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One Great Dish: Middle Illinois Beef and Black Bean Chili from Nightwood

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Nov 14, 2011 5:40PM

Image Credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

Every weekend, like clockwork, I receive the menu for Nightwood's Sunday brunch in my inbox and I study it like I'm back in school, cramming for a nuclear reactor theory final. There are the staples of the menu, like the bacon butterscotch doughnut, the cheeseburger and the granola with yogurt.

Then there are the changes to the menu, since no two Nightwood menus, like snowflakes, are alike. Near the bottom of this week's menu, right above the cheeseburger was this item:

"Middle Illinois beef and black bean chili, cornbread croutons, sour cream, green onion, runny egg."

"Middle Illinois beef" had me making up Tolkien jokes, as though there's a rabbit hole to Middle Earth somewhere between Peoria and Springfield where hobbits live peacefully raising grass-fed cattle without having to travel to Mordor. Whether it was a hobbit or Nightwood's talented kitchen, this chili wound up being the best I've tasted in a while that wasn't made by Ramova Grill or me. This chili had an amazing color, tender beef and a lingering spice that matched well with Nightwood's "Trifecta" cocktail, a turbocharged combination of Guinness with a shot of Jameson's Irish Whiskey and espresso.

Here's hoping Nightwood brings the chili back on the everyday menu. It's worthy of an encore.