A gorgeous early fall weekend with Becky back in Chicago to install her art, gave us the opportunity to try another new (to us) spot that we have long been intrigued by – Wood.
Setting the Scene
We wandered down an unusually quiet Halsted Street through Boystown around 12:30pm on Saturday. The sun was out and the temperature pleasant, the Cubs were in town, but not many people were out and about on the street. Walking in to Wood, we were greeted promptly by a very friendly host, letting us know right away that the patio was open, but there was a “bee problem.” We opted, as usual, to sit at the empty bar. The rest of the restaurant was quiet, with only about three other tables. The music gave a nice atmosphere, somewhere in between dance music and jazz, at level that was not overwhelming.
Our initial impression of the sparse clientele was that it consisted of a very different set of folks than those who usually frequent Boystown’s notorious boozy brunches. More older-gay-man-with-boytoy, or straight-couple-treating-their-gay-friend-to-a-fancy-treat-after-a-breakup-brunch than the typical raucous party. Maybe they can afford a nicer bottle of champagne or something. It’s a place in the gay hood to which you could ostensibly bring your conservative, straight-laced parents, you know, to prove that no, this isn’t a phase,* and no, it’s not all about sex and parties and cocaine.**
*Spoiler alert: it definitely isn’t.
**Spoiler alert: it is. Stuff them in a cab back to their hotel and head to Scarlet for some cute drag and debauched cocktails.
Amenities and Accessibility
The front and side entrances to the restaurant both have a step up, so we were confused about the advertisement that it was accessible to people with mobility considerations. Upon further investigation, we were told that there is a back entrance through the alley that was accessible, but we did not actually experience it. Any additional information from readers would be much appreciated.
In addition to the main entrances not being accessible to all customers, the tables and booths in most of the bar and restaurant are at a height that is also inaccessible to those in wheelchairs or with other mobility concerns.
Food and Drink
While Wood does not have a bottomless brunch deal, they do have $5 mimosas and $7 Bloody Mary’s, with the option to add a beer back for $2 (and this is a full pint of beer folks!). The menu offerings vary seasonally, but have a range of breakfast sweets and savories, as well as heartier lunch fare.
Jodie ordered the roasted Berkshire Pork with salsa verde, grilled peaches, and seasonal grilled vegetables. Oh. Girl. Jodie has a Lot of Feelings about the pork. Get ready for her to wax poetic and make the most of that dusty English Lit degree…
The thick cut of pork was resplendent with crisp fattiness. It was crisp on the outside and buttery on the inside, definitely due to the whatever magical roasting process they use. The only way to get a beautiful crust like this while rendering the fat inside into a creamy delight is to sear it to perfection. Or be a wizard. Clearly, this was masterfully done.
The salsa verde really made this dish sing. The bright and vibrant flavor countered the richness of the pork magnificently: bright, fresh, and ever-so-slightly acidic. While this was an exceptionally filling dish, the salsa verde kept Jodie coming back because of how it harmonized with the bold flavor of the pork.
Jodie would be remiss to leave out the wonderful vegetables. The late summer season landed fresh corn, zucchini, squash, and some kind of sweet red onion into the mix of this dish. These were also roasted to perfection: the crisp char brought out the best flavors in each veggie, caramelizing without obscuring their unique flavors.
To drink, Jodie ordered the $7 bloody mary and added a $2 beer back. It was a full pint glass of Allagash White, unlike the dainty Miller Lite ponies to which Jodie is accustomed. While the bloody mix wasn’t chilled and could have used more horseradish, this is clearly the superior deal as far as drinks are concerned. The mix could use more doctoring to make it a taste treat as well as a bargain.
Becky ordered a more traditional brunch fare in the omelet. This was a classic French style omelet with Raclette cheese, caramelized onions, and petite salad on the side. The earthiness of the cheese pared perfectly with the sweet but toothsome onions and the fluffy and creamy omelet. The salad was composed of lightly dressed peppery greens and very thinly sliced radishes. It was the perfectly bright compliment to the richness of the omelet’s many delightful flavors.
The spectacular joinery on the bar’s dark wood decor. Jodie was enamored with it.
The sparkling cleanliness, in every part of the bar and restaurant. Always a good thing.
The moisturizer in the restroom. The perfect thing for Jodie’s dry hands!
The bartender, André. He was, initially, a bit shy, but we were enamored nonetheless. He was attentive and polite and gave us excellent service.
Our brunch at Wood, food-wise, was a spectacular experience. One that has proved to be unique in our brunch travels. In fact, it brought us back for dinner service several days later. The appeal of the food is undeniable. However, we do have some critiques:
J Roget-blah. Substandard and disappointing in contrast to the finesse and thoughtfulness of the other drinks and dishes.
For an establishment that has so much wood-fired goodness, it was also disappointing that the Bloody Mary lacked any fiery or smokey accent. The mix straight out of the Mrs. T’s plastic bottle lacked the attention to detail that all of the food was afforded. Given the chef-y food, the complete lack of thought for the drinks is disappointing and puzzling. A wood-fired tomato blend or other vegetable, a waft of smoke from a fragrant wood to accent the flavors…ANYTHING to enhance the magic that was apparent in the food.
The food is very “restaurant,” but the atmosphere is very “bar” in terms of the architecture of the space. The accessibility considerations concern us.
With all of these things in mind, we give Wood’s brunch experience a thoughtful and earnest 7 out of 10. While the food was transcendent, the drinks left much to be desired because of the apparent thoughtlessness behind their execution. Clearly, we enjoyed the food, but don’t expect a full drink and brunch experience. We feel as though they’ve sold themselves short, thus our sub-optimal rating.
Pro Tips – Optimize Your Experience
- Bees. Until they change their flowers on the patio, be sure to bring and Epipen if you’re susceptible to allergic reactions to bee stings.
- If you are not in a hurry for an early brunch, wait until 12:30-1pm. It seemed to us that the place was very quiet for a Boystown brunch at that time (which is normally the height of “gay brunch,” but this is most likely because it isn’t a party spot. The vibe is more food-focused than boozy, and for that reason, we are guessing it is busy early.
- Check their Facebook page for updates to the menu and specials, as well as mouthwatering photos that will tempt you on the spot!
- Bring judgmental family members for a pleasantly memorable experience. Then go out and have a fun gay ol’ time.