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First Look: Homestead, Redux

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 4, 2013 4:00PM

It's a bit strange to call this a "first look," since Homestead actually opened last year. But the seasonal restaurant, which just re-opened on Friday, has changed almost everything. The restaurant has a new chef, a new mixologist, a new menu, a totally revamped rooftop garden and a modified interior. It's the first time all over again.

When The Fifty/50 group announced they were hiring veteran chef Chris Curren, we suspected they were getting serious about the food at their many restuarants. The new menu at Homestead bears this out. It's still got the vegetal, funky edge that made us like Homestead the first time around, but the dishes are just a bit more complex and a bit less twee.

Fried chicken skins with sriracha sauce are just about the perfect bar snack, and the bread platter is unlike anything we've seen before. At least three kinds of bread from West Town Bakery downstairs, pickled ramps, onions, Oaxacan honey butter and herb oil, all served in a 3-foot long basket. The whole thing is $6 and, along with a cocktail, could probably serve as dinner for a skinny person. A whole fried trout, served with charred leek panzanella, is a dish you could order to shock your friends - we've never seen anything quite like it before. Check out a selection of dishes from the new menu in the photo gallery, along with dish descriptions.

In addition to the menu, the huge rooftop garden has been totally revamped. While before it was a wild rambling prairie filled with grasses and ornamental flowers, now it's much more like a vegetable garden with heads of lettuce, kale, brussels sprouts and tomato plants, boxes of microgreens and herbs and climbing ivy along the side of the building. It's still one of the prettiest patios on the West Side, but it's a bit more useful now. The restaurant group is also helping to renovate a farm in Michigan in order to assure a dedicated source of produce, and has brought on General Manager Steven Sampang, a gardening and hydroponics enthusiast, to help with the farm and garden programs. The roof clearly can't produce everything the garden needs, but it will help to "educate people about how easy it is to grow your own food, how important it is to eat local and support local farmers," explains Sampang.

We'll have more on the cocktails, by mixer Ben Schiller, later today in a post by our own Paul Leddy.

The restaurant is open for business, but slightly difficult to find. Head over to Roots Handmade Pizza and ask for Homestead. They'll take you up to the roof. For the next few days, it's probably still a good idea to sit inside, but be sure to take a ramble around the patio.

Homestead is located at 1924 W. Chicago Avenue on the second floor.