The food scene in the Evanston has been blowing up recently, and, with the addition of Boltwood, has become even stronger. Named after the freshman wing of Evanston Township High School, and helmed by the former Chef de Cuisine of Publican, Brian Huston, Boltwood is a farm-to-table restaurant aiming to forge a new path in the culinary scene through its food, energy, and enthusiasm. Each dish on Chef Huston’s menu begins with locally sourced and market-driven ingredients at its foundation, and, as a result, the menu evolves with the seasons and changes almost daily based upon availability.
Clean lines, simplistic furniture, and earth tones throughout the dining room allow the open and active kitchen to take center stage, second perhaps only to the food on the plates. A small bar at the entrance to the restaurant allows diners waiting for tables to enjoy a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine from the carefully curated beverage menu. Like the dinner menu, Boltwood’s cocktail menu also changes with the seasons, and utilizes house-made sodas, herbs, and local produce whenever possible, such as the New Georgian, prepared with market peach syrup, Old Forester bourbon, bitters, and mint.
My husband and I recently visited Boltwood with another couple, and, as the entire menu is designed to be shared, chose a few dishes each from the bar snacks, meat & fish, and vegetables sections of the menu with the helpful guidance of our server. We sat at a communal table overlooking the kitchen, so we were also able to ask our neighbors about the dishes that they recommended, in addition to watching what came out of the kitchen.
We began with a refreshing, light, and crisp watermelon salad, with poblano peppers and feta cheese. The combination of the sweet, spicy, and salty flavors worked perfectly together, especially with the addition of the sprigs of fresh cilantro on top.
Next came the fantastic pulled BBQ eggplant toast, with bread and butter pickles, and feta cheese. I never would have paired these flavor components together, but this vegetarian dish worked and was delicious. The smokiness of the eggplant worked very nicely with the acidity of the fresh pickles.
We also tried the grilled carrots, with avocado and sunflower seeds. This dish, while still good, was my least favorite of the night, as it lacked the depth of flavor that I was seeking, and the carrots were a bit limp.
All was forgiven, however, with the arrival of the charred squid, with hoppin’ john – a play on a southern staple of peas and rice – and kale. The squid was perfectly tender and the kale and peas lent a nice earthiness to the dish. It was great.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the Boltwood stew, with crab, bay scallops, mussels, tomatoes, corn, pesto, and croutons. When a dish carries the name of the restaurant in its moniker, it better be good, and this stew was outstanding. It arrived with heaping portions of seafood, and the broth was so delightful that we soaked our bread in it until every drop was gone.
The halibut with soybeans, green and wax beans, aioli, and herbs was equally delicious. The halibut was pan fried to give it a nice char with a little bit of a crunch, to go along with the wax beans.
Another favorite was the whole branzino – lightly fried with ground cherry salsa verde. The fish was extremely fresh and the meat just melted in our mouths. The fresh herbs and light olive oil and lemon sauce was just the right accompaniment.
The apple cinnamon fritters with salted caramel were the perfect end to our delicious meal. Served hot and right out of the fryer, the doughy consistency was delightful, and the apple and caramel was the perfect fall flavor combination.
Overall, I was very pleased with our dinner at Boltwood, and I look forward to returning as the menu continues to evolve with the seasons. Boltwood is currently open for dinner only, seven days a week, though Tuesday through Friday lunch service begins October 7th. I recommend Boltwood for everything from a casual dinner with friends, to a romantic dinner for two, to an early evening family meal.
804 Davis Street, Evanston, Illinois 60201