Last Monday, Lula Café (@LulaCafe, 2537 N. Kedzie Blvd.) hosted its second annual benefit dinner for Comfort Station (@Comfort_Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.), featuring chefs from prominent Logan Square restaurants. With tickets weighing in at $175—covering craft cocktails, six wine-paired dishes, two desserts and a pre-dinner social hour—it was a chance to get the details on how both locations benefit our neighborhood and our community. It was also an opportunity to try some of the best food and drink that Logan Square has to offer.
The evening was divided into a social hour, dinnertime and then a LoganSquarist-exclusive private tour of Comfort Station, courtesy of David Keel, Comfort Station executive director, and Beth McDowell, a member of the fundraising committee.
During the social hour, we had a chance to speak with the president of the Logan Square Preservation organization Andrew Schneider. His organization is responsible for renovating and reopening Comfort Station for its current use today as a community arts space.
“Comfort Station was really a derelict building, there was a plan to demolish Comfort Station and make a park there,” Schneider says. “We took issue with it, because there’s a lot of history there, so instead we started to think about restoring it.”
Lula Cafe was full as we spoke with Schneider, surrounded by other patrons holding craft cocktails and continuing on in their own small conversations. The music was low and moody, and the sounds of the chatter kept our voices slightly elevated. The scene was busy and alive, and Schneider was all the more excited to talk about how Comfort Station stands as a warm, culturally significant space for Logan Square.
“Now, in the winter when you walk by, you see this little building and it just kind of glows,” says Schneider. “It’s a live building, it’s an apt metaphor for much of the neighborhood.”
After the cocktail hour, we sat down for dinner. The menu, specially dated with a “November 11, 2013” stamp, was a one-time collaboration featuring dishes by some big neighborhood names. The dining setup was close and warm, with dim lighting, candles and prompt napkin-folding service in the event that a seat was temporarily emptied. Seating was arranged in both main rooms of Lula Café—the more open front bar area and a thinner dining area on the side—accessible through a narrow passage that also serves as the entrance to the kitchen.
Fat Rice (@EatFatRice, 2957 W. Diversey Ave.) contributed the opening dish, a pheasant escabeche with apple, mustard sprout, papo seco (Portugeuse crusty rolls) and piri piri (hot chilis). The pheasant was as smooth as a soft French cheese, delightfully light and low on game. The hot chilis were served in a jam-like suspension on a separate dish, perfect dipping fodder for the rolls. It was immensely oily and spicy, and an interesting yet forward offset for the creaminess of the pheasant.
Longman & Eagle
Longman & Eagle (@LongmanAndEagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.) offered roast wild sturgeon. It was decisively heavier than Fat Rice’s pheasant, despite being from the sea. The sturgeon was served with fennel, citrus, black live and smoked crème fraîche. It had no salty ocean taste, but was rather balsamic and balanced by buttery textures courtesy of the wide, dark stripe of smoked cream.
Lula’s first contribution of two was a sweet corn soup containing crispy chicken skin, peanuts, oregano and black mole. The traditional graininess of corn was absent from the purée-like soup, with the peanuts suspended throughout for occasional crunch. Both the aroma and taste were reminiscent of a cornfield, with raw, earthy and even pea-like overtones sharpening out the otherwise smooth texture.
Yusho (@YushoChicago, 2853 N. Kedzie Ave.) delivered on the first heavier entrée of the night: braised pork shoulder with monkfish, fennel, kabocha squash and shallots. The pork shoulder—reminiscent of melting pulled pork—laid beneath a healthy serving of monkfish, a more distinctive sea-tasting fish. The combination bite of both the fish and pork dissolved almost instantly, but the flavors and texture still provided ample weight.
Telegraph (@TelegraphWine, 2601 N. Milwaukee Ave.) offered arguably the heaviest dish of the night: bacon-wrapped hanger steak with roasted Brussels sprouts, including farro and a red wine reduction. The reduction had heavy vinegar overtones to compliment the non-filet flavors of the steak. The Brussels sprouts were heavily salted, but sizzled out nicely in combination with the bacon wrapping and steak itself.
Dessert was courtesy of both Lula and ¡Bang Bang! Pie Shop (@BangBangPie, 2051 N. California Ave.). They offered coconut sorbet and an apple fennel tarte, respectively. The sorbet was mildly flavored, ice cold and milky smooth, while the apple fennel tarte was sharp, warm like Autumn, and crisp.
Comfort Station Tour
After dinner and drinks, LoganSquarist was taken for a private tour of the Comfort Station space. McDowell and Keel described how artists use the space and how they keep the calendar filled with special events, such as movie screenings and small shows by local musicians. Comfort Station is open to the public and the events are free. During the summer, they use the surrounding park space for more community activity. During the winter, however, staying inside the cozy warmth of the building is advised!
Lula Café is a bar and restaurant specializing in cocktails, wine and rustic, earthy fare. They maintain a delicate and intimate location right on the Square, with patio seating jutting onto the sidewalk during the summer months. Check out their website—it includes menus and a blog.
About a one-minute walk across the Square is Comfort Station, situated in its own intimate park area. The building, originally a trolley-rider shelter, has been renovated and repurposed into a community arts space. Check out their calendar, some history and their blog.
Currently on exhibition at Comfort Station from Nov. 2 until Nov. 29 is the artwork of Young Cho, available for viewing every Sunday in the month, or from 12 pm to 3 pm by appointment.