The term "tavern" typically evokes smoky scenes with neon High Life signs and lit locals scarfing down buffalo wings. Not so at West Town Tavern, a contemporary bistro that seamlessly blends fine dining with the familiarity of a neighborhood bar. Owners Drew and Susan Goss
(of Zinfandel fame) opened the Tavern in 2001 as a place where their community could "gather for food, drink, news and gossip." The idea caught on, and word spread quickly beyond the borders of Eckhart Park.
For starters, forget the tired quesadilla. Appetizers like Rhode Island calamari with curried slaw or gnocchi with asparagus, soybeans, pesto and parmesan put average pub fare to shame. Susan's entrees include such piquant picks as the Ownesboro-style smoked BBQ lamb shoulder in a traditional black sauce and a pan-roasted trout with braised artichokes, honey-cured bacon and black olives. Vino enthusiasts will welcome the selection of 40 new and old world wines at $6-$11 a glass or a reasonable $25-$50 per bottle. Not sure what bouquet best complements that pappardelle? Drew ensures his servers know a Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon from a South African Sauvignon Blanc, so never hesitate to ask.
Hardwood floors, exposed brick and warm, mustard-hued walls exude a subdued elegance, and French doors open in warmer weather for al fresco dining. While you won't find the Bears game blaring above the oak bar, patrons are still welcome to grab a Belgian brew or 12-year-old single malt scotch after a long day in the trenches. Despite the polish and upscale prices (entrees average around $18), a casual ambience prevails. The personable staff understands the difference between attentive and intrusive. Whether you come for dinner or drinks, decked out or dressed down in jeans, the Gosses have a knack for making townies feel genteel.
Average cost: $21-$30
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Foreman