With such bread-and-butter neighbors as Red Hen Bakery and Panera, Pars Cove stands out as the most exotic eatery on the block. The family-owned Persian restaurant operates in an underground haven of simple decoration (look for potted plants, a sun-filled skylight and paintings of the homeland) with exceptionally friendly service. Trinkets of customer appreciation are common: Ladies are presented with long-stemmed roses when dinner is over and guests are frequently gifted with desserts or glasses of port wine. The restaurant's quiet and intimate ambiance comes compliments of a "hidden gem" status, making it a date-friendly destination.
Chef and owner Max Pars takes great pride in plying Chicagoans with food from his country: "I have yet to meet a European or American who doesn't like Persian food when introduced to it," he proudly declares. Pars' menu boasts flavors both familiar and daring, with appetizers running the gamut from hummus and baba ganush to the smoky Persian specialty kashk. The latter blends baked eggplant with caramelized onions, roasted garlic, mint and homemade yogurt.
For the main course, look to beef fesenjan simmered in a whole-lotta-flavor walnut and pomegranate sauce, or go for the veggie gourmeh, a blend of vegetables and caramelized onions in a crushed tomato garlic herb sauce. Chicken zarreshk is a standout among the chicken selections: Loaded with citrus sauce, currants and saffron, the dish provides an aromatic and exotic take on the old bird.
Occasional specials offer tons of food at low-low prices: Previous examples include the Ultimate Dinner for Couples. The special offered up two appetizers, two entrees, ice cream and (get this) a bottle of wine for $50.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Berg