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  • Old Town Social

    Post #1 - September 29th, 2009, 11:49 am
    Post #1 - September 29th, 2009, 11:49 am Post #1 - September 29th, 2009, 11:49 am
    I had a pretty good meal last night at Old Town Social which opened last month. According to metromix the food menu is by Jared Van Camp, Rick Tramanto's right-hand man at Osteria di Tramanto and former Blackbird sous chef.

    They advertise their charcuterie on the door so of course we had to try it. To start off the meal we ordered the chef's sampler which included mortadella, soppressata, pepperoni, and country pate, and we ordered the duck rillette to go along with it. Also we ordered three cheeses that were very flavorful (I don't know what they were since I didn't hear the order). The charcuterie was very good all around, though the soppressata was a stand out. The rillette was rich and really tasted like duck and was probably my favorite dish in the entire meal. They serve the charcuterie with crunchy toast that was probably more buttery than necessary but definitely a good accompaniment to the rich meats and cheeses in front of us. Also, next to the charcuterie was a sweet pickle relish that was very fresh, but too sweet for my taste.

    The next round of food was appetizers. We ordered the duck wings, the salt cod fritters, and the goose fat chips. The duck wings were very tender and served with a slightly sweet but not overpowering sauce. I liked the wings (though I commented that I prefer chicken wings), but the mayo-based sauce they served it with was too rich and had the sweet pickles from before in it. The cod fritters were overbattered and not nearly fishy enough, but the fried pickles served with them were delicious. Once again they used sweet pickles, but in fried form it worked for me. Finally the chips were perfect. Thin cut but very crispy, the animal fat added a depth that I've had in very few chips, and they seasoned them with just a hint of vinegar that complemented the chips beautifully.

    The final round, my group split the sausage and waffles and the muffuletta. The sandwich was served without a side, which was ok since we were eating in courses but worth noting. The bread was fluffy but somewhat bland and you couldn't really make out the flavor of the meat at all. I couldn't put my finger on where the balance was lacking, but the sandwich didn't come together for me. The sausage on the other hand was terrifically smokey and matched well with the syrupy but not soggy waffles (which I believe the menu said were made with cornmeal and bacon, but I'd have to double check that). I would definitely order the sausage again.

    Overall it was some of the best bar food I've had in Chicago. We were seated in a very comfortable booth with our own TV to watch MNF and the service was attentive and pleasant. The beer selection was very good though it was heavy on golden ales and light on IPAs and Belgians. Given their 15 or so taps and nearly 50 bottles, they should offer some more high gravity beers, especially because they would pair well with the rich food. But I'm splitting hairs. I enjoyed an Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, a Daisy Cutter, and a Saison Dupont all on draft, so it's hard to complain. I'll be back.

    Old Town Social
    455 W North Ave
    located around the corner from Sedgwick Brown Line station
    312-266-2277
    http://www.oldtownsocial.com/
  • Post #2 - September 29th, 2009, 1:32 pm
    Post #2 - September 29th, 2009, 1:32 pm Post #2 - September 29th, 2009, 1:32 pm
    As one of turkob's dining companions, I wanted to add my two cents as well, since yesterday was the second time I've been to Old Town Social. I agree with most of what he said (aside from the pickles being too sweet - I thought they were just right). The first time I went was a 7:30pm dinner on a Thursday night, and while the food was great (hence, why I shortly returned), the atmosphere was quite different.

    First, the food. As turk said, you are doing yourself a disservice if you come to Old Town Social and don't have their house-made charcuterie. The country ham was exceptional, and the rillette was to die for. I've had a good swath of their charcuterie menu now, and haven't tasted a single miss. Even their house-made pastrami, usually done best by the various delis of the world, was delicious. The cheeses are also quite good, although we did encounter a miscue last night, as the blue I ordered never materialized, replaced by a cheddar which, while quite good, was the only not-exceptional element of the cheese-and-meat opening to our meal, in my opinion.

