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Revisiting: Billy Sunday, More Than Just A Cocktail Bar

By Staff in Food on Apr 29, 2015 2:45PM

Baked Alaska (photo from Billy Sunday's Facebook)

Logan Square is saturated with overcrowded cocktail bars and we’d rather not get elbowed in the face while trying to reach for a banana daiquiri. Luckily, Billy Sunday (3143 W. Logan Blvd.) has great cocktails and serves as a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle. With a menu that looks forward towards modernism and yet holds a strong retro sensibility, it's worth making a dinner of their small plates as well.

We were surprised to find that the formerly meat-dominated menu at Billy Sunday has turned itself over to focusing on vegetables. “I love vegetables,” says newly-appointed executive chef Andrew Dering, “basically any part of the vegetable you can eat, and won’t get sick off of, we’re going to find a way to use it.” Dering has a background in fine dining, with experience in the kitchens of Longman & Eagle and Graham Elliot. He represents his past with detailed platings and extensive, complex flavor profiles.

Salt-baked radish (Photo by Melissa McEwen)

The menu is broken into two parts: “Snacks” and “Things in a Jar.” There is an impressive presence of creative vegetarian items across the menu. Our favorite snack is the salt-baked radish: an exquisite modernist plating featuring radish in three ways artfully balanced atop a swoop of goat butter and house-made saltines protruding. We also love the carrots, which have been grilled until they are so tender they melt in your mouth and are served with chickpeas, yogurt and raisins.

(Photo by Melissa McEwen)

It’s hard to choose between the items on the “Things in Jars” section; each offers its own twist and allurement. Though we're glad that there are more vegetable options, the patés here are still highlights. The chicken liver mousse with curried raisin mostarda and a quail egg is an experience in both texture and flavor. The sweetbread paté is layered beneath huckleberry jam, bacon and cornichon. It is sweet, smoky and slightly acidic. We learned quickly that the best way to eat these jarred snacks is by combining all of the elements onto a well- buttered piece of bread from Publican Quality Breads. “I love getting the bread delivery,” says Dering, “when it comes in the morning, the bread is still hot from the oven.”

Burning Baked Alaska (Photo by Melissa McEwen)

We finished our meal with the Baked Alaska, indulgently built with luxardo cherries and dark chocolate. It's one of those desserts we’ve always gawked at in vintage cookbooks, but never tried until its recent chef-driven gourmet resurrection. Our inner pyromaniacs were delighted when they actually set the dessert on fire.

This is exactly the kind of assertive food that's perfect for pairing with a drink from The Good Book, a long list of high-end scotches and amari, a trendy Italian herbal liqueur. If drinking it straight isn't your style, their cocktail list features a library of bitters balances with unique ingredients. We really like the Blackthorn, with 14-year pot-stilled irish whiskey, Sloe gin, vermouth di Torino and Willet Bergamot bitters. Don’t overlook the cocktails that have remained on the menu for a while, like The Victorian, a marriage of gin and fernet with wormwood bitters. They’ve stuck around for good reason.

Of course, we'd be remiss if we didn't also praise their beer and wine lists- basically, Billy Sunday is the kind of place where any booze and food enthusiast will happily take solace away from Logan Square’s more rambunctious spots.

By Erika Kubick and Melissa McEwen

Revisiting highlights restaurants that have been open for longer than a year.