Step back into the romantic era of train travel (and no, we aren't referring to the CTA). This train car has retired to its station adjoining the oh-so-tiny bar Matchbox
. Though situated only steps from the noisy Chicago/Milwaukee/Ogden intersection, once inside the 1947-built dining car the sounds of the city are muffled. Entering can be a bit confusing, as you must enter from the restaurant's bar atop the Matchbox.
But once inside, a space dimly lit by candles and pinkish-red tiny Christmas lights, with windows cloaked in burgundy velvet curtains, the space is inviting. Working in opposition to the mood created by the small space (about 12 tables) and simple decor was the slightly loud and poorly selected music in the vein of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The restaurant misses an opportunity to enhance its experiential dining by not playing music of the era.
Wines from nearly every region of the world are offered (by-the-glass for bottles under $50); the Matchbox's famed cocktails aren't on the menu, but you'd do well to ask for them. There are several reasonably priced appetizers, including the popular Chesapeake & Ohio R.R. crispy calamari and the surprisingly light Louisville & Nashville onion rings. Train travelers must have been rather fond of duck because the chef offers up spicy duck wings, double ginger duck and a duck club sandwich. For a less adventurous palate, there's a cheeseburger deluxe. If you're really feeling indulgent, ask your server about the Three Little Pigs Sandwich (called the "best sandwich in America" by chef/TV host Anthony Bourdain on his show, "No Reservations"): it's smoked ham, a breaded pork cutlet, two strips of bacon, two fried eggs and gruyere cheese, all on a brioche bun.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Jennifer Wennig