Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bite Cafe

I'm a fan of Bite and I was fortunate enough to try both a brunch and dinner menu. I like that it's just down the street from me and I really like the BYO policy. If you go for dinner on a friday or Saturday night you'll also have the pleasure of waiting for a table next door at Empty Bottle and listen to live music.

Bite is small and quaint a few tables and small counter near the kitchen. The decor is clean and functional with very friendly and good servers. And as with most BYOs, you receive good overall value with affordable dishes and no liquor costs. We ordered a lot for dinner and really enjoyed our selections. I preferred the dinner menu but probably mostly because of the variety and ability to eat more. The brunch menu tended for favor savory items (my preference), large portions but a small selection. I sincerely recommend checking out Bite - particularly for a solid BYO, neighborhood spot that doesn't involve sashimi. It almost classifies as a hidden gem.

But enough praise, what did we eat? My main course was a special of the night and included a huge head of cauliflower served on vegetable barley with a tomato vinaigrette. It was fantastic, with great flavors and interesting textures. The sauce had just enough acidity to make things interesting but not too much to ruin the flavors of the vegetables. It's something you could have found on any menu in river north. 

Erica's main dish was the potato gnocchi and it was our least favorite of the night. For as interesting as it appeared - and the presentation was very good - there just wasn't any flavor once in your mouth. I almost thought it was a magic trick (and maybe they were perfectly executed gnocchi) but it just left wanting for more. We also ordered 2.5 appetizers to start: one veg spring roll, meatballs and mac n cheese. I ate the spring roll and thought it interesting and well designed. The sauce is very sweet and I liked the crispy texture. It's not a blow your mind dish but tasty none the less. We both loved the meatballs and marinara sauce - the five servings did not last long. Finally, the mac n cheese was also impressive, and large. We have high standards for one of our favorite dishes and this version was quite good. I made it better by adding some Dark Matter bbq sauce (though I was a little surprised to see a $1 charge for that on my bill...), and appreciated the good service with a piping hot plate with a slightly blackened top. 

We took the plunge for dessert and somehow avoided the milk shake selection and went with the fudge brownie. It wasn't my favorite and seemed to lack character of love (just felt like it was done out of necessity). It also wasn't particularly warm which always makes it taste better particularly with ice cream. 

As for our brunch (which was weeks before we went back for dinner):
We only ordered two things, one entree each and a side of amazing bread (pumpkin if I remember correctly..?) and ridiculous brown butter. I would return and eat six orders of the bread as a meal. 

I ordered a scramble with lots of veggies and Erica had a traditional "two eggs" breakfast with sausage and toast. Most of their choices come with their "mashbrown" - another delicious creative concept of potatoes browned and served as a patty crispy on the outside and mashed in the middle.

Erica didn't love her entire dish with sausage and toast and standard scrambled eggs (kind of mis ordered), but I was happy with my remotely healthier vegetarian option and plenty of food. Again, most of the menu items lean toward the savory and lunch side of brunch so if you're looking for flap jacks and silver dollars I suggest IHOP.

Not only is the food great at Bite Cafe, but I love the vibe, setting and style of the place. It has an identity and doesn't try to be like everyone else, but always focuses on presenting high quality dishes. And as an added bonus you can bring your own booze or just walk into Empty Bottle next door and buy some on the spot. I wish I could call it a secret but it's way too late for that; even so it's worth the trip. 

Bite Cafe on Urbanspoon

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