photo credit: Sandy Noto
Drive 25 minutes or so outside of Chicago, and you might start to feel like you’re in a Hidden Valley Ranch commercial, surrounded by haystacks, corn fields, and a bunch of people who seem really nice. It’s this idyllic version of the Midwest that Daisies in Logan Square sets out to recreate - and because of its friendly service and delicious, seasonal food, it succeeds.
This is the kind of restaurant where your server will tell you things like where the lettuce in your salad came from, approximately what time of day it was picked, which phone number it remembers most from its childhood, and its mother’s maiden name. While pre-meal lectures like that aren’t uncommon these days, here, it really feels sincere - partly because one of the nearby farms they use is owned by the chef’s brother. You get the sense that their dedication is genuine, and that feeling only becomes more clear when you start to eat the food.
The menu here is vegetable-focused, but Daisies is definitely not a vegetarian restaurant. Where so many other restaurants give meat a starring role and let vegetables support it, here, it’s more like the other way around - for instance, the chicken-fried rutabaga has a sausage gravy, the carrot rillettes are made with duck fat, and an asparagus bruschetta comes with bone marrow.
The real standouts on the menu, though, are the housemade pastas, all of which feature vegetables heavily. The beet agnolotti topped with trout roe is not something to order if you’re unsure of your opinion on beets - the pasta dough is made with beet juice, there’s a beet and ricotta filling, and it all comes in a beet sauce. Apart from the slight risk of a beet version of the Kool-aid mustache, though, it’s fantastic - the earthy, sweet beets go really well with the roe. Other highlights include an excellent linguine with egg yolk and bacon plus whatever seasonal vegetable they decide to add (like asparagus or ramps), and potato-filled pierogies in a mussel broth. Like the non-pasta dishes, all these things highlight fresh produce while also incorporating meat or seafood elements (although you can request vegetarian versions if you’d like).
There are a few missteps, mostly involving underseasoned pastas. The tajarin has a sauce that’s light and buttery but bland, and chicken cracklins on top aren’t enough to boost its flavor. Same with the pappardelle: the mushroom ragu could use more salt and pepper (or maybe even some duck fat). Other than these, though, everything is tasty comforting in a homey way - assuming home, for you, is a place with large amounts of great pasta.
If your “backyard” is actually an alley behind 7-Eleven, and you’ve taken to pretending the dumpster raccoons are animals from Charlotte’s Web, you might need a break from the city. Yes, we are close to the countryside, but getting there still requires a trip on the expressway. So go to Daisies for some fresh, expertly prepared food that’s a little bit closer. Who knows - maybe your lettuce wants to learn more about you, too.
Fried Mushroom And Cheese Curds
There is no denying that fried cheese isn’t very good for you. But Daisie’s turns something that belongs at the State Fair into a delicate fried appetizer. The cheese and mushrooms are lightly battered, and the buttermilk tarragon dipping sauce is herb-y and tangy. So as far as we’re concerned, this is practically a salad.
Carrots blended with duck fat, topped with creme fraiche, and served with some very nourishing-seeming seed crackers and bread. This is a good example of a vegetable dish with a meat element that takes the back seat. Get it to share.
Chicken Fried Rutabaga
Another vegetarian fake-out. Slices of rutabaga are battered and fried, then served with a sausage gravy. The gravy is slightly sweet, and we really like it with the rutabaga.
The specific preparations change, but there is always a homemade ravioli filled with truffle ricotta on the menu. Count on it having some kind of meat (like pork or lamb) and a sweet and sour component, like grapes or rhubarb.
The linguine is Daisies’ carbonara. It has bacon and an egg yolk, and some kind of seasonal vegetable like ramps. Whatever else is in it, as long as the yolk and bacon are involved, sign us up.
Beets can be polarizing, and if you are in the “beets taste like Lake Michigan water” camp, a beet pasta filled with beets and served in a beet sauce might not be for you. But this pasta topped with creme fraiche and trout roe is really, really good.
There are a lot of fantastic flavors going on in this. The pan-fried pierogi are filled with potato, served in a beer broth, and topped with mussels. It’s like a moules frites/chowder hybrid, and we love it.
We just can’t get behind this, especially with so many other delicious pastas on the menu. The pappardelle noodles are fine, but the mushroom ragu is under-seasoned and watery.
We like the pasta itself, but the butter sauce is bland. Even chicken cracklins on the top can’t save it.
There’s always a meat or seafood nightly special, prepared with (you guessed it) local produce - like this perfectly cooked pan-fried trout with charred lettuce and ramps. If you don’t want a pasta, you can count on one of the specials being fantastic.