Analogue ( 2523 N. Milwaukee Ave.; AnalogueChicago.com ) is part of the burgeoning Logan Square restaurant movementand a compelling reason why more people should check out that area of Chicago.
This restaurant is deceptivein a good way. A recent lunchtime visit revealed a relatively simple, relaxed site with Southern fare that's simultaneously straightforward, traditional ( although with the occasional twist ) and more complex than you might think.
There's nothing fancy about the decor ( refreshing ); you'll find wide spaces, tables and seats/booths. Analogue, according to Alfredo Nogueira ( in his first executive-chef post ), was originally conceived as a bar. However, it has grown to be much more than that.
Speaking of the bar aspect, my dining partner and I decided to try two traditional drinks: I had a very tasty Hurricane while she opted for a nice, but heady, Sazerac ( Old Overholt Rye, Demerara, Herbsainte and Peychaud's ).
However, the food has definitely taken attention away from the drinks. Lunch options are divided into po boys/sandwiches, dishes and daily specials. The po boys are variations such as roast beef, fried oyster and hot sausage. The shrimp po boy and fried-chicken sandwich were more than tasty, but my favorite turned out to be one that I thought some might pooh-pooh because of its name: the mushroom debris po boy. The French fry-stuffed concoction confirms that Nogueira said: It's a vegetarian sandwich that tastes like a non-vegetarian one.
Dishes include a gumbo that managed to do the near-impossible: ( temporarily ) make me a fan of okra. ( Noguiera told me that these vegetables are the toughest item for him to procure, and he regularly gets them at Nichols Farm & Orchard. ) The biscuitswhich come with habanero jelly and butter ( "to tame the jelly," as our server told us )are incredibly flaky and delicious. Other lunchtime dishes include beet salad, smoked fish dip ( with hot sauce ) and fried boudin ( Cajun sausage made from pork shoulder, pork liver and rice, fried and served with house mustard ).
There are also lunch-tray specials that are basically the best cafeteria food you never had. The day we went featured roast chicken and rice. ( Other specials, depending on the day, are red beans and rice with sausage; meat loaf; and fried catfish. ) If there was any doubt Noguiera knows his way around a grill, they were erased with this item that was even better the next day when I had leftovers.
The two-year-old Analogue has the best Cajun food I've tasted in a whileand, in a more general sense, the best Southern fare since I initially tried Lincoln Square restaurant Luella's Southern Kitchen. I'll definitely have to return here for brunch and dinner.