After recently moving to a new part of Lincoln Park, I have been familiarizing myself with the neighborhood by trying the restaurants in the area. Recently, I visited Gemini Bistro for both brunch and dinner. While I have been for dinner before, it was about four years ago, and shortly after the restaurant opened in late 2009.
Housed in an early 1900’s flatiron building, and along tree-lined streets, Gemini Bistro embodies the quintessential neighborhood restaurant. Outdoor tables line Dickens Street for al fresco dining, and it is a nice, quiet place to enjoy a relaxing meal. The interior, however, is dark and a bit dingy. The floors, walls, and bar are all dark wood, and, at dinner, the lights are quite dim, as well. A tall, dark wall runs down the center of the dining room, separating one half of the restaurant from the other. The space could benefit from brightening and opening up the room.
The menus feature American cuisine with French and Mediterranean influences, and Executive Chef Job Keeley focuses on comforting classic with approachable sophistication. While we found some winners on both the brunch and dinner menus, some losers were had at dinner, as well.
At brunch, I thoroughly enjoyed the summer vegetable frittata, served piping hot in a cast iron pan. The frittata was nicely cooked and featured asparagus, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, leeks, goat cheese, and a petite salad on top. The frittata was substantial enough without being too heavy or greasy. While I would definitely return for this dish, next time, I may try the Lincoln Park Benedict, salmon cakes, with sauteed spinach, cherry tomatoes, a poached egg, English muffin, and sauce bernaise. The house-made granola, served with honey yogurt and seasonal fruit, was also a winner, and is perfect for a light breakfast or shareable brunch appetizer.
For dinner, I took advantage of the seasonal produce and ordered the heirloom tomato gazpacho, garnished with criss-crossed focaccia croutons and avocado-lime crema. The gazpacho was delicious! Cold, flavorful, and extremely fresh, this refreshing soup was an excellent way to start the meal. I appreciated the garlic and pureed vegetables throughout the gazpacho, and the avocado crema broke nicely through the acidity of the tomatoes. I’m definitely returning for this again before the end of the season.
I also enjoyed the market salad, featuring English peas, asparagus, favas, baby squash, cherry tomatoes, and a sherry vinaigrette. Once again, this salad highlighted a bounty of seasonal ingredients and it was bright, light, and flavorful.
Other winners included the grilled focaccia flatbread, which came compliments of the kitchen, with mushrooms, sausage, pickled olives, fresh basil, and other goodies, as well as the sea scallops and quinoa, with summer apples, shaved fennel slaw, and apple saba gastrique. I enjoyed that the flatbread was grilled, as opposed to cooked in an oven, and the sea scallops were nicely cooked and offered summer flavors.
Not everything was a success, though. The free-range chicken, including a crispy breast, braised thigh, garlic mashed potatoes, and a mushroom ragout, was dry and only edible thanks to the mashed potatoes and ragout. The Gemini burger, too, bade from prime beef, with applewood bacon, choice of cheese, on a housemade bun, was overcooked and fell flat. The accompanying truffle fries, however, were delicious.
The quality of service at Gemini Bistro cannot be overlooked, especially at dinner. Our server was extremely polite, attentive and friendly.
While I have enjoyed my meals at Gemini Bistro so far, room for improvement can be found in the decor and on the menu. Still, I am happy to have it in my new neighborhood and look forward to visiting again.
2075 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, 60614