One of the most challenging things for a restaurant is to retain the patrons from a similar business that occupied the same spot.
This was the daunting task facing the co-owners of Merchant (3137 W. Logan Blvd.; https://www.merchantchicago.com), a Logan Square restaurant that replaced longtime favorite Dunlay's on the Square. And, so far, Merchant has met the challenge, according to owner Christopher Huizar, attracting everyone from families to couples to late-night guests. (Nick Barone is the general manager and Matt Skolarus is the executive chef,). By the way, there's even a DJ to entertain patrons on the weekends.
Overall, Merchant is a pretty attractive spot, with a cool decor and welcoming staff (and my dining companion apparently loved the music, as she sang along to the diverse mix of tunes). The restaurant also features a nice selection of drinks as well as cuisine that could be classified as "globally influenced American fare"items that ranged from solid to excellent.
Regarding small plates, we tried items that managed to hit the highs and lows in one fell swoop. The elote fritters should be eaten with the accompanying garlic aioli and cotija to get the full effectbut the standout was certainly the addictive broccoli gratin with mornay and charred toast. (Think of your creamiest macaroni 'n cheese, but with the cruciferous vegetable In place of the pasta.) That second dish is definitely worthy of a return all by itself. Other small plates include the fried-rice arancini (same caveat as with the fritters) and wings.
There are many other intriguing-sounding items on the menu. A watermelon salad comes with feta, basil oil and shaved jalapeño; pastor tacos come with chipotle-marinated pineapple, bacon wrap and tomatillo; and the Mama Gallucci salad features charred romaine, mandarin orange, avocado, blue cheese and a red-wine vinaigrette. One can't-miss item is the smashburger, which has a cheese skirt cooked into itand is even better with egg and/or bacon.
For your pleasure, Merchant also has all-day breakfast items. They only number two (the braves burrito and parfait bowl) but, hopefully, that will expand. And there's only one dessert: a budino that, unfortunately, wasn't ready for patrons dining mid-afternoon. I have high hopes for it, thoughjust like I do for Merchant.
Breakfast at The Palm
Not so long ago, I profiled The Palm Restaurant (in the Swissotel at 323 E. Upper Wacker Dr.; www.thepalm.com/restaurants/chicago/&, and lauded the quality of the food. (There's also some cool people-watching and you can even marvel at the caricatures on the walls of members of the spot's 837 Club, which offers exclusive benefits to Palm regulars.)
Well, add breakfast to the reasons to swing by The Palm. Sure, there are plenty of the usual suspects, but there are also some unique items that are practically sinful.
Start with the cinnamon-streusel Pullman French toast. I don't know exactly what's in this seemingly normal concoction, but these were the best slices of French toast I've had in ages. And if you're feeling truly indulgent, the lobster omelette is a phenomenal treat; perfectly poached lobster is cooked with egg and tomatoes, chives and cheddar cheesemaking for a can't-miss option. Even my dining partner raved about the breakfast sandwich.
The Palm's breakfast menu isn't the most expansivebut the few items on there are bound to make your day. Give this place a try.
Note: Restaurant profiles/events are based on invitations arranged from restaurants and/or firms.