Saturday, March 1, 2014


With some places, you go in with certain expectations.  With any number of restaurants in River North or River West, you can expect good food and service with a really nice looking restaurant.  Neighborhood restaurants tend to be less flashy with the food a little lower end but many still do a nice job with their meal presentation.  Sometimes though you will run into a surprise.  There are restaurants in the high end areas that don't live up to expectations but there are also places in the neighborhoods that are able to step things up.  I went to Township recently because I happened to be in the area and I was hungry.  I wasn't expecting much because the place doesn't look like much and I certainly wasn't expecting to find anything to blog about.  I was familiar with the space before it became Township.  It was a very low-key Puerto Rican restaurant called Pancho's that made food that was edible but was really nothing to write home about.  The layout of the two restaurants is the same.  In fact, about the only things that changed as far as look was concerned is the sign.  Located across the street from a police station, the space is on a corner, is long and narrow and divided into two public rooms.  The front room is dominated by the bar/counter with tables by the windows.  The rear room has some tables but it is fairly open and is used as a performance space.  There is a small semi-open kitchen off of the front room but a lot of the food prep is done behind the counter.  While the place looks clean there really isn't anything to write about as far as design is concerned, the bartender was friendly though.  My surprise started when I first looked at the menu.  For a place that could easily be mistaken for a dive bar, they have a pretty extensive beer and liquor list with a pretty good selection of local stuff.  The cocktails did look pretty good but I decided to take it easy and went for a beer.  The food menu has many bar and grill standards but there was also hummus, a caprese salad, paninis, and a favorite of mine, Samosas.  Samosas are generally vegetarian pastries that originated in India and contain things such as peas, lentils, potatoes, and onions.  They are distinctly triangular and are frequently like rounded pyramids.  They are frequently served with chutney.  The Samosas served here were triangular and bulging, but not pyramidal.  They contained potatoes and peas and were served with two chutneys, a Cilantro Mint Chutney and a Tamarind Chutney.  The samosas were hot and crispy on the outside as they are supposed to be, with the inside moist, and flavorful.  I did try both chutneys and they both added a lot of flavor to the samosas but I preferred the tart and tangy tamarind chutney which was a little thicker than the cilantro mint.  The cilantro mint chutney which while flavorful, was thinner, and a little too spicy for my taste in this instance.

For my main course, I could have gone with the standard burger but the Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich with Red Onions and Mixed Greens on a Croissant piqued my interest especially considering that they had done the samosas very well.   The sandwich also came with a side which could have been french fries, salad, or soup.  I decided to stick with the theme I had been following and went with the Apple Tarragon Cole Slaw.  The croissant was delicate, flaky, and overstuffed (not that I'm complaining about that).  It was also toasted which prevented it from getting soggy and falling apart.  The chicken salad was made with some very good and flavorful chicken.  It had the standard things you might expect in a chicken salad other than chicken:  celery, onions, and mayo.  The curry also provided a nice spice.  The onions and greens were fresh and crisp, and added to the flavor of the sandwich.  The cole slaw had was a standard shredded cabbage salad with a light mayo based dressing.  It was crisp, slightly sweet, and very fresh.  The apples and tarragon made this more than the standard, but good, cole slaw.  There were a lot of thinly sliced apples that added a crisp tartness and the tarragon added some bittersweet notes.

Township's dessert list was very small, but their were a couple of things on it that really sounded good to me.  I ended asking the bartender what he thought was better and I went with a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and a Fruit Coulis.  The plate (and cake) came out covered in powdered sugar.  The cake was rich, chocolaty, and very good.  The coulis (a fresh fruit sauce) blended very well with the flavor of the cake and added a little tartness.  It was a very nice finish to an unexpectedly good meal.  While the space really has nothing to draw people, the food is very good and I will be back for more some time.         

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