    I concur with turk on the appetizers, but upon my first visit, me and my girlfriend ordered different entrees than we sampled last night. First, I'll emphasize the fact that entrees and sandwiches are a la carte - no sides included. So, when you look at the menu and are amazed to see a $9 sandwich in a upscale bar in Old Town, don't let it fool you. After having the pastrami on the charcuterie menu, I had to try the (pastrami) Reuben, and while it may not quite give Manny's a run for it's money, it was still a great heaping of their pastrami, more than passable toppings, and served on some excellent griddled rye. I also had their mac-and-cheese, which, while flavorful, was not quite as creamy as I expect from "upscale" mac-and-cheese. My girlfriend had the mussels, which - dare I say it - put Hopleaf's to shame. The frites were quite good as well, and she described them as "the second best frites in Chicago" - right behind Hopleaf, and the only real problem was a not-quite-garlicky-enough aioli.

    Now, the one issue - atmosphere. While yesterday's Monday Night Football experience was a great, relaxed, comfortable atmosphere to watch the game and enjoy some great food - on the busier nights, Old Town Social turns more bar/lounge than gastropub. When we arrived at 7:30, it was crowded, a bit loud, but acceptable. The problem came when the lights were dimmed and the music was turned up - at 8:30pm. I'm loathe to complain, because everyone knows where the late-night business comes from - and were they to wait until 10pm, maybe even 9pm, to transform, that would be more than acceptable. But, for an upscale gastropub in Old Town, you've got to keep that dinner atmosphere going later than 8:30, and even then - the music became significantly too loud for conversation.

    So, I have to recommend Old Town Social, but I need to temper that with the suggestion that you should expect a very different atmosphere on Monday than you'll get Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights. It seems like an awful shame that a place with such a great beer list, with such exceptional food, feels the need to turn into the same-old bar when the night gets late. You can't possibly talk about Old Town Social without the comparisons to Hopleaf and The Publican. I got a great, closer-to-the-loop, alternative to the first on one night, and a place that was louder and more crowded than the second on the other night.
  • Post #3 - November 25th, 2009, 10:56 am
    Post #3 - November 25th, 2009, 10:56 am Post #3 - November 25th, 2009, 10:56 am
    I ate here for the first time a couple weeks ago, and it was pretty okay. The standout I still think about is the country pate. That was the highlight. Oh, and their brussels sprouts with pancetta was pretty great too - nice and caramelized. The frites were great, the cheeses we ordered were good. The cherry bomb appetizer things were okay, but the corn served with them was really good.

    The big letdown for me was the burger – the only entrée I tried, and it was the low point. My partner and I split the burger “our way” meaning with a fried egg, etc. We ordered it medium, and it came out done, and the egg was overcooked and a bit rubbery. My partner had eaten the burger a few weeks earlier and said it was better then. I didn’t even bother finishing my half when there were frites and brussels sprouts to eat.

    The big weak spot is the service. We literally waited 20 minutes after being seated to order our drinks – which didn’t come for another 15. I can tolerate slow food service if you get me my Matilda sooner than 35 minutes after I’ve been sitting down! The servers all seemed nice, just a big clueless with too much on their figurative plates. This was an issue both times for my dining partner, so I’m sensing it’s an ongoing problem – not just a one-off.

    I would go back to try the reuben, eat more from the charcuterie, and have frites – but the experience was just so-so because of the major miss on the main course.

    -KD
  • Post #4 - February 14th, 2010, 10:37 am
    Post #4 - February 14th, 2010, 10:37 am Post #4 - February 14th, 2010, 10:37 am
    LTH,

    Pleasantly surprised, maybe even a little shocked, at the depth, breadth and quality of the made in-house charcuterie at Old Town Social as it presents pretty much straight-up meet-and-mate bar for young professionals, in particular those interested in following sports teams on large screen televisions.

    It seems Jazzfood had been dragged kicking and screaming to a business related event of his girlfriends at Old Town Social, one look at the forest of tvs and he "hit a pout" one taste of Chef Jared Van Camp's made in-house finocchiona and he searched him out for a chat. Collegial chef to chef conversation resulted in Van Camp setting up a charcuterie tasting for Jazzfood and a small group of which I happily participated.

    Old Town Social has a serious in-house program, in addition to charcuterie they do their own pickling and pastrami/bacon cure with a well curated selection of raw milk cheese and beer, both draft and bottle.

