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Restaurant Sat May 26 2007
Many have been waiting for Crust since the Chicago Reader exposed how it stood to become the country's fourth certified-organic restaurant last March. Opening night Thursday was teaming with great service that was hip to the vegan thing, a mix of hipster and blown-dry hair patrons, bicycles out front, and some of the best crust around - crispy and chewy at the same time. People sat down on the curb waiting for a table. Crust seems to be growing their own chard in the window behind them, and someone moving out from an apartment above was navigating a red sofa through a maze of Crust's sidewalk tables.
Service was tops, with our server introducing himself, checking in on us often and being fun and courteous - playfully suggesting we keep an eye on the bottles yielding $9 vodka infusions up on the wood shelf behind the bar as he went to check on something for us. The bus staff refilled our water whenever they dropped a few inches. A few mistakes were appropriately handled. An order that came to our table before we placed one did seem to go on to its proper destination. And we were put on the waiting list for an inside table instead of an outside one I'd asked for. But it was all handled quite pleasantly. When the chef wouldn't put cheese on just half of the pizza - it's too small they said - our server seemed sympathetic.
I split a vibrant Sun Salad with Meleah. "It's kind of like a standard seaweed salad mixed into a green salad", she told me. The sugar snap peas snapped fresh. An occasional solo pea surprised. The seaweed refreshed. Its miso-plum vinaigrette busted with a fine deep flavor at times, but wasn't evenly dispersed through the clumps of refreshing sprouts.
The pizza's crust is like it should be, crispy on the outside and chewy beneath. Meleah told me about her "shroom" pizza with baby spinach. "I like when I lick my lips after eating a bit of this. There's a little bit of lemon tang from the spinach." The lemon bursted through deeper from the artichoke hearts on my "el greco" (ordered without the feta). Onion slivers were juicy. Its Kalamata olives tasted nicely fresh, without a lot of the salt I'd expect from a nice brine.
The chocolate cake option comes from the certified organic bakery a few blocks South on Chicago, Bleeding Heart Bakery. It's fudgy and chewy, perhaps with a hint of banana, just sweet enough, and vegan to boot.
The crowd's dress varied. Many cargo shorts were in the crowd sporting tucked in polos or loose soccer jerseys. A couple, one with flip flops, tight red plaid slacks and a gray A-shirt with the other in a green cotton shirt with a soccer letter on the back, sat tables away from someone in a striped fitted dress shirt with tight square glasses and made-up for dinner ladies in untextured straight single length blown dry hair. A table of hipsters rolled in later in trademark shaggy hair and tight clothes - one wearing a stylish watch I wasn't quite sure how to tell time on. The outside crowd looked more relaxed in T-shirts.
Tab: $46 after tip, for two personal pizzas, a salad to split, and cake, with none of the vodka infusions.
Chocolate cake from Bleeding Heart Bakery