There’s no doubt that a list of Logan Square’s premiere restaurants would include Longman & Eagle (@LongmanAndEagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.) and Table, Donkey and Stick (@TableDonkeyInn, 2728 W. Armitage Ave.). Both offer ultra-modern takes on more traditional fare and bolster their menus with extensive and eclectic drink lists. Both also cater to discerning tastes, deep pockets and anyone who fancies small candles on small tables. Thanks to these locales and the people who run them, pinkies-out romance in our neighborhood is never more than a few blocks away.
The problem arises when you’re deciding between the two. The question is never about which is superior, it is rather about which idiosyncrasies fit the bill for your particular night, company and taste buds. With both restaurants being similarly priced and boasting the same quality—but wildly divergent in their culinary approaches—getting the low-down on each is more than key to making the right choice. We nevertheless recommend trying both multiple times!
Table, Donkey and Stick
In short: rare, German-inspired beer food. That instantly brings to mind pretzels, schnitzels and roast. And even though their pretzel is fantastic (and actually a step above Longman’s), most of dishes go far beyond the stereotype in their complexity. Check out their menus: food, drink and dessert. They offer a heavier focus on restaurant-selected food selections and the dining experience than Longman & Eagle, with the sound of light chatter and silverware clinks dominating the atmosphere.
Sporting nine Wanderteller dishes, six cheese selections, seven small plates and six entrées, Table, Donkey and Stick’s menu is rightfully focused. They offer combination deals for the Wanderteller and cheeses, which together make up an excellent pre-appetizer drink companion when ordered in groups. The pheasant galantine is delightfully gamey but far from filling, and the beef carpaccio is an excellent Italian response to France’s more famed steak tartar, minus the bulk. When paired with the Pantaleo goat cheese—especially the beef carpaccio—wonderfully earthy yet smooth flavors become dominant on the palate, warming you up for the heavier-hitting entrées. For those with lighter opinions on proper appetizers, the smoked whitefish and Lille cow cheese can offer more subtle and smoother sensations.
The small plate and entrée menus are less exotic, but use quantity and more simplistic, primitive taste focuses as their lures. The rabbit moussline and blood sausage are especially fantastic, but the roasted chicken and Alpine burger take the cake, even despite their worryingly lower price points. If you decide to go with heavier Wanderteller choices, you should stick with the heavier entrée items and a high-ABV German beer (see below). If you picked the lighter fare, try the roasted sturgeon with a smokey Rauchbier. Table, Donkey and Stick also includes cheese descriptions on their menu, so choosing accordingly is the only way to get the best flavor combinations, as the ultimate experience definitely requires careful selections from all four menu sections.
Table, Donkey and Stick is all about beer, even though it makes up only one third of the beverage menu. The wine, cider and cocktail selections are decent, but nowhere near as extensive as similar locations, including Longman and Eagle. The beer selection, however, is dominated by huge German brews and supplemented with local offerings. The Schneider Aventinus is a massive doppelbock which, despite its high ABV, can bring out smooth flavors in many of the menu items. Another excellent selection is the Schlenkerla Märzen, a perfect balance between smoke and fruit and mid-range power, perfect for complementing the gamey Wanderteller with woodsy and cut-wood aromatics. The domestic brews are delicate selections, but span the spectrum of beer types: Belgian strong, imperial IPA, English ale, porter and saison. You’ll want to choose based on type rather than label here, as the menu has been carefully constructed to balance pairings.
Atmosphere, Ethos and Specialties
The experiential intimacy of Table, Donkey and Stick is split into three separate spaces: a front, close-quarters dining area, a larger back room with more air space, and a tightly-enclosed outdoor patio. With the weather getting icier, sticking to the first two will probably be a good idea. Both indoor spaces are more than suitable for friendly one-on-one outings or your less platonic romances. Overall, the air holds an acceptable level of pretension, but a jeans/T-shirt mentality reigns free, meaning you will not feel out of place knocking a few back and talking loudly about how much you love the blood sausage. Keep up with their Twitter feed, because they will be posting about their Monday specials. Most recently: “Philly cheese tongue, McTDS burger, latke poutine, $5 each, $.50 PBR, $3 bourbon shots all night!”
