Kick, which replaced Sola in late 2015, is a gastropub in North Center focusing on spicy food. Though fiery burgers, sandwiches, and other casual pub food with a kick make up the bulk of the menu, the restaurant takes influence from all around the world. People from many, many countries love spicy foods with their own interpretation and spices. At Kick, you’re going to find Vietnamese steak wraps, Caribbean jerk tacos, and Southern fried chicken all fusing together around a shared love of hot food.
The look of Kick certainly embraces the fiery theme. Around the open layout of the restaurant, you’ll find deep red walls, orangey lighting, and electric fireplaces balanced out by metal, slate, and ashen-colored woods that help “cool” the restaurant. While casual, it has more of a lounge vibe than your average Chicago gastropub.
There is a semi-private party area off to the side, but if you’re looking for a more intimate dining experience, the outside patio is truly the place to relax on a summer day. A lounge space and high top tables are just in front of the restaurant that’s on a quiet, well-shaded street without a lot of traffic, but it’s just off Lincoln Avenue so there is plenty of people watching to do from afar. And after you’re done, you’re just steps from a charming neighborhood to explore.
At Kick, you’ll find a carefully chosen mix of wines, local and regional craft beers, and cocktails that are twists on classics and others that live up to the restaurant’s name. Because I’m predictable, I started off by trying the King’s Old Fashioned with Copper & Kings Oak-Aged Brandy. While quite strong, the use of raw sugar makes this a sweeter old fashioned than you may be used to, which gives it just enough of a twist on a classic favorite without sacrificing the iconic taste.
From there, I moved on to the Wild & Young that blends a pepper guava puree, Copper & Kings immature brandy, and ginger beer for what tastes like a slightly fruity version of a Moscow mule.
Many of the cocktails on the menu are not spicy, and a nice coolant for some of the entrees, many of them do pack a punch. In the case of my dinner guest, he ordered the KICK’n and Scream’n with chile-infused honey and tequila. Though not super spicy on its own—it was like a hotter version of the drink I was sipping—together with the spice from the fries we were eating was too much. When eating and drinking at Kick, it’s important to remember that while you may be able to handle one hot thing, but several hot things with very different spices can be a potent combination.
As mentioned, the Kick menu has a little something for everyone– from Indian-spiced vegetables to a Peruvian-spiced ribeye. Since it was a nice summer night out on the patio, a burger and fries seemed to be perfect. My buddy and I started munching on the bacon gouda fries. The “fire fries,” you can get regular fries too, taste similar to kimchi fries. They’re crispy with just enough potato and over time that heat gets really intense. Fortunately, they’re balanced by the creamy gouda cheese and bits of bacon. There was a solid balance of toppings, and I appreciated that they weren’t too messy to eat.
All of the burgers are 100% Wagyu beef with the option to substitute for a chicken breast or house made veggie patty. I tried “the Pit Fire” that’s topped with pork belly, aged English cheddar, and a smoked tomato BBQ glaze. Here they play around with sweet and a little spice that’s not too overwhelming, until you have more of the fire fries on the side. Everything was very tender from the beef to the pork belly to the soft bun. In my notes, I wrote it tasted like eating a “fluffy cloud of meat,” and I mean that in the best way.
With the sun disappearing, we sucked in our guts full of fries and burgers for a taste of the salted caramel cheesecake. The cheesecake is tastefully surrounded by caramelized bananas and drizzles of chocolate fudge reminiscent of bananas foster. It’s small enough to eat on your own, but perfect to split if it has been a heavy meal. The creamy, rich cheesecake was just the right touch to settle down the heat leftover on my tongue.
Kick is not going to be for everyone, especially if you’re that person where anything spicy feels like death. However, if you’re an adventurous eater that appreciates world cuisine as much as chowing down on a burger while drinking a beer, you’re going to love this North Center gem. Kick has a very unique concept, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more restaurants like it in Chicago in the future.
1943 W Byron St, Chicago, IL 60613