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  Vera - Spanish wine bar
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  • Vera - Spanish wine bar

    Post #1 - February 17th, 2013, 6:02 pm
    Post #1 - February 17th, 2013, 6:02 pm Post #1 - February 17th, 2013, 6:02 pm
    Image

    My first visit to Vera was last summer when I stopped in after work with a friend for a quick drink. We couldn't resist turning the visit into a light dinner with grilled onions (with an extra bit of their excellent romanesco sauce), chicken liver pate, and clams and chorizo. I was hooked. Vera hits everything for me: bite-sized dishes with bold flavors meant to me be eaten along side a glass of wine or sherry. Simply-prepared food that highlights fresh, high-quality ingredients. A place that I can stop in after work for a drink or have a longer meal, exploring the menu. Despite being so close to the Randolph Street corridor, to me Vera has the feel and style of a neighborhood restaurant. A great neighborhood restaurant, in fact.

    Last August I posted "My wife and I had excellent meal at Vera on Saturday night. The simple, flavorful small plates are exactly the kind of cooking we love. This is fast becoming one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Some of the standouts from my last two meals were the octopus pinxto, the pisto manchego (see above), the lamb and beef albondigas (also see above), a tuna conserva (think homemade canned tuna that's actually really good), tomato bread, anchovies, and of course cheese, sherry, and great wines by the glass." While Vera is known for the small plates, they don't phone it in on the larger plates. On my last visit our group shared an excellent lamb cocido and perhaps the best paella I've had in years.

    The main thread on Vera is here and it contains some stunning photographs.

    Here is a sampling of some of the good things that others are saying about their meals at Vera:

    ronnie_suburban: "I'm thrilled for Chef Mendez and Liz to have their own place and as a diner, I'm really excited about Vera, where I plan to return on a regular basis."

    bfolds: "We echo others' enthusiasm and encourage folks to give Vera a try."

    JLenart: "I had a great meal at Vera Friday night. I'll blow the lead here and tell you, that after one visit during it's first week in business, Vera has made it's way into my regular rotation"

    Han: "Shrimp. Good. Especially sucking the head."

    chezbrad: "There is not much to add to the chorus above, so let me reiterate: the mushroom and squash dishes are must-orders, as is a platter of Iberico (nutty, unctuous, gorgeous) and cheese to finish (Hooligan and Mont St. Francis are musts)..."

    incite: "Had another amazing meal at Vera last week. The last time I was there they had just begun to hit their stride. Now? I would nominate them for a GNR if it wasn't too early..."

    jesteinf: "Vera has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I love the food, the atmosphere, the staff, everything."

    mgmcewen: "I work next door and it's often crowded enough that I can't get a seat at the bar, which is sad because I often have an extreme need for the delicious tangy fatty papas bravas and the divine deviled eggs topped with whatever the special for the night is like silky uni or a gollop of savory lobster."

    BR: "I was lucky enough to visit Vera last night - my very first visit - with a couple of LTHers and I was just blown away by both the food and the service (okay, wine/sherry too)."

    boudreaulicious: "...there are so many solidly good restaurants in the "Vera" space--not too expensive, interesting menu, good beverage choices--places like Sirena Clandestina, Avec and Carriage House come to mind--but I often find that while I enjoy the places when I'm there, I usually don't rush back because there's always a new place to go. Vera really breaks through the crowd for me and I bet I'll be back there sooner than later."

    ChitownJackson: "Overall just a great experience. ...Vera's food is excellent."

    One of my favorite dishes is the Pisto Manchego with a fried egg, of which wino66 wrote "a flavorful veggie meld, similar to ratatouille, over toast and topped with a runny-yolked egg. TRY THIS ONE!"

    Of the clam and chorizo dish that I had on my first visit, BR wrote "Perhaps my favorite dish of the night, however, was the clams, chorizo and squid ink fideos. Perfectly cooked clams, a delicious house-made Spanish chorizo (one of the best I've tasted) and perfectly cooked noodles. This was seemingly such a simple dish, but the combination of the clams and their juices and the wonderfully rich chorizo with just the right amount of smokiness from paprika created a bowl of pure comfort - easily one of the best things I've eaten this year. And the colors were just beautiful."

