John's Place was a longstanding family friendly spot in Lincoln Park, until John decided his old place needed a facelift. Casual is out, upscale and cozy dinner destination is in. It's quintessentially the kind of restaurant that can only exist in Lincoln Park, mainly due to the fact it feels like the living room extension of a nearby house.
That means a few things. One, we can’t afford to live in this house, or any like it close to DePaul. Two, couches often replace chairs, making for a lounge type feel. Three, middle aged women dominate White Oak Tavern & Inn any given day of the week. Occasionally, you’ll see husbands dragged along, whole families with adult-ish kids, and even younger couples on dates. But for the most part, the crowd is very heavy mom’s book club night out. It’s nice for a quiet evening, especially if you’re looking to have a conversation where you can actually hear people talk.
Don't let us make the vibes seem like a detriment though, because you don’t need to have read the latest pick from Oprah’s Book Club to enjoy the food. The rustic dishes might sound standard, but the kitchen does a good job incorporating interesting curveballs. That's particularly true with the vegetable dishes, where fresh vegetables are locally sourced and paired with interesting ingredients like pickled strawberries, lavender brown butter, and smoked trout row - way to take veggies up a notch White Oak. The larger plates are good too, but don't feel compelled to order your own. A good mix of smaller items and a larger board or plate for sharing is the best way to go.
We're kind of into the idea of starting a book club and making White Oak Tavern & Inn the official meeting spot. Book reading optional, of course.
Homemade breads are a nice touch, and a few dishes come with the sourdough. Otherwise, consider the biscuits, or go heavy duty with 'nduja, yogurt, and asparagus topped focaccia.
Homemade mozzarella topped with pickled tomato, ramps, basil, and a little citrus glaze on top, which has a strong taste. It's a good mix and overall solid mozz.
Listen to mom and eat your peas, especially when they come with a bit of yogurt, pickled strawberries, and lavender brown butter. Great stuff.
Unless you’re adamantly opposed to eating duck, you need to order this. A duck trio consisting of some greens in a duck vinaigrette, duck liver mousse with rhubarb jam and a mustard, and a fried duck leg that is crispy, fatty, and divine. Duck on duck on duck.
No different than tuna or beef tartare, but replaced with an array of root vegetables instead. The earthy goodness gets mixed with some cheese, mustard, and an egg yolk for binding, plus comes over toasted brioche. A hearty and tasty veggie dish.
Our waiter emphatically pointed out that they had the #3 ranked burger in Chicago, whatever that means. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to disagree. It looks delicious, especially next to that mini chair, but even ignoring my personal dislike of the butterkase cheese, you don't need this $15 burger that doesn't come with fries. Stick to the rest of the menu.