In March, 2012, Michael Kornick and David Morton, the force du jour behind DMK Burger and Fish Bar, opened Ada Street on an otherwise industrial and sleepy street off North Avenue and the Elston Corridor in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Despite its tucked away locale, Ada St. continues to pack ’em in with wait times exceeding an hour given its no reservations policy after 6:30 p.m. The entry into Ada St. is nondescript, so you better know where you are going when looking for the restaurant.
Upon entering, you are greeted by a friendly hostess and a long corridor filled with exposed brick, vintage vinyl, wine lockers, and candlelight. You will likely wait for a table, so peruse the cocktail menu and order anything that looks enticing; you won’t be disappointed. Cocktails are broken down by the main liquor component, be it gin, bourbon, rum, brandy, or vodka. I recommend the Tito’s Vodka-based Speaking in Tongues, with Aperol, St. Germain, and lime. Well-balanced and not overly sweet, it was a great pre-dinner drink. Ada St. also boasts a hearty wine and beer list.
When it comes to the food, chef Zoe Schor, formerly of Bouchon, Beso, and Craft, does not mess around. Crispy black eyed peas have been on the menu since the restaurant’s opening for a reason. However, my current favorite are the incredibly flavorful, crispy on the outside, delicious on the inside polenta fries, served with chipotle puree. I literally could not stop eating them and fought to the finish for the last one.
A number of specials are offered every evening, and on our recent visit, a shrimp cake was served that was outstanding. The blend of barbecue and mustard sauce accompanying the cake blended all of the flavors perfectly. I would definitely order this dish again if it made a permanent entry onto the menu.
The asparagus with truffle vinaigrette and a soft-cooked hen egg was very good, but I wish the yolk was runny so that it melted all of the flavors together. Still, the asparagus was nicely cooked and the truffle vinaigrette added a necessary richness to the dish.
The shaved artichoke salad, with orzo, salt-cured black olives, and parmigiano reggiano, was a lighter and refreshing dish, but even my husband who is a salt lover thought that it was overly seasoned. I appreciated the creative quality of this vegetarian offering.
I was stuffed after our starters, but my husband went on to thoroughly enjoy the crispy chicken thighs with bean salad and chimichurri, as well as the tender meatballs, served atop spicy tomato sauce and a loaf of ciabatta bread. The smell of the tomato sauce was irresistible, so I tore off some of that freshly baked bread to scoop up the delectable sauce. I wish more dishes used this outstanding component.
While the pretzel bread pudding with maple whipped cream sounded amazing, I elected to go with the lighter buttermilk panna cotta with lemon shortbread and lemon curd. It was light, refreshing, and a perfect palate cleanser after a wonderful meal.
Ada St. is a perfect place for a date night. Given the limited reservations at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., and its small dining room, it is more difficult for groups larger than 4 that do not have a reservation. Ada St. does have one front room devoted to larger groups of 8 to 15, however, if you plan ahead. In nicer weather, an outdoor patio is open, as well, allowing additional seating.
For an intimate and relaxed dinner with contemporary small plates with big flavors, navigate your way to Ada St. Your taste buds will thank you.
1664 North Ada Street, Chicago