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Restaurant Wed Jul 10 2013

Review: Endgrain is More than Just Great Donuts

WP_000137.jpgI like restaurants where it's OK to eat solo. I like settling into a bar stool, I like anchoring my book to the countertop so I can read hands-free, I like coffee served in a vessel that straddles the subtle line between "cup" and "bowl." I like poring over a menu and imagining every item: its flavors, its plating, how it would look being swept from the open kitchen to the wooden mosaic of a tabletop. I like the anticipation -- especially when you know it's gonna be good -- fueled by bottomless refills of aforementioned coffee. This is the brunch/lunch experience at Endgrain, and it's delightful.

This new Roscoe Village spot, opened and operated by sibling duo Enoch and Caleb Simpson, has been on the receiving end of flurries of press--most of which heralds Enoch's signature donuts as the newest heroes of Chicago's donut scene. To me, this was exciting, but ultimately misleading: Endgrain features some standout donuts, sure; but don't let the full brunch menu stand by in supporting role. Chef Enoch is also a master of biscuit sandwiches, weaving creativity through the stronghold of tradition, as exemplified in his marbled rye biscuit topped with caraway seeds and piled high with smoked trout.

resto 009.JPGAll three Endgrain menus (breakfast, all-day, dinner) boast a confident knowledge in pastry technique: donuts in the morning, biscuits in the afternoon, pasta and pot pie for dinner. There is lighter fare as well, but it's evident that doughmaking is where Chef Enoch's heart really lies. The former Nightwood sous chef admits that his base donut recipe came from a bout of boyish, yet informed, experimentation; the result of which was a unique cross between a brioche and cinnamon roll.

resto 017.JPGAnd, OK, we can talk about the donuts now. From a rotating selection of around 16 recipes, the menu board usually features around four at a time, most common of which are the Nutella milk stout and the bacon butterscotch. I, however, opted for a strawberry-vanilla concoction on my most recent visit, and found it almost too pretty to eat: not misshapen or greasy or alarmingly larger-than-life like some of its counterparts around the city. Most of the flavor was found in the punchy pink glaze, and the dough itself was only lightly sweet, resisting easily under its layer of crisp strawberry coating.

I was particularly touched when my server sweetly asked if I'd like a fork to eat it with. This is Endgrain -- where even the humble donut is worthy of a utensil. It perfectly exemplified the balance between fine-dining quality food and laid-back, stay-awhile atmosphere that Chef Enoch strives to achieve. But I've yet to find a kitchen tool more worthy of a good donut than my own hands; so I flexed my fingers, dug in, and enjoyed.

Endgrain sandwich

Endgrain is located at 1851 W. Addison St.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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