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Family-Style Food and Fun: Dinner At City Provisions

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 21, 2012 4:00PM

We reported last month that City Provisions, the Ravenswood deli, catering company and local food haven, was starting dinner service. Every Friday and Saturday night, a small group of diners gather in the front of the deli and are treated to a family-style meal of seasonal, local cuisine.

Family-style communal dining is always a bit tricky. At a fashionable restaurant filled with beautiful people, communal dining is an exercise in avoiding eye contact with everyone around you. Each pair or group has awkward, stilted conversations as they feel like everyone is able to listen in, and there are plenty of expensive purses to accidentally step on as you slide in and out. This was different.

Perhaps it was the way the food was served (on huge platters overflowing with abundance) or the type of people drawn to a smaller, out-of-the way dinner that is entirely un-fashionable, but the experience couldn't have been more pleasant. People talked, drank and ate for hours and exchanged phone numbers at the end to do it again. If you're phobic about communal seating, this is the dinner that will change your mind.

All of the food (except dessert) is served family-style, and there was so much of it that everyone went home with boxes. Wine and City Provisions collaboration beers ($7 for a tasting of three beers) were available to drink, though we suggest that you stop over at the retail side of the deli and buy a bottle before dinner to save some dough. Dinner began with a platter of beef carpaccio, served entirely without frills. The traditional presentation with capers and oil was a great way to start the meal, and the awkwardness of getting the thin slices of beef off the plate relaxed all the diners and got people laughing.

There was a salad of spinach with a bacon vinaigrette, with a side of the best deviled eggs that we've ever tasted. The eggs, made with Chef Bill Kim's Belly Fire sauce, were the only thing all night that the table managed to completely polish off. After the salad, a giant platter of pan-roasted chicken, topped with an asparagus and green garlic confit, hit the table. We went back for thirds, which meant that we had less room for the savory potato gratin with grain mustard and the hearty roasted mushrooms with fresh basil. By the time the individual strawberry-rhubarb pound cakes hit the table, we were definitely done for the evening.

The bill for the evening (the dinner is $50/person) was substantial, but the dinner was entirely worth it. After months of fine dining and molecular gastronomy, of 10-course prix fixe dinners where each course is smaller than the last, it was refreshing to have a meal that reminded us what food was supposed to be about; great tastes, good company and that warm feeling you get after the perfect meal.

Dinner is served on Friday and Saturday nights. Seating is limited to 16 people, and reservations are required. Call (773) 293-2489 for reservations. City Provisions is located at 1818 West Wilson Street.