We Ate Lunch At Every Restaurant In The New Revival Food Hall
By Anthony Todd in Food on Oct 5, 2016 3:32PM
For a couple of weeks, the opening that seemed to be at the top of everyone's list was Revival Food Hall, the giant dining hall in the loop that promised to bring the best of Chicago's neighborhoods to downtown diners. But did it deliver?
The answer is: Mostly, yes. We (we meaning Food Editor Anthony Todd and EIC Rachel Cromidas, along with some friends) tried dishes from every single restaurant inside of Revival over many visits to bring you our recommendations, from the fried chicken you should run and get right this second to the mysteriously crafted "healthy" bowls that we couldn't quite understand.
A few general comments before we dive into the restaurants. Revival is an unusual and ambitious project, bringing together a lot of businesses that aren't used to working in fast casual mode inside of a food court. Understandably, there've been a few growing pains. On a few different occasions, the credit card system for the entire hall has crashed, leaving the restaurants to fill in with Squares or go cash only. Twice during visits, all the lights went out for a minute or so. And the lines still remain painfully long, as some of these restaurants try to figure out how to crank our their finely-crafted food at a pace that can meet the needs of the Loop's hordes of drop in lunch diners.
Speaking of diners, don't count on finding seating at Revival during peak times. The space isn't quite as big as it looks in photos, and while they've crammed as much seating as they reasonably could into the hall, it's not nearly enough for those who want to dine. Our suggestion? Go at an off hour. Each restaurant has a small bar where you can interact with the staff and, sometimes watch the prep, and this is by far the best way to experience Revival. Plus, at some spots (Danke) they have bar-only specials. So if you happen to have some free time around 3 p.m., you can sip some wine and snack on some charcuterie.
All in all, our experiences at Revival have been pretty positive. The space is beautifully decorated, the quality of the food has been mostly pretty great, and having not one but 14 new loop lunch options is enough to make every office drone's life a little happier. It will take many more months to enjoy the complete menus from all of these spots, but here's a good sampling.
On to the restaurants!
Bowl from Aloha Poke.
Name: Aloha Poke Company
Description: This Lakeview restaurant offshoot offers bowls of ahi tuna poke with rice and salad. Picture: tons of fresh, colorful ingredients, piled together and drizzled with mayo.
What We Ate: The Kahuna-sized salmon-poke crunch bowl with salad greens, jalapeño, cucumber, edamame, scallion, tobiko, and spicy aioli.
Recommended?: Yes. If you're looking for something fresh and delicious and not particularly photogenic, this is a solid, ostensibly healthy option.
Antique Taco Chiquito.
Name: Antique Taco Chiquito
Description: The chiquito version of Wicker Park's acclaimed Antique Taco, which puts a gourmet twist on an already unbeatable food.
What We Ate: The mushroom fajitas and crispy fish tacos.
Recommended?: Hell yes. Every bit as good as the Wicker Park location, Antique Taco Chiquito delivered with perfectly crisped tempura-battered fish and well-seasoned mushroom fajitas. At $7+ for two tacos the menu gets a little pricey, unless you'll be satisfied with a quick bite, but we think it's worth the splurge. Just be prepared to wait a long while to get your tacos if you visit Revival during the peak lunch rush. Everyone wants to eat here.
Black Dog Gelato's cucumber sorbet.
Name: Black Dog Gelato
Description: A West Town-based gelato shop featuring small batch, local ingredients.
What We Ate: Cucumber sorbet.
Recommended?: Of course. The cucumber sorbet was amazingly refreshing, but it seems to be a seasonal flavor, so we'll have to go back and try more now that fall is here. We recommend you stop by anytime you're in the mood for refreshing sorbet or decadent gelato—you can't beat their craftmanship and creative flavors, especially not in the Loop, and you'll be supporting a local company.
Name: Brown Bag Seafood Company
Description: This seafood spot (which also has a location in River East) focuses on simple grilled and fried fish, served with rice and grains. Diners can get things like crispy shrimp, fish bites and salmon teriyaki.
What We Ate: Veggie box with Crispy Shrimp
Recommended?: Absolutely. This dish is filled with meaty, breaded shrimp, a mix of green beans, brussels sprouts and carrots that will fill you up without weighing you down, and a perfect amount of seasoning. We can't wait to go back and try their catches of the day.
The fried chicken at Budlong. Photo by Anthony Todd.
Name: The Budlong
Description: The only remaining outpost of this Nashville hot fried chicken spot serves, well, pretty much just fried chicken and a few sides. Oh, and a biscuit that's not to be missed.
What We Ate: Dark meat chicken ($10), a Budlong biscuit ($3)
Recommended?: Hell yes. This was Anthony's favorite, and a great option for desk dining. The restaurant allows you to choose your level of heat (we went with medium, which was just enough to make our lips tingle) and the crust on this chicken instantly elevated it to some of the best in the city. The biscuit, a square flaky affair, was stuffed with a delicious abundance of black pepper and made us want to go back for more.
Pork Pate sandwich at Danke. Photo by Anthony Todd
Description: A sandwich-focused outpost of Table, Donkey & Stick in Logan Square, Danke also offers the longest bar at Revival, a nice wine selection and draft beers.
