May 3, 2010

Zesty Lemon and Flaky Pastry visit Longman & Eagle, The Whistler

All the cool kids live in Logan Square these days. They're eating at recently opened Longman & Eagle, and they've been drinking at the nearby Whistler for a while. Admittedly, I'm not really cool. I always sat with the nerds when I was in school and would probably still fit in with them today. But Flaky Pastry, who I hereby declare a fellow nerd, and I did our best to fit in as we checked out both venues.

You can't argue with Longman's simple motto, which is emblazoned on its door: Eat Sleep Whiskey. All three count me as one of their biggest fans. Longman handled the latter expertly in Vieux Carre, a cocktail comprised of rye whiskey, vermouth, cognac, and Benedictine—a sort of uber-manhattan. (Whiskey lovers will find an exhaustive list of bourbons and other mainly American whiskeys on the menu.) I didn't find the kitchen as skilled as the bar, however. Yes, the kobe meatballs are little nuggets of deliciousness, served with a bright pesto and creamy polenta. And the arugula, roasted beet, and goat cheese salad was perfectly enjoyable, if a little too skimpy on the cheese. But my main course, veal breast and beef cheek manicotti, left me feeling a little flat. The veal was mostly tender and enjoyable but too fatty in parts. The manicotti, meanwhile, was too chewy. I also thought the pairing of the two didn't make sense, but that's a minor quibble. This isn't Alinea, after all. Flaky Pastry found her hamburger to be unforgivably dry and bland, and didn't even finish half of it. And it seems that veering off the whiskey list and ordering a simple white wine caused some melodrama between the bartender and the varietals. That had to be sparkliest Chardonnay she'd ever had! Some of our fellow patrons swore by the enormous, unwieldy appearing Sloppy Joe, though my thoroughly cool hair stylist (and Longman regular) tells me it shares the same quality as the burger. Caveat emptor!

Following dinner, we headed to The Whistler, a hipster haven that has (justifiably) gotten a lot of press for its creative, classically inspired cocktails. It's rather nondescript, easy-to-pass-right-by exterior decor is really no indication of the good times that can be had inside. Live music each night is a virtual guarantee, and although there's no food service, pizza delivery and takeaway is never frowned upon.

Among the cocktails, my favorite was the Slippery Slope, another manhattan-ish blend, but this time with apricot and lemon, in addition to the usual whiskey and vermouth. I also wouldn't turn down the Welcome Back, with gin, St. Germain, lillet blanc (one of those liquors popping up everywhere these days), and absinthe, which we both enjoyed. Every cocktail is just $8—a more than fair price for the quality and effort. We arrived early, around 8 pm, but by 9, the bar was brimming with neighborhood folks sporting the standard Logan Square uniform: skinny jeans, flannel, shaggy hair, and a PBR in the right hand. (Lest you think I'm exaggerating, the guy sitting at the bar next to me matched that description to a T). But these not-so-cool kids would happily drink at The Whistler again. Maybe you'll find us both relaxing on the back outdoor patio this summer!

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