“Do you know anything about our concept?” asked our server at The Farmhouse as he poured us water out of a glass bottle with one of those old-fashioned rubber stoppers attached. Don’t let the name confuse you about their location. They are situated pretty solidly on the near north side of Chicago. Although I had just wandered in there with my mom based on a peek at Yelp and a glimpse of multiple star rating, I did feel I knew a bit about their concept. They were called the Farmhouse for gosh sakes. They were a mere block or two from City Farm, which I had already grilled the hostess about. She told me they did use some of the produce from there, but also they used produce from their rooftop garden and their farm in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
We sat at a table for 2 that was made out of the industrial steel that lines truck beds to prevent slippage, and our utensils were wrapped in tea towels masquerading as napkins. The staff wore black t-shirts that had random farm animal names on the back. Our waiter’s said Pig, and the bartender’s said simply Ei-ei-oh. Clearly the concept had been very well thought out.
Still, we let him tell us about the concept. He told us how the Farmhouse was a farm-to-table establishment and what that meant for the diner. When I mentioned I had celiac disease (so that we could discuss the menu items I could safely approach) he even went down the rabbit hole of how the incidences of celiac disease were rising in part because of the GMO production of wheat by big farm industry. Not the usual server banter. Clearly they had passionate staff. For the lunch crowd just popping in to get a tasty bite during their hour break, this kind of talk might get a little heavy-handed. But for the diehard gourmand who wants to savor every bit of the experience, it was quite nice having a friendly staff that cared where their ingredients came from and how they were produced. I imagine if I hadn’t expressed any interest in their first question about their concept, they would have backed off with the information.
The lunch fare (and dinner and brunch for that matter) is classic Americana with a gourmet angle. Every condiment was made by hand in house, for example. The server was happy to explain how they roasted the tomatoes the day before to get the ketchup started. This time commitment in preparing each ingredient revealed itself to our taste buds in the form of freshness. Each ingredient tasted as if it had been brought it in off of the farm that morning. We ordered the buttermilk smashed potatoes, two house made sodas (pear fennel and classic cream soda), beet salad and the shaved rib eye sandwich with giardiniera and hand cut chips.
The staff remained attentive and informative as we tried to consume our lunch slowly enough to enjoy every bite. The buttermilk smashed potatoes had the best texture and salt to sweet and sour ratio imaginable. We shared it as a side dish and in the end it was like a shared dessert, with our forks dueling over the last scoop. The salad was light and airy, with arugula and red and yellow beets. The sandwich was heaped with shaved tender rib eye and Swiss cheese. Mild giardiniera gave it a little crunch. The chips were as thin and crisp as machine cut chips but with the added bonus of being fresher and tastier.
The cocktail and beer menu was extensive and inviting but my parking meter was only paid for 2 hours so I vowed to return for dinner soon and try the Citizen Summer gin cocktail with cider. Yum.
Lunch cost for two: $42
228 W. Chicago Avenue
Chicago, IL 60654