I remember when I first found out about BiXi Beer (2515 N. Milwaukee Ave.) opening, I was unenthusiastic because I am not a fan of beer and there are already so many beer spots here. But then I checked the menu and was excited to see that they had Chinese, Korean and Thai eats. I then grew more enthusiastic because Logan Square is lacking in the Asian food department. We have Spice Room for delicious Indian food but not a lot of high-quality East Asian food.
Owned by Bo and Arden Fowler (Owen & Engine), BiXi is going for a “contemporary Asian fusion” vibe, which is a pretty courageous concept. It can be difficult to execute the highly palatable sauces and multifaceted flavors of Asian cuisine while bringing something “new” to such already dynamic flavors. The tension of maintaining authenticity while flirting with something innovative is embodied by this “contemporary Asian fusion” concept.
Successful or not, I was impressed with how vegetarian and pescatarian-friendly their food menu is so I decided to give BiXi a try. The first thing to know about BiXi is that it’s pronounced “Bee-shee.” You don’t want to be that person innocently and unintentionally mispronouncing a hip, new restaurant…gasp. BiXi is named after a Chinese mythological dragon son, which you can see painted on their bar mural. They’re going for an edgy, mid-century modern vibe: clean and simple tables with darker-colored booths and wooden chairs. The lights are enclosed inside black mesh sleeves and there is a black and white mural of Chicago painted on the back of the bar. But with the enormous space comes more design possibilities—like the green, turquoise color on the walls that is central to one of the dining rooms just off the main one upstairs. They also have a fun back patio that you can try to squeeze in before it gets cold!
My vegetarian friend and I decided to give BiXi a try on a Monday night, which was a perfect night to go. It wasn’t crowded and they have a $4 beer deal (they’re usually between $6-8)! For someone who is not a beer enthusiast, I was
hesitant to try something from the beer menu, but I couldn’t pass up a $4 drink deal. I like getting a deal even if it’s not something I love. Their beer also sounded quite intriguing given how they use remarkable ingredients like pearl Jasmine tea and Szechuan peppercorn—not your average beer. I tried the Captain Haddock Wit, which was a lighter witbier brewed with mandarin orange and coriander. It was a really refreshing beer reminiscent of Blue Moon, which is why I enjoyed it. Most beer is too heavy and uncomfortable for me, but this beer was light, smooth, and crisp and perfect for a fall night.
When it came to the food, it was really refreshing to have so many options. Most places that tend to be beer-focused are not always the most vegetarian-friendly. Our server introduced the menu as a “small plates” spot. “Small plates” dining is really in right now, especially in Logan Square. I love and hate small plates dining. It’s attractive because you get to try a wider variety of dishes, but then it easily gets expensive and is stressful when you’re in large groups because the portions are not large enough for everyone to take more than one bite. Fortunately, it was just the two of us and we were able to try a decent amount of food without breaking the bank. Their menu is divided by raw bar, firsts and seconds. Their raw bar is pretty pricey so it would be nice if there were special deals such as $1 oyster Mondays (oysters are usually $3/oyster) or something similar.
Diners are presented with four sauces, which include a black vinegar, soy sauce, and Szechuan/chili sauces. My favorite part of the meal was this assortment of sauces because they balanced the dishes with more acidity, spice, and sourness. We started with an order of the Scallion pancakes, which came with a fried egg on top and fresh garlic chives. It was one larger scallion pancake that was a bit doughy and heavy. I would have liked for there to be more flavor and for the pancake to be thinner and crispier. I did really like the fried egg on top, though, which moistened the pancake with the yolk, but not quite enough. It also came with a lovely sauce that I believe was soy-based and a perfect accompaniment to the pancake.
We also shared the Kimchi Mandu: Kimchi empanadas (fried dumplings) served with a medley of kimchi and scallions. It was a good dish, but again, I would have liked the filling to be more flavorful. The dumpling felt heavy and doughy again when it could have been crispier. The kimchi served on the side was very flavorful and was the highlight of the dish.
For the larger plate, we ordered the Massaman Curry with fried tofu. This was my favorite dish of the night because it was an overall balanced dish with a generous portion of tofu, Thai basil, jackfruit, Szechuan peppercorns and boiled peanuts. The sauce had the perfect thickness and consistency. It was such a cozy dish with varied textures. It is a tad bit on the sweeter side for a curry and I would have liked for it to have some spice but that is what the chili sauce can help with. I applaud their food presentation, too.
Overall, the service was good and the food was decent but I did feel that it was a tad bit overpriced for the quality of food, considering how underwhelming some of the dishes were. It costs less than $18 to make a tofu curry (believe me I eat and cook a lot of tofu curry) and one large scallion pancake is pricey at $12. They do provide a unique flavor and concept to the neighborhood with their “contemporary Asian fusion” vibe accompanied by many high-quality beer options. If you’re not a big fan of beer, they do have an intriguing cocktail menu. They also serve food till 1 a.m., adding to Logan Square’s burgeoning late-night food scene.
Featured photo: Kimchi Mandu dumplings. Photo: Shanti Chu