    Bacon

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    Raw Milk Cheese Selection - Saxon 'Big Ed', Meadow Creek 'Grayson', Zingerman's 'Lincoln Log', Oakvale Farmstead Gouda

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    Next to finocchiona and Zingerman's Lincoln Log my favorite bite of the evening was Potted Rillette, heady with duck fat and cognac.

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    Fried in goose fat fries delicious on their own, brought to another level dipped in runny yolk farm fresh egg.

    Fries w/aoli

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    Hen Egg w/bacon

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    Antique hand crank Berkel slicer

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    Seemingly little expense has been spared at OTS, including digging out the lower level kitchen for additional space.

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    Chef Jared Van Camp was unexpectedly called out of town, Sous Chef Yoni Levy, an interesting, immensely knowledgeable fellow, shepherded our evening with friendly professionalism. Speaking of friendly and knowledgeable our waitress, Kortney, was a font of knowledge as well, comfortable discussing charcuterie, cheese and beer, three of my favorite subjects.

    Yoni Levy, sous chef Old Town Social

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    My main critique of OTS would be the high top bar style tables do not lend themselves to serious dining and the sea of tvs, which were blessedly out of sight, the tvs can be hidden in a bit of high-tech cabinetry magic, in the rear space we occupied.

    Frankly, I worry for the continuation of OTS's aggressive in-house program, when we left the joint was jumping with polite well dressed 25-35 year-olds with hungry eyes, though not for charcuterie. I did not see a single person in the packed bar eating.

    Prices seem reasonable, our meal particularly so, but I would guess our very moderate tab was partially a courtesy to Chef Lake (Jazzfood) by fellow chef Van Camp.

    Old Town Social, count me a fan.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #5 - May 16th, 2010, 1:43 pm
    Post #5 - May 16th, 2010, 1:43 pm Post #5 - May 16th, 2010, 1:43 pm
    I stopped in to Old Town Social for a bite to eat after work on Friday, pulling up a seat at the bar eager to check out the much lauded charcuterie.

    I ordered a selection of 5, which turned out to be way more food than I was expecting. I had the soppresatta, mortadella, pastrami, summer sausage, and pork rillettes. I thought that both the soppresatta and mortadella were really good, but the pastrami and summer sausage were served pretty cold. The flavors of both were quite muted due to the serving temperature and the pastrami had gotten a bit tough. A little bit of a disappointment, but I can certainly see why people have been generally impressed.

    I stupidly also ordered the pork belly sandwich and fries. The fries I thought were really good, crispy and the right kind of greasy. The sandwich was spoken of very highly by the guys behind the bar. I thought the sandwich was just alright. In addition to the belly, the sandwich also had coleslaw and sliced apples, but I thought it could have used more acidity (maybe if the coleslaw were more of the vinegary variety rather than the creamy). I told one of the bartenders this and he acted like I just kicked his dog. Oh well.

    I would go back to Old Town Social, but probably just to have some charcuterie and a beer. It's a cool space and it's sort of on my way home from work, so I'm sure that I will be back.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #6 - May 25th, 2010, 3:26 pm
    Post #6 - May 25th, 2010, 3:26 pm Post #6 - May 25th, 2010, 3:26 pm
    Stopped into Old Town Social for some snacks at around 9pm last night. The space is inviting. We sat on the patio until we had to move inside at 10pm (house rules-patio is only open until 10pm).

    We ordered onion rings, finnochiona, and mini hot dogs. The onion rings came with a spicy aioli. I thought they were pretty standard-good, but not great. The order of mini hot dogs had three mini hot dogs, each in a different "style": chili, chicago-style and corndog. The corndog breading had the right texture and the corndog was fried perfectly as well. The other two mini hot dogs were likewise tasty and fun to eat. The actual hot dog tasted like an all beef hot dog, but I could be wrong about that.

    The finnochiona was the highlight-the fennel flavor was distinct and enjoyable. I wished that I had ordered more charcuterie.

    To drink, I had a Hum cocktail with ginger beer. It was light and refreshing on a balmy evening.

    I will definitely be back. This seems like a fun place to actually drink well, eat well and watch a baseball game.
  • Post #7 - June 21st, 2010, 6:01 pm
    Post #7 - June 21st, 2010, 6:01 pm Post #7 - June 21st, 2010, 6:01 pm
    Was reading the local San Diego CH forums and apparently Jared Van Camp is now here in SD running a restaurant called Quality Social (which I intend to visit very soon - perhaps I will give him best regards on behalf of the LTHers :) ).

