As you might guess from its name, Lardon (2200 N. California Ave..; www.lardonchicago.com/&; takes meat very seriously.
Named after a small piece of pork fat or fatty bacon, the Logan Square spot is a carnivore's paradise, from decorative porcine artwork to the curing room (which had 600 pounds of meat the day my dining companion and I visited) to, of course, a lot of the menu items.
Lardonwhich opened in July and has quickly become popular for its deli and lunchtime offeringsrecently added weekend dinner service that is available Fridays through Sundays from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Chef Chris Thompson's knowledge and expertise of coastal Mediterranean cooking shines in new dinner dishes designed to complement the spot's Old World-based foundation of cured meats.
Owner Steve Lewiswho refers to Lardon as a salumeria (a food producer and retail store that produces salumi and other food products) said the restaurant is a neighborhood spot, and a family-friendly one at that. "We do sandwiches, salads and charcuterie boards during the day, and our lunch menu goes from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. From 4 to 7 we have our boards and wine lists, and then there's the weekend bistro. "
And it's that bistro that's the focus of the review portion of this piece. My dining companion and I started the best possible way at Lardonwith the Chef's Board, a charcuterie (prepared meat)-and-cheese combination that includes meats such as finocchiona (a variety of Italian salami), the kicky nduja spread and Spanish chorizo secco with cheeses such as Humboldt Fog (a mold-ripened goat-milk cheese with edible ash), Prairie Breeze Cheddar and Red Rock (cave-aged cheddar intentionally streaked with blue mold). Those alone would be great, but there are additions including honeycomb, breads, mustard and olivesalthough I purposefully passed on the latter, as I'm not a fan.
For the entree, my friend had one of the specialsbraised beefwhile I had the steak frites. Chicago is known, among other things, for its meats, and Thompson (and Lardon) treated this meat well, resulting in one of the better steaks I've had in this city. Of course, the herb butter didn't hurt. My friend ate her entire plate of beef, at times barely looking up from her plate. That's enjoyment.
Some of the other offerings include crispy veal sweetbreads, mussels aux Provencal, crispy duck leg confit and a very sizable wood-grilled pork chop.
However, despite its meat-centric look, there are vegan/vegetarian dishes offeredand they're delicious. My friend absolutely adored the Green Monstera hefty concoction that contained broccolini, zucchini, avocado, shishito peppers, pistachio, crispy farro and tarragonwith green goddess dressing. (There are also arugula and strawberry as well as a dish with carrots and ancient grains.) And although it contained meat, my frisee-and-lardon salad was unquestionably filled with bold flavors, thanks to a little saltiness and bitterness from the main stars of the dish that the richness of the egg undercut.
Desserts have become more prominent at Lardon, thanks to a new pastry chefand the peach-and-blueberry crumble my friend tried was apparently supremely delightful (with another clean plate). However, Lardon also sells pie from nearby Bang Bang Pieand the apple-cider item I had (spiced apple cider cheesecake with cider gelee and a graham-cracker crust) was absolutely sinful.
Drinks are also pretty compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed The Garden Partya tasty melange oaf gin, yellow chartreuse, basil eau de vie, lemon and tonic. However, I discovered that the bartender is just as talented when it comes to mocktails; the basil/citrus item I had (which had a certainly gustatory resemblance to The Garden Party) was just as good.
Incidentally, Lardon adds to the vibe by playing vinyl records of the employees' choosing. The Donna Summer album had me wishing for a dance floor, but guests may hear everything from The Clash to The Rolling Stones to Al Green.
By the way, Lardon is expanding, according to Lewis. He told Windy City Times that, by the end of the year, there will be a gastropub named Union as well as a cocktail bar called Meadowlark. Both will be part of an area that includes Lardon, and they will have their own culinary and drink offerings. (However, patrons won't be able to walk from one to the other through the interior.)
Lardon, Union and Meadowlark: They sound like a full evening's worth of fun.
COVID protocols: Patrons wear masks when not eating and drinking. Lardon staffers also wear masks, and sanitizer is provided at the front desk.
Note: Lardon doesn't deliver. However, the travel there is definitely worth it.
Note: This visit was arranged.