I’ve never been to Europe so whenever I’m eating or drinking in an adorable cafe or restaurant and someone says “this feels exactly like we’re in (insert romantic European country here)!” I just smile in agreement, nod along and drink my wine. However, since I’ve never experienced the charm and cobblestone of France or Italy (is there cobblestone there? In my fantasies, there is), I’m easily sold when someone tells me that a restaurant invokes an authentic European nostalgia.
At Troquet in Ravenswood, flavors from France feel right at home on an approachable menu dominated by Croque Monsieur, Les Moules, or mussels, served with heaping piles of frites and a cheese plate served with a stack of baguette slices and fresh apricot jam.
What the menu lacks in variety, it makes up for in flavor, with hearty sandwiches like a French Dip on a baguette piled with roast beef, choice of swiss and horseradish aioli or Croque Madame, a hot grilled ham and cheese topped with a fried egg. For diners who want to eat lighter (and I’m not sure why you would want to in this land of cheese, bread, more cheese and more bread) opt for La Salade du Troquet or “house salad greens” with pine nuts, cherry tomatoes or La Chèvre Salade, a chopped salad with candied nuts, goat cheese, dried cherries and avocado.
The wine list is surprisingly short, but offers a well-rounded selection of French and Italian reds, whites and sparkling wines. Though a French oenophile might like more options, the average wine drinker might find it refreshing to make one simple choice between three distinct grapes, without a ton of varietals and winemakers to choose from. Cocktail offerings range from traditional (Kir Royal, Sazerac) to the more inventive (the ‘Early Morning’ featuring bourbon and maple syrup and a pepper-spiked Cucumber Martini).
It’s the perfect place to languish over a bottle of wine and a few shared plates and though I’ve only been for dinner, I feel certain that there might be no better brunch than a Croque Madame and frites on a Sunday afternoon.
The best part about Troquet, which sadly has a weather-contingent expiration date, is easily its outdoor patio, shaded by the tree-lined Wolcott Avenue. Between the bistro tables and the expansive windows that let you overlook passing traffic, the utterly casual atmosphere is convincingly European, even if I have to take everyone else’s word for it.
For more information call 773-334-5664 or visit www.troquetchicago.com.