Five Reasons You Should Seek Out Ada St.

March 05 2012 - 7:14 AM

Fish Bar and DMK Burger Bar partners Michael Kornick (of MK) and David Morton are in business together for a third project called Ada St., but they’re not making it easy for anyone to really get a handle on the concept. Pre-opening, Kornick told Eater that the space would be “more of a tavern” than a restaurant, but what tavern do you know that serves octopus and greets you with candelabras in the entryway?

There’s also the wacky location to consider. On an industrial section of Ada St. off of Elston, a small awning is the only indication that there’s a restaurant tucked between brick office buildings and parking lots. So why embark on an urban adventure to check out what the owner himself called “a neighborhood tavern”? We did the legwork for you, and can thankfully report at least five reasons to not only give it a shot, but to hop in your car immediately.

1. Those cocktails: Drawing Room vet Tim Lacey is responsible for the craft cocktails here, which showcase the range of Midwestern spirits as well as some creative ingredients. Fernet branca, sarsparilla, and egg whites are all in the mix (though thankfully not together), and the drinks’ clever names will have you smiling before you even take a sip.

2. Better bar food: Thanks to the gastropub trend, restaurants serving “elevated bar food” are a dime a dozen, but often the “better” part of that equation only translates to higher prices and a proliferation of fried eggs atop every dish. Ada St.’s prices are right, with bar snacks at about $4 and larger plates (fried quail, a gutsy cheese list, and the best octopus I’ve had in months) at the $10-$14 mark.

3. The hip-but-not-too-hip atmosphere: Simply put, the interior is beautiful, comfortable, and sexy. If Avec’s wood theme met The Violet Hour’ s sensual, dim lighting, they’d give birth to Ada St. There’s clearly an eye for design here, but it’s not overbearing. The servers will describe the sort of DIY jukebox: choose a vinyl  record from one wall, hand it to the bartender, and hear it played in its entirety, but this feels natural in the small, intimate space, and less like a hipster gimmick. Take note, though, Roy Orbison fans: you won’t find him in the collection. I learned this the hard way.

4. A peek at a new-to-Chicago chef: Responsible for such delicious bites as fried black eyed peas and spot-on steak tartare, chef Zoe Schor makes her Midwest debut after stints at Tom Colicchio’s Craft and Thomas Keller’s Le Bouchon. She may be new to the city, but she won’t fly under the radar for long.

5. A chance to avoid inevitable waits: Now is the time to check out Ada St. before word really gets out. The dining room is small, there’s only a miniscule vestibule, and with a grand total of zero other bars or restaurants nearby, waiting for a table at Ada St. would feel interminable. A back patio promises to offer more seating in the summer, but for now, your best bet is to go soon, and go early.

–Kate Bernot