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Review: Frog N Snail

By Melissa Wiley in Food on Jul 17, 2012 4:00PM

Frogs and snails are both diminutive, slimy creatures, unprepossessing in appearance but capable of being metamorphosed into the rarest French delicacies. Aside from a café menu featuring sweet and savory crepes, however, Lakeview’s Frog N Snail bistro eschews the rarefied French cuisine its name might seem to suggest in favor of simpler, earthier Midwestern fare, preserving a cosmopolitan cachet with a long list of urbane, polysyllabic ingredients and inflated prices.

Unapologetically Midwestern, Dale Levitski's menu takes inspiration from seasonal fruits and vegetables and offers up no-fuss dishes in a spare, modern atmosphere. We visited Sprout’s sister restaurant for a weekday lunch and ordered the homemade ricotta dip with bacon, broccoli, herbs, and a baguette ($8) as a shared appetizer along with the Bibb lettuce with pickled peaches salad ($10) and the crispy brook trout sandwich on pumpernickel ($16).

Subtly flavored with Marcona almond, tobiko mustard, oven tomato, watercress, and red onion, the trout sandwich was on the diminutive, waist-watching side and was overshadowed by a profusion of house-made potato chips. Meanwhile, the peach salad, though fresh as the proverbial morning dew, proved needlessly sparing on the peaches. We expect petite, succulent portions at upscale restaurants; what you lack in quantity you typically gain in quality. But such proved to be only marginally the case here. And for a marginally tasty lunch, it's simply overpriced. Frog N Snail may have been a novelty in the Lakeview of five years ago, but today its propensity to think overly well of itself and its food just doesn't fly in a neighborhood with other new upscale options.

The servers and the space were unfailingly courteous, informed, and inviting; enough so that we’re game for the idea of revisiting and nibbling our way through the bistro’s appealing all-day café menu, if not its heartier provisions, which lacked a little too much heart for our tastes. The dissonant act of soiling our faces with a Nutella crepe and dribbling part of a chile cochon mocha onto the table in such an impeccably clean, geometric ambiance, where even the eponymous snail and frog are made of shiny steel, appeals to us. We’d like to see that frog get a little messy, maybe even a little fat. The fastidious, portion-control ethos governing Frog N Snail, however, isn’t going to allow that to happen any time soon.

The Frog N Snail is located at 3124 N Broadway. Open Tuesday - Sunday. Coffee bar/café: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; brunch: 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.; lunch: 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.; dinner: 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. 773-661-9166.