    Vera Chicago
    1023 W. Lake St.
    Chicago, IL 60607
    312.243.9770
    Email: info@verachicago.com
    http://www.verachicago.com
    Reservations accepted.

    Hours
    Tuesday – Thursday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm*
    Friday – Saturday: 5:00pm – 11:00pm*
    Sunday: 5:00pm – 10:00pm*
    Mon: Closed
    * Bar open one hour later
  • Post #2 - February 17th, 2013, 6:10 pm
    Post #2 - February 17th, 2013, 6:10 pm Post #2 - February 17th, 2013, 6:10 pm
    Great nomination.

    The food at Vera honestly just keeps getting better and better. Liz and Mark Mendez are incredibly gracious hosts, and Andy is always doing great work at the otro bar. Vera is also a great change of pace from some of the other Randolph Street restaurants where the food can be secondary.

    This is one of my favorite places to eat in Chicago. I strongly second this nomination.
    -Josh

    I've started blogging about the Stuff I Eat
  • Post #3 - February 17th, 2013, 6:23 pm
    Post #3 - February 17th, 2013, 6:23 pm Post #3 - February 17th, 2013, 6:23 pm
    So very very happy to see this nomination!!!! People get caught up in the silliness over "neighborhood" and Vera is exactly the place that defines why it doesn't matter where a place is located or the price point of the menu--the true GNRs to me are places that make you feel like you're someplace special--someplace you'd like to share with others--a spot that delivers again and again and again and makes you jones for what they do. That can be a single dish at a dive or, for a special place like Vera, the whole experience --meticulously assembled wine list, warm, knowledgeable service and crave worthy food. Great nomination!!
    "Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad." Miles Kington
  • Post #4 - February 17th, 2013, 9:00 pm
    Post #4 - February 17th, 2013, 9:00 pm Post #4 - February 17th, 2013, 9:00 pm
    The restaurant in Chicago that Vera reminds me the most of is Avec - similar cuisines. But as much as I love Avec, I now actually prefer Vera. I just feel better taken care of, more appreciated. And let's face it, it's easier to score a table at Vera. On top of that, I've now been there a few times and had outstanding meals each time. I shouldn't be surprised having been thrilled with Chef Mendez's food for many years now. My only complaint is that I have not yet dined at Vera in the spring and early summer, when I'm fairly confident Chef Mendez is showing off local produce in all of its glory. Definitely a GNR in my book.
  • Post #5 - February 22nd, 2013, 8:19 am
    Post #5 - February 22nd, 2013, 8:19 am Post #5 - February 22nd, 2013, 8:19 am
    I had some bites here yesterday. I loved the sprouts with anchovy vinaigrette. I hadn't been here in a while, but I need to go back. There were too many items on the menu I wanted, but didn't get a chance to order. I support this nomination.
  • Post #6 - February 22nd, 2013, 2:04 pm
    Post #6 - February 22nd, 2013, 2:04 pm Post #6 - February 22nd, 2013, 2:04 pm
    Coming from the neighborhood, it really is one of the few that seems like a neighborhood restaurant, where many other nearby restaurants feel like tourist destinations. I love Au Cheval for example and go there enough that I've eaten probably every item on the menu, but it's not a particularly welcoming place. Vera it feels like they really care that you come there and enjoy the food. It also really feels like a family business rather than a "concept".
  • Post #7 - February 22nd, 2013, 2:26 pm
    Post #7 - February 22nd, 2013, 2:26 pm Post #7 - February 22nd, 2013, 2:26 pm
    Darren72 wrote:incite: "Had another amazing meal at Vera last week. The last time I was there they had just begun to hit their stride. Now? I would nominate them for a GNR if it wasn't too early..."


