dining out: c. 1880

It’s been a loooong time since I went to a fancy restaurant, folks. But there’s a birthday coming up, which means it was time to go out and celebrate! And we picked a nice one.

I’ve been intrigued by c. 1880 for a long time, but it’s definitely not the kind of place I would go as part of my everyday life, so it always lingered on my restaurant wish list. But with the aforementioned birthday (and, selfishly, some good news for me at work), it was finally time to take the plunge. Chef Thomas Hauck is nominated for the James Beard award for Best Chef Midwest this year, so what better time to try it out? If he wins, I’ll get to nod knowingly!

First off, the space is very cool. A lot of rustic, industrial touches executed in a super classy way. I especially loved the statement light fixtures, with black wires draped across the ceiling. We sat in the back, where there’s a set of four intimate banquette tables – it seemed like this was “celebration” space, since three of the four tables had birthday cards from the staff set up on them (such a nice touch, by the way!).

The service was excellent; the host was very friendly and checked out us several times throughout the night, and our server was great and so knowledgeable about the menu. She let us know that the appetizers are individually portioned, so we decided to just skip ahead to entrees. Plus a bottle of prosecco…it was a celebration, after all!

I considered a lot of options on the menu (our server let us know that it changes up quite regularly with seasonal ingredients from the local producers they work with), but in the end, I had to go with my one true love: scallops.

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Wowza. The pan-seared scallops were served with a trio of sunchoke (pickled, pureed, and sunchoke chips), paddlefish roe and a dill oil. The dish comes with pickled ginger, but I’m not a ginger fan…I always feel a little weird about asking for changes/substitutions in a fancy restaurant (I feel bad for not experiencing the dish as the chef intended), but our server checked in and the kitchen was happy to leave it off for me. And god…this dish was seriously mind-blowing. Scallops are a special favorite of mine, so I know: when they’re good, they’re so good, and when they’re bad they’re tremendously disappointing. And these were so so good. (I also snagged a bite of the shortrib [which is cooked for 48 hours! What!], and it was also amazing.)

For dessert, we split a cheese plate (who knew cheese was a dessert? I approve!) and the house dessert, the Whatchamacallit. The cheese was amazing (cheese is always amazing), but the Whatchamacallit? People. I can’t even remember everything that made up this dessert…chocolate mousse, ice cream, caramel rice krispies, peanut brittle, it is 100% not to be missed. The perfect ending to a lovely meal.

I don’t know when I’ll return to c. 1880, but the next time I have a special occasion that’s really worth celebrating, it will be at the top of my list.

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