The Black Oak
About 99% of the time, I pick the restaurant. I’m one of those people that obsesses over finding something we’ve never had and something we both will love. The other 1% of the time, it’s J’s birthday and I want nothing more than to make sure she’s happy with what we choose to do.
This year’s birthday involved a trip to see our families in the Chicago area. We started out on J’s actual birthday at her parents house. Our plan was to go check out Chicago’s first Ciderpub on the north side of town. Unfortunately, The Northman wasn’t quite looking like something we were going to enjoy. They have no functional website with menus yet. They never answered questions about flights. The menu we did see didn’t look like something we were really in to. On the plus side, they have dozens and dozens of ciders to try….just don’t try to do it in a flight apparently.
J didn’t want to be disappointed because it’s a concept she fell in love with immediately. We always go to breweries for me, but she really likes cider and was looking forward to being the irresponsible one and drinking too much.
We had a back up plan until J’s step-dad mentioned a new place that just opened up not far from their house. The menu looked good and they have a decent, not great, but decent drink list. We scrapped our back up and headed out to the recommendation instead.
Black Oak Tavern is very easy to miss on Pulaski Road just south of 96th Street in Oak Lawn. It’s in a very unassuming strip mall next to a fishmonger on the busy strip of road. J was the one that actually noticed it. I was about to drive past. I think I was looking for anything other than a rectangle sign on the side of a very bland building.
Luckily, the inside makes up for what the outside lacks. Once you get through the doors, it’s a little easier to forget you’re in a strip mall. The restaurant is a long L-shaped with a beautiful, long bar and pub tables near the front and the more typical four tops around the bend.
J and I sat at a pub table near the entrance. There were several people at the bar watching some spring training baseball on the giant flat screen TV’s hanging on the wall. It appeared the evening servers were just coming on to their shift. They were having a little meeting back near the kitchen then went right in to folding napkins for the night’s dinner service. We were just about to the point of walking out when our server finally noticed we were there. I don’t blame her nearly as much as the bartender or what I assumed to be the manager who walked by us more than once without alerting the server that we had sat down.
J’s mom was a little lukewarm on the place only because they don’t have a huge craft beer selection. They have a couple of tap handles and a couple of craft bottles as well as the usual macros. One beer they did have was Bell’s Two Hearted so that’s what I ordered. There were a couple of bottle ciders on the menu, but they also had Moscato, so J went with that.
We had a somewhat late lunch from Palermo’s on 95th after J and her mom went shopping, so J wasn’t really looking for a big entree. She ordered the Southside Sliders. You get the choice of brisket, chicken, burger, or pulled pork for the three mini sandwiches, but you can’t mix and match. All three have to be the same. She chose the pulled pork sliders which came with slaw. The three sandwiches are listed as an appetizer, but they are enough for a meal. The pork is covered in a thick, sweet sauce then topped with the crispy slaw. At a guess, I’m going with roasted pork here due to the fact they slathered the meat in sauce, but it was a pretty delicious sauce and J really liked it. The three sandwiches were too much for her to eat and she ended up giving me one (which I couldn’t finish either) and pulling some of the meat off the others and eating it without the bun.
I went all in for a burger dubbed The Monster of the Midway. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. I’m just going to cut and paste the meat description….ok? Good. “An 8 oz. char-broiled and well-seasoned Chicago’s 250 handmade patty consisting of short rib, beef chuck, and beef brisket with Cajun seasoning.” The Chicago 250 is Black Angus beef raised within 250 miles of Chicago by Whittingham Meats. The patty is topped with applewood bacon and bleu cheese. It comes with a chipotle aioli I asked to leave off as well as the typical lettuce, tomato, and onion. The sandwich is served on a soft, dense brioche bun that is toasted before the meat is placed on it.
For all the hype they do on this burger, the meat better be delicious….and it was. It was super tender with a little pink running through the middle and every so often, a hint of that Cajun seasoning would just sneak up. The mound of bleu cheese was generous, as advertised, and the bacon was nice and crispy.
The sandwich came with home made chips or hand cut fries. I went the fry route. J loved these as much as I did and she ended up taking quite a few off my plate in exchange for one of her sliders. they were, what I like to call, Chicago style. Very crisp, a little greasy, skin-on, and a deep golden brown.
The bill for the two of us was just under $40 before tip. Both of us were very impressed with our meals. Walking up to the Black Oak, you seriously question what you’re doing, but once inside, it’s actually a wonderful experience. The food is delicious and the atmosphere completely takes you away from the busy thoroughfare right outside the window. Don’t overlook this place on the Southside.