North Pond: Hidden Treasure in Chicago

Recently when we spent a weekend in Chicago  with some dear friends, we decided to treat them  to dinner as a thank you for some wonderful kindnesses of theirs. I thought long and hard about what restaurant to book.  These friends own two restaurants and a specialty food market, love food and are extremely knowledgeable about anything “foodie.”   Choosing a restaurant was a bit daunting.  I wanted it to be a Wow.

Hmmmm. With so many good dining options in Chicago I had lots to think about.   Very quickly though I settled on North Pond in Lincoln Park and I’m so glad I did.  From the warm greeting to the cozy atmosphere and the wonderful menu, our evening at this vintage 1912 building was perfect.  One of the best moments for me though, was  when our friends opened their menus and started reading.  Both of them gave an audible gasp, saying “Wow, this looks great.”

Impressing foodies is a lot of fun.

But before I get into the menu let me share why I love North Pond.  First of all, it is one of those restaurants that a lot of people don’t know about.    It’s actually located on the northern tip of the North Pond, a body of water that parallels Lake Michigan in Lincoln Park.  Originally it was the warming house when the Pond skaters twirled and swirled around on the ice.

But then in the 1970s the water was treated and no longer froze.  The structure was used by the city for storage.  In the late 1990s the  building was turned  into a restaurant using an Arts and Crafts theme.  It’s warm and cozy and delightful.   I haven’t eaten there in the summer but I suspect this is charming too.

The thing you need to know though is that you access the pond through a walkway under a bridge on the  West side.  They have valet parking, but I have found that some times taxi drivers don’t know what you are talking about when you give directions.  Fortunately when you make your reservation the restaurant representative will make this all clear to you.  The good news is that the restaurant is hidden away, private, intimate and blissfully quiet.

When you find your way to the restaurant, the  wonderful view of the Chicago skyline, over looking the pond is a happy surprise.  I think it is one of the prettiest scenes of Chicago and always enjoy a moment to savor.

The photo above is in the little side room.  I love this spot because it is more intimate and diners have a view of the city.  Having said that, I will also say that the main room, open to the kitchen is delightful as well.

Interesting to me though is the parallel between the Arts and Crafts decor and the approach to food. The Arts and Crafts movement focused on craftsmanship of building and design–getting away from the sameness brought about by the industrial age.  I think the chef’s focus on local and seasonal food is also away of focusing on craftsmanship.

Our food was delicious.  The big deal chef, Bruce Sherman,  was one of the first to jump on the Farm- to -Table bandwagon that is bandied about in restaurant circles now.  The menu reflects the best of the season and we enjoyed the organic and locally grown choices.  Sherman, a partner in the restaurant,  supports local farmers and artisans.  The restaurant website lists dozens of contributing farms.

I was particularly impressed with our server.  When our guest asked about one of the ingredients in the special cocktail he had ordered, the server brought over the bottle and small sample for tasting.

North Pond makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time–a simpler, easier era far from text messages, Kindles and constant buzzing of my phone. It’s rustic chic atmosphere might make you want to dress up a bit–they request business casual– and it feels right.  We’ve celebrated birthdays at North Pond including my Mother’s 88th and our son’s completing his MBA at Northwestern.  We’ve sent friends to North Pond and have always heard good reports.

I look forward to hearing yours.

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5 Responses to North Pond: Hidden Treasure in Chicago

  1. Absolutely one of the best meals I’ve had . . . ever! From my “composed salad” with a surprise savory macaroon (a first for me) to my layered root vegetable strata to that outrageous gelato dessert (deconstructed) – North Pond was spectacular. A “must return” dining experience. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  2. I experienced North Pond for the first time last summer with my 2 grown kids as a send off before KC went to Germany. It fast became a Chicago favorite for all the right reasons. The lovely stroll through park-like settings to get there, the beautiful setting, the fun to appreciate and analyze interior design, and the innovative food using fresh, foraged or locally grown ingredients. Truly memorable. If you go in the winter, just remember not to wear flimsey footwear, as it is a little walk to get to.

  3. smithsj says:

    Good advice about the footwear.

  4. Peggy DePersia says:

    We had a most memorable dinner with our son at North Pond…we were fortunate to be able to enjoy it on short notice. I have since recommended this restaurant to many friends and family and we might not have know about it but for your ownrecommendation.

  5. Pingback: New York City: Have a Foodie Holiday | DesignDestinations

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