Friday, September 18, 2009

Southport Grocery's Café

Southport Grocery's simple storefront sits on a quaint stretch of Southport Ave. When you enter and walk past the "please seat yourself" sign, you'll notice that the interior is divided in three parts. There's seating throughout, but the bakery counter is on the left, the middle contains some shelved artisanal groceries, and tucked away against the right wall are a row of tables and seats that make up the bulk of the café seating. Quick recap that is more or less accurate: left - bakery, center - groceries, and right - café.

I sat on the right side ready to eat and the first thing I read on the menu, "We support sustainable farming practices & use local ingredients wherever we can." All right, all right. Starting things off right.

Moments later, I noticed something else on the menu that grabbed my attention: there were wine and beer pairings for all of the salads and sandwiches! Very interesting idea, unfortunately, it was midday and I wasn't in the mood to imbibe anything...

As I sat trying to decide what to order, I heard Queen's "Killer Queen" on the SG speakers. Awesome song, but it set up an atmosphere that clashed a bit with the relative peacefulness of the inside space.

I started with a "tasting" (small portion) of the apple manchego salad for $5 and I was not impressed. The juxtaposition of ingredients was creative yet lacking in substantial flavor. The cider vinaigrette was too light - almost undetectable. I really had to concentrate to taste it.

The components were fresh, but there were too many field greens. I would've liked more crispy prosciutto (and spread out instead of one single big piece in the center) and I would've liked more tartness. Perhaps the dried cranberries could've been replaced with tart cherries? Or maybe the julienned pink ladies could've been julienned granny smiths?

I found that adding the table side Black Lava Salt (Hawaiian sea salt + purified volcanic charcoal) helped the salad just a touch. The whole thing was meant to be sweet and refreshing and the salt overpowered those things, but added a new dimension of its own.

My main course was the $9 BLT, which was an inspired take on the classic sandwich. It was a delicious combination of applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, pureéd avocado, apricot compote, mayo, and it wasn't stacked too high. It was the perfect height, if one exists. Oh, and the challah bread - yumderful. The perfect cushion compliment for the flavors - a great toasted texture and a gentle touch of sweetness.

I do have one major gripe though. The broccoli-peanut-sunflower seed salad was, quite frankly, pretty gross. There was so much mayo and it made the side salad way too heavy! The broccoli, peanuts, and sunflower seeds were probably fine on their own, but the mayo glued them together in the most unappealing of ways. For instance, the broccoli heads soaked up so much mayo so that when you put one of them into your mouth, you barely tasted the broccoli. Please SG, use less mayo or axe the side salad altogether.

SG's Café provides interesting salads and sandwiches, and though each item will not blow you away, the quality of food is easily above average.

Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Southport Grocery - Lakeview - (773)665-0100 - 3552 N. Southport Ave, Chicago, IL 60657 - Public transportation: the Southport stop of the Brown Line or bus 152.

apple manchego "tasting" - $5
our blt - $9

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