik
En Passant
4/5
Photograph: Garrett Sweet
En Passant
5/5
Photograph: Garrett Sweet

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Do you remember a few years back when lifestyle writers and home retailers became briefly obsessed with hygge, the Scandinavian conceptualization of wintertime coziness? I won’t speak to the merits of buying knitted socks or drinking glogg all the time (that’s what the Danes do, according to the aforementioned lifestyle writers), but I think I could spend more than a few nights escaping the Chicago cold this winter at En Passant.

When I visited the Logan Square restaurant on an especially blustery October night, stepping inside made me feel like I was warming up in front of an invisible fireplace. The dining room, outfitted with wooden tables and mismatched chairs, is shrouded in flickering candlelight and the glow of crystal chandeliers overhead; on the walls, wide, impressionistic brushstrokes of paint and assorted clocks lend a homey touch. I felt like I’d walked into a European bistro decorated with the sensibilities of a Midwestern mom—charming, somewhat kitschy and very, very cozy.

Named for an obscure chess move, En Passant is the first solo venture from chef Sam Engelhardt (a veteran of Au Cheval, where he helped mastermind its famous burger), with a focus on “globally-inspired comfort food” befitting of its intimate space. That approach manifests as a menu of starters, sides, sandwiches and hearty mains, many of which are of vaguely European origin, like chicken liver mousse and mushroom risotto. It won't take you long to consider the entire menu while cracking open the bottle of wine you’ve brought along—the restaurant is still BYOB for now.

At our server’s recommendation, my date and I started off with the crudo (“It’s super light,” he told us, unlike the rest of the menu), which arrived looking a bit like a plate of sunny side up eggs. Pickled cilantro and dollops of tangerine pudding, bright orange and yolk-like, sat atop wobbly escolar drizzled with black garlic honey and flecks of gochugaru, resulting in a zippy, marmalade-y bite. It turns out that it was wise to start light: The next dish—a delicious terrine of house-cured duck confit and apricot cut into two generous slabs and served with griddled slices of La Boulangerie sourdough, whole grain mustard and pickles—nearly filled us both up.

Still, I’m not disappointed that we spent most of our appetites on starters. Given Engelhardt’s burger pedigree, I had been excited to try the restaurant’s Super Smash Burger, a double-patty concoction made from dry-aged Slagel Farms beef, balsamic onion jam and Marie Rose sauce. I’m picky about smash burgers, but this one—its two patties mostly devoid of crispy bits and lacy edges, and made overly sweet from the Marie Rose sauce and onion jam combo—didn’t do it for me. Similarly, a seasonal take on choucroute garnie (house-made bratwurst, sauerkraut, hunks of potato and impossibly thick bacon) fell a bit flat, its tangy sauerkraut unable to cut through the surrounding richness of the dish. I only wished I’d left a little more room for the roasties we ordered on the side, which arrived in a metal cup brimming with golden, perfectly crisped hunks of kennebec potatoes and served with Marie Rose sauce.

When I go back to En Passant—and I plan to, because Chicago winters are very long, and cozy meals are the best respite—I’ll skip the mains and split a few starters between friends in the spirit of hygge conviviality. Let's face it: There’s not much to look forward to about the looming specter of frigid weather, but plates of duck terrine and roasties are on my list.

The vibe: Warm, candlelit and incredibly cozy, down to the heavy wooden tables and vintage decor. 

The food: Hearty, protein-heavy and mostly European with some Asian inflections—green beans come coated in miso butter and garlic, for instance, while a cornmeal-crusted halibut gets dressed up in dill-gochujang beurre blanc. 

The drink: BYOB for now, but with a liquor license secured, expect a drink menu soon. 

Time Out tip: Too full for dessert? Grab a couple of oatmeal cream pies to-go and devour them the next day (they’re especially nice with a cup of coffee).

Details

Address: 3010 W Diversey Ave
Chicago
60647
Transport: Bus: 76
Menu: View Menu
Contact:
Opening hours: Wed–Sun 5pm–10pm
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