Near the corner where the Second City found its first home (one of many) near a laundromat, Perennial Virant attracts a vast range of visitors who are drawn close to its magic alchemy of culinary preparations that includes pickling, preserving and a range of other preparations.
Under the most able direction of Paul Virant and his colleagues, the menus here reflect the local food ways of the Midwest in a fashion that’s part humble homage and bountiful boundary-pushing. Of course, the setting is part of the charm and the fun as well.
Each night, a range of foodies from near and far come to sit outside as they look out on to the busy energy that is in rare abundance in this corner of Lincoln Park. You are also most welcome to sit inside and watch the sidewalk ballet, but I’d recommend sitting outside, even in weather that might be challenging.
After sitting down, I would recommend starting out with a glass of lavender lemonade. It is the light touch that your palate requires and yes, I’m guessing if it’s still summer, it’s quite warm outside. Moving on, the cocktails and wine list is extensive and I’d recommend asking your server for their thoughts as these offerings do change quite frequently. Additionally, make sure and inquire about the charcuterie options as these are also a signature item at Perennial Virant.
As with any good shared degustation, the way to get started is by selecting a board of items to share with your party. I’d give the nod to the pickle and butter board which includes seasonally pickled items paired with nordic creamery cultured butter, aigre-doux, and shaved radishes. Additionally, they do offer a Midwestern cheese board and an appetizer of fried Brunkow cheese curds.
In terms of mains, I can recommend the excellent salmon I had on my visit and you’ll find that the rotating items might include pan seared Arctic char, chicken ballotine, or seared whitefish. If you manage to save room, I would give the nod to the modestly sized, yet flavorful chocolate chip cookies or the ice-cream-sundae served in a tiny glass jar that features creme fraiche and rosemary cookie crumbles.
Now that you’ve finished, the sun may have set or the violet hour may be fast approaching. If at all possible, I would recommend stepping inside and making your way to J. Parker, which happens to be the rooftop bar here at the Hotel Lincoln. It’s the perfect end to such an outing and who knows: you might be back for brunch at Perennial sooner than you thought.
Photos: Interior courtesy of Perennial Virant; others by Max Grinnell