Who’s who: In the kitchen are brothers Patrick and Michael Sheerin, whose collective resume of Chicago restaurants includes Blackbird, Everest, Signature Room and the Four Seasons Hotel. They joined forces with veteran restaurant partners Matt Eisler and Kevin Heisner of Nightwood, Bangers & Lace and Bar Deville. Together they designed the space and the menu to be a mix of old and new. The restaurant itself is located in a restored bathhouse with modern additions of custom furniture, and light fixtures hidden in the original pipes.
Eat: Taking bits of two popular restaurant trends - experimental cuisine and farm-to-table - the menu delivers Midwestern flavors by using unexpected ingredients. On the small-plates portion of the menu are the likes of tater tots made with pickles and served alongside chicken breast bresaola, red-onion yogurt and scallions. Follow that with entrees like slow-smoked Texas brisket served with “trencheritos” (housemade Trenchermen brand chips), mustard garganelli, snow peas and cornichons. Finish with a deconstructed s'more with chai tofu ice cream, coffee cake, fried chocolate and marshmallows.
Drink: There is wine on tap, beer on tap, aged cocktails on tap, exclusive Le Colombe’s iced black coffee on tap and even Malört on tap (there is also a cocktail made with the infamously bitter Swedish liquor-turned-Chicago favorite). If none of those wets your whistle, the back wall is busting with bottles of wine, plus cocktails like the Jewel-Up made with corn whiskey, apricot and mint.
Look: Few changes have been made to the façade of former North Avenue Baths, except the addition of a stone sign over the door reading Trenchermen. Once inside, guests still may be unsure if they have found the restaurant. The host stand is located in an apothecary with jars of herbs, bottles of concoctions, models of hands and a random horse head. Walk down a spiral staircase into the island-style bar featuring a Japanese dining counter and decorated with glass wine jugs. Two dining areas are a sharp contrast to each other - one with massive glass light fixtures, leather booths and butcher-block tables, and the other with electric-blue banquette seating and an almost psychedelic back-and-white floor. All of the walls are exposed brick except those with the original glass tiles.
Listen: Vintage Specimen speakers sitting on countertops and hanging above booths are not just an aesthetic addition. The red-and-gold machines actually work, adding retro audio to the Trenchermen experience.
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