Longman & Eagle
In short: rustic yet smooth modern fare, plus whiskey. The generalization would be that Longman & Eagle only specializes in meaty, juicy dishes that hardcore whiskey sippers would delight in. The fact is, however, that each dish that Longman & Eagle serves is wildly divergent from the last—each full of its own wonderful unusualities—inspiring wonder about how all the food could possibly come from the same kitchen. Here are their menus: food, whiskey, cocktail, beer and wine. They offer a heavier focus on drink and bar activity than Table, Donkey and Stick, with the cafeteria noise of loud conversation taking control of the scene. Also check out their blog.
Longman & Eagle separates their menu into three sections: bar snacks, small plates and entrées. The bar snacks are purposely simple—pretzel, cheese, pâté, olives and meatballs—but excellent and superior fork-and-knife versions of something you would normally eat with your fingers. If you decide on the pâté, verify with your server what kind it is, as it changes often. If you go the pretzel route, relish in the Welsh rarebit and save whatever is left over as dipping fodder for your next dishes. The meatballs are impressive, but you’d be surprised how well the ones over at The Boiler Room (@BoilerRoomChi, 2210 N. California Ave.) stack up.
The small plates are dominated by concentrations of strong flavors. Servers generally recommend the bone marrow: a presentation of hot 3-inch sections of bone topped with a divine bacon shallot jam and sidelined with a teaspoon of thick-ground sea salt and toasted sourdough. Constructing each bite takes time, but is well worth it. The pork cheek is slightly reminiscent of poolside pulled pork, but with extra heft and less sweetness. If sweetness is your goal, then the Asian pears cannot disappoint, as they come warm and with more autumn flavor than the Smoldering Embers cocktail. In fact, they’re so good that we’d recommend that they be obligatory from October through March.
Big bruisers in the entrée section of the menu include the hanger steak and wild boar sloppy joe. Both are strange takes on their respective culinary genres: the former being served with hot dog bun puree, the latter with pickled jalapeños and beef fat fries. Both are exceptionally heavy and are well-paired with a few $3 whiskey shots to chase each few bites. For sea-faring landlovers, the pork belly is served with barbecue shrimp. For vegetarians, the butternut squash risotto is thicker than porridge and creamy with a surprising amount of stomach weight and umami flavor. The fôie grás is shockingly buttery and is perhaps the most delicate and intricate dish Longman & Eagle offers, if not overly extreme or slightly controversial.
Whiskey is definitely the name of the game at Longman & Eagle, but the (bottled) beer menu is equally as diverse and well-populated. Especially impressive (and useful) is the menu’s organization—putting aside the European brews lets you easily sort through your favorite Belgians and maybe find some interesting French and German alternatives. But for the lighter small plate and entrée selections, you cannot go wrong with a smokey local Off Color 15 Foot (@OffColorBrewing, 3925 W. Dickens Ave., see our feature). For fans of heavier fare who don’t want the hoppiness of an IPA, the Westmalle Dubbel and Tripel brews offer ultra-sharp Belgian creaminess to bolster the aftertastes of most land meats. The servers and bartenders are well-versed in the overwhelming menu—getting lost in the multiple pages is an easy thing to do—so asking for suggestions is always a good suggestion in itself.
Atmosphere, Ethos and Specialties
Longman & Eagle is dim, woody and sexy. It is truly an inn—they have rooms for rent—and the downstairs eating and drinking areas feel warm, homey and intimate. The main dining area is split between small tables and the bar area, which is usually packed during the evenings. The midsection of the restaurant includes a slightly roomier dining area, and further back is a patio with separate bar. Wait times can be excessive (upward of two hours), so it’s best to arrive much earlier than you intend to eat. Overall, Longman & Eagle is modern, but not chic or overly rustic. The bar atmosphere also provides allotment for loud noise, music and some late-night rowdiness, but diners will relish in their semi-private corners for quieter talk over candlelight.