    Darren72 beat me to it. I support this nomination.
    Dearest Chicago on Web
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  • Post #8 - February 23rd, 2013, 1:58 pm
    Post #8 - February 23rd, 2013, 1:58 pm Post #8 - February 23rd, 2013, 1:58 pm
    each visit has been better than the last. on top of excellent food, the service is always so welcoming and sincere.
  • Post #9 - February 23rd, 2013, 7:08 pm
    Post #9 - February 23rd, 2013, 7:08 pm Post #9 - February 23rd, 2013, 7:08 pm
    The only downside to this nomination is it will get Vera that much closer to having the kind of lines that the food deserves. There are no flaws at this place. An emphatic yes!
  • Post #10 - February 26th, 2013, 4:38 pm
    Post #10 - February 26th, 2013, 4:38 pm Post #10 - February 26th, 2013, 4:38 pm
    I have yet to find a better-tasting olive oil than the Spanish Picual served with the bread here. I think they use that same high-quality olive oil in all other dishes that involve EVOO, cooked or crudo. Simple cooking with uncompromising use of top notch ingredients? +1 for me.
  • Post #11 - February 26th, 2013, 6:56 pm
    Post #11 - February 26th, 2013, 6:56 pm Post #11 - February 26th, 2013, 6:56 pm
    kanin wrote:I have yet to find a better-tasting olive oil than the Spanish Picual served with the bread here.
    Fantastic olive oil, and the Elysian Fields Farm lamb they use is the best I've ever tasted. Impeccable sourcing is only one component of what makes Vera special. Service and beverage program, helmed by the warm and wonderfully patient and knowledgeable Elizabeth and kitchen by impressively talented Mark, this is a duo making their mark on Chicago's culinary landscape.

    GNR, yes, absolutely!

    Vera, count me a fan!
    Sauce on the side, always, implied, axiomatic..........never a doubt, BBQ sauce without.

    Low & Slow
  • Post #12 - February 27th, 2013, 1:31 pm
    Post #12 - February 27th, 2013, 1:31 pm Post #12 - February 27th, 2013, 1:31 pm
    My love for Vera is posted here. The wonderful food along with the warm hosts, Mark and Liz, make this a no brainier for a GNR. Yes, Yes, Yes!!
    For what we choose is what we are. He should not miss this second opportunity to re-create himself with food. Jim Crace "The Devil's Larder"
  • Post #13 - March 2nd, 2013, 1:58 pm
    Post #13 - March 2nd, 2013, 1:58 pm Post #13 - March 2nd, 2013, 1:58 pm
    I've been here twice and left both times wishing I went to Avec instead. For me it was good not great and can't support this nomination unless we change the name to Good Neighborhood Restaurants.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #14 - March 3rd, 2013, 10:02 am
    Post #14 - March 3rd, 2013, 10:02 am Post #14 - March 3rd, 2013, 10:02 am
    I'm glad I had a chance to visit Vera earlier this week and I support it as a GNR. I wrote about my experience here.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #15 - March 3rd, 2013, 4:15 pm
    Post #15 - March 3rd, 2013, 4:15 pm Post #15 - March 3rd, 2013, 4:15 pm
    Vera is most definitely a GNR in my book. I love Mark and Liz Mendez's entire aesthetic and think the food, drink and service at Vera all reflect the care and skill of an experienced and expert leadership team. Whatever Mark's cooking -- that's what I want to eat. It was always true at Carnivale and it's even more true for me at Vera.

    The only issue I have with it is that I don't get there often enough, which is my own burden to bear (and something I plan to remedy).

    =R=
    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain

    Another beer before happy hour to put me in the mood for drinkin', uh huh huh, oh, forget thinkin' --Beaver Nelson

    I find it a matter of note that in New York or Terre Haute, school cookies always seem to be oatmeal --Mr. French
  • Post #16 - March 3rd, 2013, 11:40 pm
    Post #16 - March 3rd, 2013, 11:40 pm Post #16 - March 3rd, 2013, 11:40 pm
    I've enjoyed the food, the wine, the pleasantness of the staff. I've sent friends there looking for a dining recommendation. I support this nomination.
    -Mary

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