Chicago is a lot more than hot dogs and deep dish pizza, proof of which is the city?s growing love for Southern cooking and barbecue. Evidence of this is Carriage House, which serves modern low country Southern food to Wicker Park at 1700 W. Division Street. We were invited out to Carriage House on a surprisingly cool August evening for a Porch Party to try out the restaurant?s lowcountry boil, a few drinks, and some tasty appetizers.
Stepping inside Carriage House, you feel like you?ve been transported into a posh southern country club or plantation house where southern gentlemen might sit around drinking bourbon and smoking cigars. Thanks to lots of aged-looking wood? Carriage House feels like an institution that?s been here forever, though the clean walls and high ceiling give it a modern, trendy feel. It?s a restaurant that both understands its inspirations, but is fully in tune with the modern city.Most of the restaurant is a big, open dining room with a classy bar and an exposed kitchen. Be warned Carriage House gets pretty popular and the high ceiling and kitchen don?t help with the noise. Go with a group and expect a lively and loud night. An enclosed front porch area is a little quieter and there?s also patio seating out in front and on the side on Paulina.
Whether you go for brunch or dinner, Carriage House will likely be pretty full, so I?d definitely recommend making a reservation.
While this was my first visit to Carriage House for dinner, I live down the street and regularly go for brunch. Wicker Park is comically overstuffed with brunch options, but Carriage House is a little classier and the food is a lot more adventurous than the typical breakfast options: a fried oyster benedict or shrimp and grits, for example. The French toast and BBQ pork sandwich are both excellent, but my favorite for brunch is the chicken and biscuit.
Perfectly tender and crisp chicken comes inside a warm, flaky biscuit with a mild pimento cheese and just the right amount of sausage gravy. The gravy gives you a little bit of moisture, but doesn?t make the biscuit soggy or taste like you just ate a bag of wet flower.
Starting off the evening I sampled a selection of cocktails and appetizers from their dinner menu.
- Voodoo Priestess: It was a bit chilly out thanks to some roaring winds, but the Voodoo Priestess quickly warmed me up. The rum-based drink was pretty sweet, thanks to honey and combined with lemon clove tasted like a summery sweet tea.
- Low Country Sweet Tea: The actual alcoholic sweet tea had some similarities to the Voodoo Priestess, but was a bit more intense thanks to a slightly bitter black tea and stronger rum. Still, it was easily drinkable and a perfect complement to a summer day.
- Watermelon: This watermelon slice mixed spicy, sweet, and salty? injecting the fruit with some honey, Tabasco, and mint. I never thought I?d have a watermelon this intense, and I definitely didn?t mind the sharp kick.
- Hush Puppies: Generally I find hush puppies way too heavy, but these were light and crispy with a spicy mayo on top. These were an excellent snack I found myself grabbing more and more each time they came around.
- Deviled Eggs: The soft deviled eggs at Carriage House had a filling heavy on a strong Creole Mustard. While that’s the predominant taste, the salmon caviar on top gave the eggs a fresh, crisp finish.
Finally, Carriage House brought out their lowcountry boil, a huge pile of shrimp, clams in the shell, sausage, sweet corn on the cob, and red potatoes. While they provided a massive portion to feed the entire front patio, I?m told the normal portion is also big and meant for sharing. While everything here was pretty amazing, the sausage was the highlight for me?packed with Cajun spices and a satisfying char.
Carriage House Bottom Line
Wicker Park is a neighborhood packed with incredible restaurants and Carriage House is among the best. By combining classic southern low country food with modern style and fresh ingredients, Carriage House provides an experience that?s unique for both the neighborhood and the city. Whether you need a brunch hangover cure or an evening of classy yet casual dining, Carriage House has something for you.
We also recommend checking out the Bedford if you?re in the area. It?s located steps away from Carriage House inside a reclaimed 1920 bank complete with bank vault!