The Bedford (Chicago): Chef Mark Steuer’s menu features simple to sophisticated dishes

The Bedford's menu features elevated twists on simple classics, as well as fancier fare. Photo by Alex Janowski

Dubbing it “The Living Room of Wicker Park,” the folks behind The Bedford want diners to feel at ease in their lively new eatery situated in the basement of a historic bank building.

But “The Living and Dining Room of Wicker Park” would be a more apt tagline, considering chef Mark Steuer is cooking away in the kitchen.

Chef Mark Steuer designed the restaurant's cuisine to be accessible for The Bedford's cross section of diners. Photo courtesy of The Bedford

Sure, Steuer, who garnered accolades for his savory creations at Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate, is putting out some pretty simple stuff — burgers, chicken wings, deviled eggs.

But there’s also fancier fare — duck liver mousse, duck confit — as well.  And even the chef’s most basic dishes include some upscale twists.  Hand-cut fries are called frites and served with béarnaise sauce.  Grilled cheese features Roth Käse Gruyère, aged cheddar, and onion jam.  And the aforementioned wings are glazed with a creamy chili sauce instead of conventional Buffalo or barbecue.

“We wanted it to be an approachable neighborhood place with high quality but familiar food,” Steuer says.  “I want people to be able to come here three times a week for a burger and beer.  But if you want a three-course dinner, we can do that for you too.”

Fresh, seasonal ingredients are showcased even in the eatery's most basic dishes. Photo by Alex Janowski

Whether he’s preparing hand-harvested scallops with leek and king oyster mushroom ragout or a humble burger, Steuer says he uses the finest ingredients available.  “If you buy good things and treat them how they’re supposed to be treated, you’ll have a good product.”

Although Steuer works with well-regarded small farmers and artisans, he doesn’t name names on his menu, as is the current trend among chefs.

“It sounds like you’re showing off, and it should be more of a duty than a bragging right,” he says.

And because he gets “bored real easily” and wants to keep his menu seasonal, diners should not get too cozy with Steuer’s creations, nor should they expect him to develop a signature dish.  “There’s not one thing you’ll see here in six months,” he says.

So if you’re reading this post six months from now, The Bedford’s menu likely will have changed since I dined here with The Husband and our friends Massimo and Cara.

Frankly, I must admit I was nervous about suggesting The Bedford — or any restaurant, for that matter — for our evening out with Massimo and Cara.  You see, Massimo is Italian and a total buongustaio, or foodie.  And he and Cara share passionately strong opinions when it comes to dining.  (“I spit on [restaurant name],” Cara once said after a disappointing meal at one of the city’s top eateries.)

My anxiety quickly dissipated, however, as Steuer’s tasty dishes proved highly bankable.

Small bites, such as deviled eggs, do double duty as appetizers and bar snacks. Photo by Alex Janowski

Our group started off with a trio of munchable appetizers.  Decadent deviled eggs ($1.50 each) with hot sauce and powdered bacon had a wonderful smoky tang to them.  Fava bean crostini ($9) came topped with frisée, pickled red onion and harissa vinaigrette, and featured a fluffy, Middle Eastern-flavored bean spread atop grilled bread.  Super-creamy duck liver mousse ($12) was richly flavored and served with whole grain mustard, pickles, caper berries and brioche.

Next, we sampled Steuer’s “super seasonal” heirloom asparagus ($13) with house-cured duck ham, soft egg and parmesan.  The asparagus is currently among the restaurant’s most popular dishes, Steuer says.  “It’s just a nice, really fresh salad.”

Steuer plans to regularly overhaul his menu. Photo courtesy of The Bedford

Many of Steuer’s entrées were appealing, and it took our group a bit of time to settle on main courses.  The Husband ultimately selected pan-roasted halibut ($25) with spicy bacon-fava bean-spring garlic ragout and green olive tapenade.  Cara chose amply portioned grilled pork tenderloin ($25) with a delectable English pea gremolata and orangey apricot mustard.  Massimo ordered house-made venison sausage ($19) with vinegary mustard lentils, kohlrabi kraut and confit spring garlic puree.  Although we agreed the sausage was a bit dry, everybody — Massimo included — found the venison meat to be pleasantly flavored and not at all gamey.

Go for the duck confit if it's available. Photo courtesy of The Bedford

My selection — duck confit ($18) with grits, poached egg and salsa verde — was clearly the group’s favorite, judging from the number of utensils dipping into my bowl.  With its perfect combination of super-tender duck, buttery grits, plump egg and fresh-and-herby salsa verde, the comforting dish was delicious down to the last bowl-scrapping forkful.

The Bedford does not have a pastry chef at this point, but instead features a small selection of goodies from other notable neighborhood establishments.  We sampled strawberry-rhubarb pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company ($9) and salted peanut gelato ($2) from the famed Black Dog Gelato.  Although the desserts satisfied, we concurred that a restaurant of The Bedford’s caliber should employ a house pastry chef.

Admittedly, that’s niggling.  Everybody — Massimo included — had a molto bene time and felt right at home at The Bedford.

The Bedford
1612 West Division Street
Chicago, Illinois  60622
773.235.8800
www.bedfordchicago.com

The Bedford on Urbanspoon

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2 Responses to The Bedford (Chicago): Chef Mark Steuer’s menu features simple to sophisticated dishes

  1. Jacky says:

    Great advice on The Bedford! The deviled eggs were amazing, with powdered bacon how could they not be. The fried green tomatoes were the best I have ever had, though not sure what warrants the $12 price tag. I went with the duck confit and it did not disappoint.

    BTW, love the recommendation options on the front page, nice quick way to find what I was looking for.

    • Harlene says:

      Jacky, Thanks for checking back in. Love to hear when readers have great experiences at Fine restaurants!

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