The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

First Look: Gather

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 17, 2012 5:00PM

We were chatting last week with a fellow food journalist who we happened to meet at Gather, a newcomer to the Lincoln Square dining scene. "I wish there were 100 more restaurants like this," one of us said. Both of us nodded in agreement. Why? Because Gather is an example of our favorite kind of eatery: the comfortable yet ambitious neighborhood restaurant.

"I think Gather is the perfect word to describe what we're doing for the community in terms of offering a place for them to come and relax, have great food, great wine and a vibrant space," explained owner David Breo, a vet of NoMI and Spiaggia. "The whole goal was to make it almost like walking into a home. This is like a cool house more than it is a restaurant."

Gather is located in the space that was occupied by LM before it left to become a giant french monster chain attempting to fill the mouths of everyone in Chicago with sorta-average bistro fare. We predicted that the space wouldn't stay vacant for long, and we were right - Gather snapped it right up after it served as a brief time as a test kitchen for The Boarding House.

Does Lincoln Square need another restaurant? Breo thinks so. "I think that really there is nobody in the neighborhood doing what we are doing. Everything is made from scratch - we do our own bread, our own cheese, our own charcuterie." Gather is meant to be a space that can provide anything from a quick glass of wine to a full date night out, with an informal, comfortable vibe.

The space has a unity of design that isn't often found in neighborhood restaurants. Hexagons dominate, spilling from the walls onto the banquettes and even the menus. Luckily, some smart soul drew the line and the restaurant doesn't have hexagonal plates or strange silverware, so Gather seems posh rather than space-age/trying too hard.

We've heard a lot of complaining lately (and we may have done some ourselves) about how people are tired of small plates. Chef Ken Carter (formerly of Charlie Trotters) has come up with a menu that is a perfect compromise. One side of the menu, labelled "Gather and Share," contains the sharing dishes, perfect for a snack after work. A "Gathering Board" - a cheese and charcuterie collection that includes housemade options - sits alongside roasted cauliflower, brussels sprouts, a whipped brandade of halibut with roasted garlic and a mason jar of whipped house-made ricotta with honeycomb. These run between $6 and $18.

On the other side of the menu, appetizers and entrees are split like a traditional restaurant. If you want to have a real dinner out, this is the side for you. Start with crispy pork belly with butternut squash and move onto a tasty-looking burger with white cheddar and roasted pepper aioli. Pan seared walleye is served with a creamy mole sauce and a roasted half-chicken is served with a garlic-miso sauce. Pastries are kept simple - there are only a few options. The sticky bun promises to be the most popular, followed closely by the apple fritter with vanilla bean ice cream.

If you're bringing the family, consider stopping in for Sunday night family style dinners, where for a flat fee the chefs will fill the tables with kid-friendly fare for your whole clan. Gather promises to be a great place for locals and outsiders alike to have a fun, tasty dinner without too much fuss.

Gather is located at 4539 N. Lincoln Avenue. It is open for business and reservations are available on Open Table or by calling (773) 506-9300.