Andrew Brochu could cook the menu at the Monarch in his sleep. I mean, this is a guy who made a name for himself with humble country cooking at Kith & Kin, then went on to put his stamp on Phillip Foss’s EL Ideas before Graham Elliot snatched him up for a new iteration of his flagship restaurant. And now, on a Friday night at 8pm, he’s standing in the open line of a bar kitchen that looks unchanged since its time as a Germanish pub, taking a quick call on his cell phone while nonchalantly tossing a bunch of chicken wings in pickle juice before they hit the fryer. I almost approached him and asked, “What exactly are you doing here?”
Thankfully, I wasn’t quite that trashed. And I’m glad, since I don’t want to plant the idea in his mind that he shouldn’t be here. Sure, the Monarch looks plain and a little worse for wear, but clearly any efforts toward design have been channeled elsewhere, to the terrific service, the sort of comically ambitious cocktail menu and, of course, to the food.
Those dill-pickle wings, though not exactly radical, were at least interesting. And few other bars in the city could be bothered to put a Bibb lettuce salad with fresh chives (a simple dish that’s been in Brochu’s playbook since K&K) on the menu. The diner burger will either kill you or make your night that much stronger: It’s two beef patties, cheddar cheese, special sauce and a potato bun into which it all just melts. The fried-green tomato sandwich is juicy and crunchy and buttery, but it would be much better without the Gruyère, just as everything from the salad to the burger would be better if Brochu quit dousing them with salt. I’m glad Brochu’s cooking for the neighborhood clientele, but he doesn’t need to go that far.
|Venue name:||The Monarch [CLOSED]|
1745 W North Ave
|Opening hours:||Mon–Sat 5pm–2am; Sun 10:30am–10pm|
|Transport:||El stop: Blue to Damen. Bus info: 56, 72.|
|Price:||Average cocktail: $11|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
4 / 5
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The open kitchen was already closed when I visited Monarch late one night. I'll have to come back to check out the food, because the weirdly Gothic atmosphere, very friendly service and solid drinks were all winners, and the bartender even took our music requests.
I ended up in Monarch by chance, popping in one evening when I had some time to kill. You never know what you could be walking into in Wicker Park, but Monarch was a nice surprise for me. It was a quiet night with not many people at the bar, but I loved the laid-back vibe and dark ambience. A massive candle sits in the middle of the bar and looks like it's been burning for something like a century (it hasn't, of course).