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Review

Sandy Noto

Band Of Bohemia

$$$$
Written by
Sandy Noto

What one person is interested in - like seeing Buckingham Palace or studying 13th century cartography - someone else, like a Londoner or Marco Polo, might find pretty boring. And if you’ve lived in Chicago for a while, eventually you’ll reach a point where you’re tired of going downtown to all the fancy restaurants tourists get excited about. When that’s the case, you need a meal at Band of Bohemia.

This Ravenswood brewery and restaurant is in an out-of-the-way spot, on a side street right next to the Metra Tracks. The interior is basically a warehouse that’s decorated like a very nice home, with tall ceilings, wallpaper, and a bunch of upholstered furniture. But the food here is probably a lot more delicious - or at least more creative - than whatever’s currently in your refrigerator.

Sandy Noto

The menu changes frequently, but one thing is consistent: every dish (no matter how simple-sounding) will have something unusual going on. For example, the beet salad includes a tasty banana creme fraiche that makes it stand out from the 273 other beet salads you’ve come across this year. The burnt corn ravioli has actual charred corn husk folded into the pasta dough. And the delicious pork collar is served on top of a bed of coconut farina.

Most of the time, these attempts at being interesting are successful. But some additions come across as unnecessary. For example, the foie gras is served with pieces of pink peppercorn “glass” that will probably remind you of hard candies you spent your childhood trying to avoid. The saffron cavatelli tastes great, but is topped with an unappetizing-looking foam that adds nothing flavor-wise. These things aren’t enough to ruin anything - they mostly just make us poke around at stuff confusedly with our forks. But at least no one can accuse anything here of being boring.

If you live someplace long enough, eventually you’ll get used to the scenery. Like the skyline you stop noticing because you’re yelling at traffic on Lake Shore Drive, or the green river that used to be cool (but now you ignore) on St. Patrick’s Day. So next time you’re passing through the Gold Coast or River North and you realize all the familiar famous restaurants have become a blur, turn around and make your way to Ravenswood for something completely different.

Food Rundown

Sandy Noto
Eggplant And Naan

This dish consists of fried eggplant with an Old Bay aioli on top of some fantastic naan, and it’s one of the best things here. Although you’ll technically only find it on the $75, five-course tasting menu, you can also ask for it a la carte, which you absolutely should. You’re welcome.

Sandy Noto
Venison Tartare

This tartare is actually a combination of venison and beef. It’s topped with cooked-down onions and potato chips, making it taste like a very fancy dip. It’s delicious.

Roasted Beet Salad

Given how popular they are these days, you’ve probably already eaten several beet salads this week, but this one is still worth ordering. It has roasted and pickled beets, plus arugula, chopped egg yolk, and an enjoyable banana creme fraiche.

Sandy Noto
Saffron Cavatelli

If you can ignore the unsightly foam, this is a great-tasting pasta dish. The cavatelli has just the right amount of saffron flavor, and we really like the combination of lamb bacon, clams, and cranberry beans.

Sandy Noto
Burnt Corn Ravioli

There’s a lot happening here, and it’s all tasty. The ravioli is made with charred corn husks, filled with corn and ricotta filling, and served in a buttery sauce mixed with confit duck and chanterelles. Then, truffles are shaved on top. Our only complaint is that the duck is a little dry.

Sandy Noto
Seared Foie Gras

We’re normally fans of sweet and savory foie gras dishes - and this dish of seared foie on top of a lemon thyme cake with a fig drizzle qualifies. But the pink peppercorn “glass” it comes with needs to go.

Sandy Noto
Pork Collar

The meat is salty and fatty, and everything you want pork to be. A bite of this that includes pork, smoked peach, walnut, and coconut farina is delicious.

Salmon

This is a very flavorful fish dish. It’s topped with a rich truffle compote and beurre blanc, but the bitter and acidic mustard greens balance it out.

Chocolate Cremeux

Like everything else, this dessert has a lot going on - it’s a black sesame financier topped with chocolate mousse, a miso caramel cocoa nib crumble, pickled plums, and a gelatinous (and flavorless) chocolate sheet that seems to be just for decoration. The crumble is great, but the rest is forgettable. Skip it.

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