After numerous delays, Farmhouse Evanston finally opened in mid-July.
The younger sibling to the Michelin-starred Farmhouse Chicago, its arrival has been much anticipated. Opening in a space seemingly haunted by failed restaurants, the team behind FE has worked hard to bring their wildly successful, farm-to-table vision to life north of the Chicago border.
The interior is totally new, from the pressed tin and brick walls to the old-timey light fixtures. Rural-themed murals and posters and the reclaimed wood farm tables add to the feeling. Of course, all those hard surfaces contribute to the noise level, which, at least in the main room and bar, was loud.
If you’re a fan of locally sourced beer and small-batch liquor, look no further. With 64 taps between the upstairs and downstairs bars, running the gamut from Barley Island Sheet Metal Blonde to Vander Mill Hard Apple Cider, you won’t soon run out of options.
There are some terrific cocktails as well, like the Hum-Dinger ($8), a refreshing Hum liqueur spritzer, or the Swing ($8), a jazzed up gin and tonic with cucumber and lime (ask them to hold the simple syrup). Enjoy the homemade crunchy Potato Chips with creamy dill dip, brought in lieu of bread.
You’ve gotta get the Beer-Battered Wisconsin Cheese Curds ($9), which are much lighter than you’d think, cloaked in a light and crispy tempura-like batter and served with house-made ketchup (delish) and “Spicy Curd Sauce.” What if tater tots were made of cheese? Here’s your chance to find out. BTW, I am already tired of typing the words “house made,” so just assume that everything is, OK? It’s that kind of place.
We lucked out with the day’s Flatbread ($12), which was spread with caramelized onion puree and dotted with sausage, sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese and fresh arugula—a nice combination of textures and flavors, although I’d like to see a crisper crust.
Mussels ($12/$24) come in two sizes, large and unimaginably huge. Although the menu billed the cooking liquid as wine, it had a distinctly hoppy and slightly bitter flavor—not that there’s anything wrong with that! Add in chopped tomatoes, bacon and curry-pickled shallots, and it’s a worthy version of the menu standard.
We’re not sure what the story was with the Farmhouse Chop Salad ($10). Although it was filled with market veggies, tavern nuts, dried Michigan cherries and tossed with creamy herb-cider dressing, it was woefully under-seasoned and had a muddy taste that I couldn’t get past.
Back to happy times with the Indiana Duck Breast ($24), rosy and juicy, fanned over a luscious bed of creamy white polenta and topped with a sauce of duck demi and fresh cherries, dusted with toasted pistachio, all served on a wooden plank. Damn. That’s all I can say.
We were also impressed with the Maple-Brined Pork Chop ($24), perfectly cooked and moist, served atop Indiana collard greens with little bacon nubbins, brown butter and Nueske’s Ham Glaze. It was porky and delicious. Although it was unclaimed on the menu, I suspect that the Half Roasted Amish Chicken ($22) was also brined first, because it was downright succulent. Once you throw that on a plate with roasted forest mushrooms, barley, wild gooseberry pan jus and a sprightly herb salad, there’s no going back.
Grilled Stuffed River Trout ($24) made a gorgeous plate with a still life of fresh yellow and black currants and lemon segments, black quinoa and spring onions. Each entrée we sampled was one I’d order again.
If you’re thinking that Mac & Cheese ($6) is a superfluous side dish, you’re wrong. Here, the wagon wheels are bathed in a cheesy sauce with just enough cheddar and mustard bite—totally calorie worthy.
Desserts (all $8) need some work. Lemon Cornmeal Cake was dry, and nearly overwhelmed by the assertive lemon curd and humungous mound of softly whipped cream. The blueberries seemed an afterthought rather than a focal point.
Peanut Butter Bread Pudding was served in flat, dense squares and was a disappointment. The best option was the Chocolate Ice Cream Sundae, topped with cherry preserves, local honey, caramel and waffle cone crumbs. Nom nom.
With so much else right, I’m sure they will pull this course together as time goes on.
Like many of you, I heard stories of people who dined here the first week or two they were open, and there were issues. It sounds like they handled it as best they could, inviting guests to return with gift certificates, and apologizing for being overwhelmed. If you are going to visit a restaurant in the first week they’re open, you have got to keep an open mind. There’s nothing more challenging than that first week, when the kitchen is just getting in the groove. I urge you to try Farmhouse Evanston; I think you’ll agree that it’s worth a visit, and it might even make it into your regular rotation.
3.5/5 stars (B+)
703 Church St.