    So who's in the back of the house at OTS now? I'm rather curious to know if they've maintained their in-house charcuterie program...
  • Post #8 - June 21st, 2010, 9:03 pm
    Post #8 - June 21st, 2010, 9:03 pm Post #8 - June 21st, 2010, 9:03 pm
    Based on a recent visit, they have. Yoni Levy is still in the house.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #9 - June 22nd, 2010, 11:31 am
    Post #9 - June 22nd, 2010, 11:31 am Post #9 - June 22nd, 2010, 11:31 am
    It seems Jared Van Camp is still at Old Town Social as well as in San Diego, at least part of the time. He's still listed as the chef on their website, and he's giving a demo at Green City Market in July.
    Anthony Bourdain on Barack Obama: "He's from Chicago, so he knows what good food is."
  • Post #10 - June 23rd, 2010, 7:17 am
    Post #10 - June 23rd, 2010, 7:17 am Post #10 - June 23rd, 2010, 7:17 am
    Basically, he's the corporate chef and travels back and forth.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #11 - July 18th, 2010, 11:42 am
    Post #11 - July 18th, 2010, 11:42 am Post #11 - July 18th, 2010, 11:42 am
    Based on my last two visits, it befuddles me that Old Town Social is half-empty. (I'll add the caveat that I tried to watch a USA v. Ghana World Cup match there, and bypassed OTS, because the line was out the door and around the corner.) However, if the charcuterie offered at other gastropubs around town is at least partly the attraction that packs them, I don't know why the same does not apply to OTS, if not more so.

    First, I'll acknowledge three downsides of OTS that perhaps put people off. One, its edge-of-Lincoln Park location. It is difficult, I think, for Lincoln Park restaurants to establish serious credibility. There are good places to eat there, but they are eclipsed by the reputation that food in this neighborhood is about Irish nachos and 10 cent chicken wings. Second, along the same lines, the front of the house is better-suited to a Lincoln Park sports bar than a serious restaurant. Scantily clad, waifish female servers, bartenders and hostesses do not give the image to patrons that the back-of-the-house is serious. So there's a disconnect betweeen what you see, and what you're served. Finally, the space is so cavernous that it lacks the sort of tuck-in coziness that the design of even large restaurants, like Publican, can offer.

    But I think the thing that OTS has most going against it is its utter lack of hipsterness. No bearded bartenders, or thick-eyeglassed staff. Some might think it a tad cheesy. I dunno, I don't care at all about what's cool in the moment, but if you can overlook these things, though, this is a really good place to eat, if only just for charcuterie service. The finocchiona exceeds my prior favorite on offer at the Fatted Calf in Napa. Big chunks of sweet fat, respectable gaminess, and fennel aroma, this is a beaut. Pepperoni, made with angus, is noticeably beefier, and less salty than your Italian grocer versions, but still achieves that dry, textured toughness and red paprika color associated with this snack sausage. My only beef (pun intended) is that it could have been spicier.

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    The accompanying, mustardy, but not too tart, picalilli, offsets all this fatty richness.

    I tried the angus beef burger, which was slightly overcooked, but appreciated the loosely, hand-packed juicy beefiness. It's put together carefully on a griddled sesame-seed bun.

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    I also really appreciated the golden-colored, multi-textured Belgian fries with aioli. The menu does not say, but based on comments upthread, they are fried in goose fat. Given the trend lately to over-fry french fries into dark, crunchy oblivion, I liked the boldness inherent in serving simple fries in which some a soft texture, and some a crispy texture, and both tasting like potato instead of their frying oil.

