The Bedford is a restaurant and lounge that's nestled in a bank vault. I would never have guessed that my new favorite date spot would be in the basement of a former financial institution, but dining in Chicago never fails to surprise.
When you first walk in, you notice a lounge lined with safety deposit boxes along two walls, and a two-foot thick vault door that's propped open to the main dining room. It could have been claustrophobic, but it actually feels like a chic and cozy place to hangout. The marble-covered walls are lined with quirky, odd-ball pictures of skeet shooting and lawn mowers, and Victorian-printed wallpaper with bicycle parts competes for attention against an ornate checking table. The dining space is further set apart from the bar by a wall of fireplaces. It feels intimate, date-appropriate and a quiet spot to linger over a meal -- at least on the weekdays.
I love the trappings of The Bedford, but it's the rustic comfort food that drew me back. To be specific, it was the superb roasted chicken with figs and potatoes that warranted a return. The dish was evocative of the slow-cooked pot roasts and stews that we'd have for family dinners on Sundays, only so much richer and tastier. The grilled pork chop with Brussels sprouts came next, and the comfort level was only amplified by the runny egg on top. I would easily recommend either dish. The gnocchi are dotted with the right amount of chanterelle mushrooms, truffle and pecorino -- the dish looks a little small, but is very satisfying.
The portion sizes don't really leave room for you to explore the other parts of the menu, so plan for a to-go box and splurge on the excellent macaroni-and-cheese. I have tried this dish all over Chicago, and few places do it as well as The Bedford. It's creamy, flavorful and topped with the perfect amount of crunch. The pear salad is also an excellent choice with a perfectly balanced mix of endive, sweet pears and toasted pine nuts. While you're at it, try a deviled egg sprinkled with powdered bacon. They sell them one apiece, but they're still large enough to share.
After so much food, it's a stretch to punctuate a meal with dessert here, but make the effort for a few bites. Split an order of smoky dough-nuts with hazelnut dipping sauce or a creamy pot of butterscotch pudding dappled with flakes of sea salt. Either are a worthy end.
Service here was not intrusive, and the recommendations made by the waiters were excellent. Things did slow down a bit as the restaurant became more crowded, but with a cheerful fire and a full stomach it's hard to quibble. Rumor has it this place is swarmed on the weekends, so a dinner reservation is strongly recommended. Expect to pay about $50 per person for dinner.
1612 West Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622