What We Ate: The "Shhh... Secret Sandwich" ($9.95) and the Pork Country Pate Sandwich ($10.50)
Recommended?: This was Rachel's favorite spot at Revival, and it was pretty high on Anthony's list. The pork pate sandwich doesn't hold back, with huge hunks of pistachio-laden pate topped with a sweet fig mostarda.
Adorable toasts at Farmers Fridge. Photo by Anthony Todd.
Name: Farmer's Fridge
Description: Healthy salads and gorgeous toasts.
What We Ate: Escarole Caesar and a smoked salmon toast with radish, labneh, cucumber and dill.
Recommended?: Depends on what you order. We were totally surprised that this outpost of the place that makes vending machine salads has some of the prettiest open faced sandwiches in the city. Get any of them, and you'll be very happy. Unfortunately, their salads seem to be made ahead in large batches, and the caesar turned out perfectly garlickly, but very very soggy.
Name: Fat Shallot
Description: A brick-and-mortar location of the popular food truck, the Fat Shallot inside Revival focuses on upscale diner food, including bagels, sandwiches, shakes and more.
What We Ate: The best BLT ever, the Truffle BLT ($10) and the bacon slaw ($3)
Recommended?: Mostly. That BLT was f-ing incredible, with about 2 inches of perfectly cooked bacon atop avocado, arugula and tomato. The slaw was totally meh, and didn't taste like much of anything—not enough acid, salt or bacon. But we can't wait to go back and try the Chai Ginger Snap shake.
Name: Furious Spoon
Description: A smaller outpost of the popular ramen spot.
What We Ate: Shoyu Ramen and Furious Ramen.
Recommended?: Hmm. If you dine in, Furious Spoon is a good choice. However, we took our ramen to go, and they package the broth and the accoutrements in separate bowls. This is courteous, but both times when we got back to our desk and mixed everything, the noodles stayed a solid block and were impossible to eat. Maybe this means we need to try harder, or authentic ramen lovers keep a steak knife at their desk, but it made it difficult to enjoy. That being said, the meat was cooked exactly right, the broth was flavored wonderfully and it's a huge and hearty meal for the price.
Name: Graze Kitchenette
Description: It's good old-fashioned burgers, fries, and some confusing but well-intended health bowls, created by a chef duo with some impressive accolades and restaurant credits under their belts. Graze bills itself as serving "dishes from the opposite ends of the food spectrum," so at least they're aware of how strange this is.
What We Ate: The Graze Burger and the "Damn Good" Avocado Matcha bowl.
Recommended?: Maybe? If you're craving a burger in the Loop you could do worse, but when we ate there the burger was served cold, with the cheese already congealing. And we're still struggling to figure out what the "damn good bowls" are all about. Avocado, acai, banana cashew and mango are all good flavors, but don't necessarily pair well with burgers and fries. The avocado matcha bowl was rich, heavy, and confusing, but thankfully it tasted good. But good luck finishing one in one sitting.
Name: Harvest Juicery
Description: A fancy cold-pressed juice stop that also serves a variety of nut milks and smoothies.
What We Ate: Pistachio Milk ($9) and Green Juice #1 ($10)
Recommended?: Nope. We admit it, we don't get fancy juices, but this expensive and mostly tasteless stuff reminded us why we don't really want to try that hard. The nut milk was a gritty, bland mess that tasted nothing like pistachio or "Portuguese salt cream" and the green juice, while perfectly tasty, was not worth the $10 it cost and didn't make us feel ready to face the day. Sorry, health food lovers.
The savory pastry of our dreams. Photo by Anthony Todd.
Name: Revival Cafe/Baked by Mindy
Description: The coffee shop by day/bar by night that anchors the front spot inside revival food hall. They've got a big selection of pastries created by superstar sweets chef Mindy Segal of Hot Chocolate.
What We Ate: A perfectly violet-sugar donut, a scrumptious mortadella and egg pastry, and several cookies.
Recommended?: Absolutely. This is one of the things inside of Revival that we genuinely craved even after eating there so many times. The pastries are, as you might expect, perfect, the variety of sweet and savory is just right and during all of our morning visits, there was no crowd and no wait. Make this a breakfast destination.
Smoque BBQ's pulled pork sandwich and side of BBQ beans.
Name: Smoque BBQ
Description: From the folks who brought top-notch BBQ to Old Irving Park, Smoque is serving up an abbreviated menu in the Loop with brisket, pulled pork, and traditional sides.
What We Ate: The pulled pork sandwich with a side of BBQ beans.
Recommended?: Yes. Smoque delivered on its reputation for delicious BBQ fare and brought us our food still hot without much of a wait time.
Name: Union Squared
Description: Detroit-style square pizza.
What We Ate: Pepperoni slice and Mushroom slice with leeks and walnut pesto.
Recommended?: Somewhat. Detroit pizza is having a moment, and we have to admit that we don't quite get the thick, doughy appeal. We'd much rather eat thin crust or, if we want to induce a coma, Chicago-style pizza over Detroit-style pan pizza. However, that being said, the mushroom pizza with leeks here is really, really good, with a delicious and funky walnut pesto that brightens up the whole list. Unfortunately, the soggy and impossible to eat pepperoni didn't live up to expectations.