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    The liquor selection is not vast, but contains essentials, and the cocktails are creative and well-made for a bar/restaurant (although not made to the level of certain cocktail dens). The wine list is well-curated, and I loved their offer of a fantastic Spanish rosé, with rosé being the most overlooked wine in the industry. There's also a decent selection of bourbon. Speaking strictly food-wise, if you look at OTS as the less casual and ambitious sibling to Mado (where the charcuterie is better than entrees), Publican (where everything varies), and Longman and Eagle (where entrees are much better than starters), and as a place you drop into for a drink or two and a few bites, you will eat well. I think it's worth our support -- and more of it -- if only for its wonderful charcuterie.
  • Post #12 - July 18th, 2010, 11:29 pm
    Post #12 - July 18th, 2010, 11:29 pm Post #12 - July 18th, 2010, 11:29 pm
    I live just two blocks away and strangely neither I nor my neighbors have gone to Old Town Social yet. I think the impression that it's a party bar just makes it slip off my list when I pick someplace in the neighborhood to go with friends even though we could really use a spot with this kind of menu. I'll have to rustle up some folks and give it a try earlier in the evening.
  • Post #13 - July 19th, 2010, 10:32 am
    Post #13 - July 19th, 2010, 10:32 am Post #13 - July 19th, 2010, 10:32 am
    Funny, I ate here recently because it was the only kitchen open in the immediate area where I found myself famished.

    Atmosphere was not great. But I thought the charcuterie was mostly excellent. Had:

    Soppresatta
    Finnochiona
    Mortadella pistachio
    Breseola
    Pastrami smoked beef

    Meant to order a pate instead of one of the somewhat similar dry sausages, and really wished I had when I tasted the very good toasted bread that came with. The dry sausages were all on par with the best stuff around town, except Riviera. I continue to wonder out loud why some bar or restaurant doesn't serve Riv-made salume.

    Though it's baloney, tasting the house made mort reminded me why this is the king of salume and apparently very difficult to do well "in-house." Texture and taste just wasn't there, particularly compared to the Bolognese ideal. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, just not "right." And don't tell me this was the kitchen's take and I shouldn't be doctrinaire. They are obviously going for very traditional salume here and are describing them by fairly well-defined styles. All signs indicated that virtuosity was being displayed more than originality. Reminded me of the early days of brew pubs. Some good stuff; but variable, extra-rustic and not so much like the traditional style they said they were going for.

    The pastrami was too lean and too dry, but had a terrific taste and cure.

    I also thought the value was great for the quality and quantity.

    Didn't particularly like the mostarda-meets giardinera, but it showed good attention to detail and effort. Just too sweet for me. Iwas surprised by the lack of other condiments -- pickles, mustard, figs, whatever really. The bartender appeared with a tiny cup of pretty pedestrian mustard 4/5 into the meal.

    Despite my gentle criticisms, I like what the salumero is doing at OTS.

    I also very much like this trend. I think it's telling that we are so deep into rustic salume-heavy menus that a place like Macello, for example, goes largely unnoticed and unheralded. I dined there recently and had some terrific stuff. (Looks like it started off shaky based on early reviews; it's worth another shot, IMO.)
  • Post #14 - July 19th, 2010, 10:56 am
    Post #14 - July 19th, 2010, 10:56 am Post #14 - July 19th, 2010, 10:56 am
    JeffB wrote:The dry sausages were all on par with the best stuff around town, except Riviera. I continue to wonder out loud why some bar or restaurant doesn't serve Riv-made salume.


    Agree on both counts.

    JeffB wrote:Though it's baloney, tasting the house made mort reminded me why this is the king of salume and apparently very difficult to do well "in-house." Texture and taste just wasn't there, particularly compared to the Bolognese ideal.


    Interesting. We almost ordered the mortadella, and were lamenting not doing so on the way out. I do agree that the making of mortadella is a time-honored art, and it's probably the reason why you don't see mortadella more often on house-made charcuterie menus. Da Riv is still the best place that I've found to source mortadella (among other things).
  • Post #15 - July 21st, 2010, 7:50 am
    Post #15 - July 21st, 2010, 7:50 am Post #15 - July 21st, 2010, 7:50 am
    Siun wrote:I live just two blocks away and strangely neither I nor my neighbors have gone to Old Town Social yet. I think the impression that it's a party bar just makes it slip off my list when I pick someplace in the neighborhood to go with friends even though we could really use a spot with this kind of menu. I'll have to rustle up some folks and give it a try earlier in the evening.


