RESTAURANT AND BAR RATING
During the holiday season my girlfriend Erin got me the gift of delicious food and amazing cocktails! She surprised me by taking me to a restaurant I had been wanting to try for the past several months, Income Tax. She also had another trick up her sleeve that night, brining me to the innovative cocktail bar The Aviary in West Loop, but I’ll review this stellar spot later in the year. This review is all about Income Tax, a restaurant and wine bar located in the northern Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater that opened recently in the winter of 2016. It is the area’s gem of a restaurant serving top notch cocktails and modern European cuisine.
The inside of Income Tax feels like a dimly lit speakeasy, equipped with a beautiful bar and several candle lit booths and communal-like tables where you sit a bit too close to other guests. The restaurant gives off a dark and intimate ambience at night with its black cushion seats at booths, dark wood dividers and hardwood flooring, and exposed brick walls. I’m guessing when it is light out the sun shines through the large windows at the front of the building, brightening up the bar and restaurant. A small patio is available during Chicago’s warm months for those that want to dine outside.
The service is excellent with each waiter or waitress extremely attentive to all tables, happy to give food and pairing recommendations. The staff at the restaurant also does a fantastic job at brining dishes out in a well-spaced and well thought out manner, starting with lighter dishes and ending with heavier and more rich plates.
While Erin and I mainly went to Income Tax for its food, the intimate spot is also known for its stellar cocktails. Multiple publications including Liqour.com have named Income Tax as one of the best new bars in Chicago. Erin opted for wine but I couldn’t pass up trying a cocktail. I went with a cocktail called Autumn in Oaxaca, made with mezcal, rye, Amaro, Amontiallado Sherry, and vanilla. It was the perfect drink during a bitter cold winter’s night, delivering warmth and smokiness from the mezcal and rye with sweet notes from the sherry and vanilla.
The menu at Income tax is divided up into entree, appetizer, and smaller plate options including bites, jars, and cheeses. Since they were basically sitting at our table, the couple seated next to us overheard Erin and I debating on what to get and they highly recommended the Whipped Chevre jar which contains Chevre (a light French cheese made from goat’s milk), poached pear, and tarragon herbs. We took their recommendation and loved it. The sweet and savory jar was served with a bit of pickled green beans and ham along with delicious homemade focaccia bread. The saltiness of the bread was a perfect match for the sweet and savory components of the Chevre jar. It was a flavorful yet light dish to star the evening out on.
The next small plate that we ordered, the Strangolapreti, was just named by TimeOut Chicago in their top 100 appetizer and side dishes of 2017. This dish features four small spinach and ricotta dumplings with a bit of an aioli like sauce for dipping. It didn’t wow Erin or I like it wowed other friends who have dined at Income Tax, but they were well cooked with a fantastic light and fluffy texture bolstered by the flavor of the sauce served with it.
After the Strangolapreti we were served the Flammenkuchen, a tart with Fromage Blanc (a white cheese from the northern France and southern Belgium) topped with onion and bacon. The tartness of the Fromage Blanc and crispiness of the outer exterior of dough alongside savory bacon and sweet onions made it a rich tasting yet lighter dish before delving into our entrees for the night.
We were served all of our entrees around the same time but the Carrot Agnolotti arrived a bit before our steak dish. I heard rave reviews about this particular entree, but we were unsure whether to order it because Erin wasn’t sure if she liked or wanted to try veal sweetbreads (the pancreas of a calf), but the waitress assured us that the sweetbreads were not a main component of the dish and that we would enjoy it. Good call because it was the stand out dish of the night! The dish features the aforementioned veal sweetbreads, mushrooms, and basil atop thick pasta in a hearty and buttery sauce that made for a unique and flavorful pasta dish. If you ever find yourself at Income Tax this is a must-try entree.
The other main entree that Erin and I ordered was the Grilled Dry-Aged Sirloin which came with a risotto with arugula butter topped with balsamic. The steak was masterfully cooked, with a tender and juicy center, but it lacked a strong flavor, perhaps under-seasoned or topped with too little sauce. The risotto it was served with was solid, with the arugula butter and balsamic adding a unique and sweet touch to this fine dining staple.
After the entrees it was time to make the age old debate of whether dessert should be had or skipped. Our waitress came by with a very small dessert menu, and nothing particularly jumped out to us as anything too special but our addiction to chocolate was far too strong, as we ordered the Chocolate Mousse with Sea Salt. It was as advertised, a decadent and creamy chocolate mouse topped with whip cream and sea salt, making for a stellar sweet and salty flavor combination. I enjoyed the dessert but thought it was a standard mousse and nothing too special while Erin absolutely loved it.
Income Tax is a reminder that not all good food is found in the West Loop, River North, or Logan Square areas of Chicago. The city has a ton of neighborhoods with an expansive list of amazing restaurants. While Edgewater can be quite the trek north for some the neighborhood’s restaurants are a reason to come visit the laid back and charming area, and Income Tax is a whole reason in and of itself to come up north for some fantastic service and delicious modern European food and drinks.
-Michael Averbook, Foodie Extraordinaire