BrowntroutAddress: 4111 North Lincoln Avenue
Phone: (773) 472-4111
The contrasts at Browntrout may puzzle some diners, but chef-owner Sean Sanders (formerly at Bin 36) and his wife Nadia (who runs the front of the house) seem to strike a balance by offering local ingredients with global flavors in a sophisticated space that encourages friendliness and family gatherings.
They are seriously committed to sustainability issues, but their whimsical, ever-changing menus are fun to contemplate. You could make a meal of the “Smalls” (soups, salads, seafood and charcuterie in the $5-$10 range), but then you would miss out on the satisfying “Bigs”(home-cooking-with-a-twist entrees for about $15-$20). Sustainably-sourced fish features prominently, but they don’t ignore land animals (grass-fed and free range, naturally). And make sure you save room for at least one of the “Finals,” either traditional (e.g chocolate soufflé) or adventurous (bacon taffy apples). The Sunday brunch menu (at this time) ranges from buttermilk pancakes with seasonal fruit and house-made syrup to something called a “Falafel Dog.” Not surprisingly, there are many vegetarian options offered, and there is a separate kids menu.
Each menu offers items “of the moment” (such as pasta or omelets), and ingredients change with the season, so check the restaurant’s color-scheme-challenging website and don’t forget to look for the specials. Originally Browntrout was BYOB, but now they offer beer and wine so there is a $10-20 corkage fee (unless you bring in a vintage older than 10 years). The bar area is small, so don’t count on waiting space being available on busy weekends.
It would be easy to dismiss Browntrout as just another restaurant jumping on the local-seasonal-sustainable bandwagon, especially with the amount of press their rooftop herb garden got last year. But now the service kinks seem to be evening out and the surprising flavor combinations are more consistently satisfying customers.