    Same here, I also live less than two blocks away and never went in because I thought it was just a bar. Tried it last night, got their special which was a duck andouille sausage hoagie with grilled peppers, onions and a spicy aioli plus an order of vidalia onion rings. The hoagie was excellent, onion rings were a little oily but that's probably because I got the food to go and they steamed int he box on the way home. I'm looking forward to working my way through their menu.
    Cookingblahg.blogspot.com
  • Post #16 - August 3rd, 2010, 10:05 am
    Post #16 - August 3rd, 2010, 10:05 am Post #16 - August 3rd, 2010, 10:05 am
    JeffB wrote:Didn't particularly like the mostarda-meets giardinera, but it showed good attention to detail and effort. Just too sweet for me.

    Count me a fan of this stuff. It is indeed pretty sweet, but I thought it had plenty of tang to balance it out. I found it rather intoxicatingly good, actually.

    Also liked the charcuterie an awful lot, especially the dried salami which were very robustly spiced - the way I like 'em.

    Strongly disliked the way-too-salty burger and its dense, heavily-seeded bun. One of the worst "high end" pub burgers in recent memory. Fries were nearly perfect.

    I'm a fan of the high-tops and big, cavernous space. I see hanging out at Old Town Social plenty more times.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #17 - August 3rd, 2010, 5:46 pm
    Post #17 - August 3rd, 2010, 5:46 pm Post #17 - August 3rd, 2010, 5:46 pm
    NAV MAN is all about people having a good time, but everybody who works there is getting hammered whenever you are in there. Its basically a joke. The place is reaching to be some type of gastro brewpub and failing miserably. Honestly, the place blows.

    NAV MAN is serious with this one. THis is one of the most pretensious peice of craps in the city. It looks like a dungeoun. I smells like stale beer, the food is far from special but priced as if it were.

    Obviously everybody is jazzed because chicago has its 4500th 'craft beer and american bar inspired upscale food', but lets just agree that this place completely sucks.
    Cheetos are my favorite snack atm.
  • Post #18 - August 18th, 2010, 1:32 pm
    Post #18 - August 18th, 2010, 1:32 pm Post #18 - August 18th, 2010, 1:32 pm
    I've never tried the charcuterie at Old Town Social. But it does seems like that's the winner there.

    I can tell you I tried the Pork Belly BLT. Pork Belly, Fried Green Tomatoes, Arugula, Spicy Aioli. It sounds just outstanding and right up my alley. Unfortunately it was probably the blandest sandwich I've ever had. Absolutely no flavor at all. I really couldn't believe it. No spice on the belly, nothing in the breading of the tomatoes, 'spicy aioli' devoid of spice and pretty much non existent. I was pretty damn disappointed. The Ms. was pretty disappointed with her salad too. It is a salad and all I know, but she also said it was just bland and didn't really do it for her.

    Although, the daily pickles were pretty outstanding, especially the okra. Had a big vinegar bite. I'll have to get there to try that meat though.
    "I Like Food, Food Tastes Good" - The Descendants
  • Post #19 - August 18th, 2010, 9:34 pm
    Post #19 - August 18th, 2010, 9:34 pm Post #19 - August 18th, 2010, 9:34 pm
    The chicken liver pate is also excellent--pure schmaltz bath.
  • Post #20 - August 18th, 2010, 10:12 pm
    Post #20 - August 18th, 2010, 10:12 pm Post #20 - August 18th, 2010, 10:12 pm
    aschie30 wrote:Based on my last two visits, it befuddles me that Old Town Social is half-empty.
    Agree 100%, why Old Town Social isn't filled with contented charcuterie chomping customers is beyond me.

    JeffB wrote:The pastrami was too lean and too dry, but had a terrific taste and cure.
    On nose Mr. B, good flavor, but dry, lean and served too cold.

    JeffB wrote:I also thought the value was great for the quality and quantity.
    Amazing value, $19 netted me more than I could comfortably finish.

    thepld wrote:I've never tried the charcuterie at Old Town Social. But it does seems like that's the winner there.
    Yes, absolutely.

    Collection of 5 cured meats with generous amount of grilled bread, good grilled bread from Labriola at that, and piccalilli was $16, I added a chunk of Saxon Creamery 'Big Ed' for $3, and was astounded at portion size. Soppresatta and chorizo best of the five, finnochiona a close second and, when it warmed up, potted rillette was rich spreadable goodness on crunchy bread.

