The Bristol – nice place but not the most gluten-free friendly

My girl Clarisa wanted to try some place new and nice for dinner last week and she’d heard really good things about the Bristol in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. I was super excited to try the Smoked Manhattan I’d read about.

I debated blogging about my experience here because it’s a really nice place and I don’t actually want to discourage anyone from going. The interior is great, I love their commitment to using locally sourced ingredients and I love that their menu changes frequently and seasonally. In theory, it’s the type of place I should love. Unfortunately, it’s very gluten-heavy and our waitress wasn’t offering any substitutions. There are several homemade pasta dishes and most of the other entrees all come with some sort of wheat or barley based side, and the restaurant doesn’t seem to be the type of place that will offer substitutions for those of us who are gluten-challenged.

Clarisa and I shared the apple salad with marinated manchego and hazelnut. That was very good. As far as entrees go, my options were pretty limited — the roast half-chicken with no sides, the hangar steak with no sides or the head-on prawns. C got the roast chicken with the dill spaetzle on the side so that I could have some. Meanwhile, I opted for the head-on prawns, which the waitress warned me was on the tiny side. And it certainly was. Four grilled large prawns sliced lengthwise, which to me kind of defeated the point of keeping the heads on, were served in an anchovy cream with tarragon. It ended up being, well, just okay. The anchovy cream was far too salty and the dish really needed some sort of starch or veggie to go with it. This was the one dish where it wasn’t a case of me not being able to eat the sides it came with — it actually just doesn’t come with any. I found this a bit perplexing as it’s listed on the entree portion of the menu and not on the appetizers/small plates section. For $21, it just seemed kind of disappointing.

And my Manhattan was not nearly as exciting as I’d hoped. I couldn’t really taste the smokiness and I’m not keen on the technique of using sooo much ice.

In short, I really wanted to love the Bristol but I’m concerned it just may not be my cup of tea.

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