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North Side Review: Ole Lounge

By Amelia Levin in Food on Jun 19, 2007 8:15PM

The name says lounge, it looks like a lounge, it smells like a lounge—well, actually it doesn’t really despite that smoking’s allowed in certain areas--but who would have thought Ole Lounge would have great food in addition to drinks?

We didn’t at first, but after trying a few tapas dishes on the menu, this sexy-chic, Latin-influenced bar in Lincoln Park has been quite a hit in its ‘hood. On weekend nights, DJs spin and a well-dressed, diverse crowd from LP and far beyond packs the place for fruity mojitos and pitchers of red and white sangria, the house specialty. During the week, the spot settles down and feels more like a restaurant than a bar with two- and four-top tables set for dinner throughout the front. On this occasion, we chose instead to chow down at the mahogany bar in back, flanked by a couple of hi-tops and more low-slung couches.

2007_06_Chicagoist_OleLounge.3.jpgAt this point, you don’t have to travel far for tapas, whether it’s Iberico, Ba-Ba-Reeba, or Twist. But for starters, this Chicagoist reader has had the popular goat cheese and tomato sauce dish at all the above mentioned places, and hands down, Ole’s version takes the cake. A huge scoop of super rich, super creamy goat cheese sits, not bathes, in a traditional tomato-based sauce that’s got a nice kick and tang, thanks to jalapeños and saffron—a good diversion from the usual is-there-even-any-goat-cheese-in-this-dish, soupy bowl of marinara you might normally find around town.

Another winner: the beef tenderloin, char-grilled on the outside, sliced rare and juicy, accompanied by marinated button mushrooms and Cabrales, an aged, Roquefort-style cheese. The grilled shrimp were meaty and garlicky good. Chicken and ham croquettes were just lightly battered and fried, but mainly meaty as well, and indulgent when paired with a lemon-garlic aioli.

Of course, who could write about a tapas bar without mentioning the sangria? The bad part: be wary of the pitchers that tend to taste like is-there-even-any-alcohol-in-this-drink. The good part: order from Enrique, the mixologist at the bar who’s got a couple of other trendy bar experience under his belt, and he’ll pour you a kick-ass, and super stiff, glass of the fruity stuff. Vodka, brandy, and 7-Up form the base of the drink that gets a hefty pour of good quality red wine last for a two-toned white/red effect. Mojitos come standard and minty or in creative twists with pomegranate juice, mulled raspberries, and other concoctions.

2007_06_Chicagoist_OleLounge.2jpg.jpgFor a hot night in the summer, it was sort of a drag we couldn’t sit outside where part owner Mitch Gundogdu said they had failed attempts at snagging the empty, gravel parking lot next door. But nevertheless, we’ll make Ole a regular stop, summertime or not, just for drinks, or not.

Ole Lounge, located at 2812 N. Lincoln Av., 773-388-3500, is open 5 p.m. until 2 a.m., Sunday through Friday, and 5 p.m. until 3 a.m. on Saturdays.