    On Wednesday 9pm last week there was only one other person eating in the entire bar/restaurant, scattered drinkers, a few couples canoodling around the fire place, but as the charcuterie at Old Town Social is in the top tier of a city that loves its meat it really should be busier food wise than one fellow slurping pasta and me making time with the salami.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #21 - August 20th, 2010, 5:27 pm
    Post #21 - August 20th, 2010, 5:27 pm Post #21 - August 20th, 2010, 5:27 pm
    Old Town Social -- The Bar that Doesn't Really Want to Be a Restaurant -- proved an excellent place for drinks and a little food (which is all you can have on those tiny tables and, heck, this place is all about selling drinks not grub). One of the smaller samples we had was one of the most memorable. It's lardo. It's excellent.

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    I thought it was cheese at first, and because it's whipped and smeared, it has the smooth mouthfeel of fromage, which is a good thing because most lardo is too chewy, meaning you get huge slices of fat back in your mouth, demanding maximum mastication and yielding good, though too little, taste. This is the fatback of the gods. Enough excellence to warrant a return trip for this alone, though the sausages we had were also very, very good. And the fries.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #22 - August 21st, 2010, 3:33 pm
    Post #22 - August 21st, 2010, 3:33 pm Post #22 - August 21st, 2010, 3:33 pm
    David Hammond wrote:. One of the smaller samples we had was one of the most memorable. It's lardo. It's excellent.

    Image

    I thought it was cheese at first, and because it's whipped and smeared, it has the smooth mouthfeel of fromage, which is a good thing because most lardo is too chewy, meaning you get huge slices of fat back in your mouth, demanding maximum mastication and yielding good, though too little, taste. This is the fatback of the gods. Enough excellence to warrant a return trip for this alone, though the sausages we had were also very, very good. And the fries.


    Agreed--and my girlfriend thought it was cheese, too. Not sure when the "top 5 lardo-on-crostini" list is due, but OTS's far surpasses what I've had at Purple Pig and Publican. Just awesome.
  • Post #23 - August 21st, 2010, 3:36 pm
    Post #23 - August 21st, 2010, 3:36 pm Post #23 - August 21st, 2010, 3:36 pm
    gotta say, much as I loved the charcuterie, was not a fan of the whipped lardo piled high on toast. I love lardo and animal fats of many kinds, but I found this just a tad ridiculous and difficult to eat.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #24 - August 22nd, 2010, 12:06 am
    Post #24 - August 22nd, 2010, 12:06 am Post #24 - August 22nd, 2010, 12:06 am
    It creeped me out. A texture that reminded me of biology class dissections.

    I say that as a big fan of the place overall.
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  • Post #25 - August 22nd, 2010, 5:35 pm
    Post #25 - August 22nd, 2010, 5:35 pm Post #25 - August 22nd, 2010, 5:35 pm
    Agree 100%, why Old Town Social isn't filled with contented charcuterie chomping customers is beyond me


    Steppenwolf is usually not associated with Old Town, but since OTS is pretty far west of Wells, it's only about a 5 or 6 block hike from the theater. I've added it to my pre- post-theater possibilities for a neighborhood that's not overflowing with great casual eateries, and perhaps if others do the same the quiet within will become less deafening.
    "The fork with two prongs is in use in northern Europe. In England, they’re armed with a steel trident, a fork with three prongs. In France we have a fork with four prongs; it’s the height of civilization." Eugene Briffault (1846)
  • Post #26 - August 23rd, 2010, 1:10 am
    Post #26 - August 23rd, 2010, 1:10 am Post #26 - August 23rd, 2010, 1:10 am
    Kennyz wrote:I found this just a tad ridiculous and difficult to eat.

    Can't imagine what you mean by "ridiculous" (conceptually?), and by "difficult" you must mean hard to swallow (again, conceptually?) as texturally it's much much easier to chew and consume than other lardo I've had (because, you know, it's soft). As it's creamed, the flavor seems more intense, it spreads out, the way cheese does when you chew it into a slurry and savor it.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #27 - August 23rd, 2010, 6:24 am
    Post #27 - August 23rd, 2010, 6:24 am Post #27 - August 23rd, 2010, 6:24 am
    David Hammond wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:I found this just a tad ridiculous and difficult to eat.

    Can't imagine what you mean by "ridiculous" (conceptually?), and by "difficult" you must mean hard to swallow (again, conceptually?)


    I was talking about the quantity. At least when I ordered it, there was about an inch and a half thick layer of whipped lardo piled high on a piece of toast. I thought that was a ridiculous amount, and that's mainly what made it so difficult (for me) to eat.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #28 - August 23rd, 2010, 8:36 am
    Post #28 - August 23rd, 2010, 8:36 am Post #28 - August 23rd, 2010, 8:36 am
    Kennyz wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:
    Kennyz wrote:I found this just a tad ridiculous and difficult to eat.

    Can't imagine what you mean by "ridiculous" (conceptually?), and by "difficult" you must mean hard to swallow (again, conceptually?)


    I was talking about the quantity. At least when I ordered it, there was about an inch and a half thick layer of whipped lardo piled high on a piece of toast. I thought that was a ridiculous amount, and that's mainly what made it so difficult (for me) to eat.


    An inch and one-half is lot of anything to put on a small slice of toasted baguette. It might not be easy to discern from the picture I attached, but there was much less than one-half that amount on the pieces we received.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #29 - August 23rd, 2010, 8:57 am
    Post #29 - August 23rd, 2010, 8:57 am Post #29 - August 23rd, 2010, 8:57 am
    David Hammond wrote:... most lardo is too chewy, meaning you get huge slices of fat back in your mouth, demanding maximum mastication and yielding good, though too little, taste.


    Lardo on toast can be wonderful, but it has to be prepared with care. If not whipped, the lardo must be very thinly sliced and then - this being the most important thing - it must be placed on piping hot toast that's either right out of the toaster or (even better) just off the grill, with the thin lardo slices placed atop the side of the bread that was just in contact with the grates. When handled with such attention, the lardo slices almost entirely melt, leaving behind just a very pleasant whisper of a fat sliver requiring no mastication at all, as it merely melts on your tongue. In general, roadside diner waitresses who've been properly buttering toast for decades are better than young restaurant chefs at this kind of thing. Even if the lardo is whipped, I think the piping hot toast thing is just as important. In your picture it looks like some of the lardo indeed melted lovingly into the bread. Not the case when I ordered it, unfortunately.
    ...defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions." Screwtape in The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis

    Fuckerberg on Food
  • Post #30 - August 23rd, 2010, 9:44 am
    Post #30 - August 23rd, 2010, 9:44 am Post #30 - August 23rd, 2010, 9:44 am
    Kennyz wrote:
    David Hammond wrote:... most lardo is too chewy, meaning you get huge slices of fat back in your mouth, demanding maximum mastication and yielding good, though too little, taste.


    Lardo on toast can be wonderful, but it has to be prepared with care. If not whipped, the lardo must be very thinly sliced and then - this being the most important thing - it must be placed on piping hot toast that's either right out of the toaster or (even better) just off the grill, with the thin lardo slices placed atop the side of the bread that was just in contact with the grates. When handled with such attention, the lardo slices almost entirely melt, leaving behind just a very pleasant whisper of a fat sliver requiring no mastication at all, as it merely melts on your tongue. In general, roadside diner waitresses who've been properly buttering toast for decades are better than young restaurant chefs at this kind of thing. Even if the lardo is whipped, I think the piping hot toast thing is just as important. In your picture it looks like some of the lardo indeed melted lovingly into the bread. Not the case when I ordered it, unfortunately.


    Some time ago, master charcuteriste MikeG put up these shots of lardo on Skyfullofbacon.com:

    Image

    Mike added, "This is definitely the best thing to do with lardo, it softens up as it half-melts on the bread, though it never melts like butter, retaining a chewy, almost meat-like texture." Far from "entirely melting" or "requiring no mastication," the lardo of Mike's (which I have enjoyed on several occasions), as well as the lardo I've posted about from Marion Street Cheese market, required much more than very warm bread to melt the slices. And it definitely required a little jaw action.

    Checking on line, I find many varieties of the creamed lardo served at OTS.
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”

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