For our final dinner in Chicago we enjoyed the goodness of Uncommon Ground, which has two locations in the city and has earned the title “Greenest Restaurant in America” multiple times. Inside, there is a real sense of community – whether you are searching for local artists, local musicians, or local spirits, you can find them at Uncommon Ground. They also boast the country’s first certified organic rooftop farm, raised money to create a neighborhood orchard using a percentage of their cocktail sales, and have planted 10,000 trees in India over the past five years. Every item on their drink menu also includes the distance, in miles, the spirit has traveled to wind up in your glass at Uncommon Grounds. For beer lovers, your conscience can rest easy, as the farthest brew offered hails from Wisconsin. Winos, however, will rack up the mileage, as we still leave most of our country’s grape-growing up to the western states. On top of these exceptional philanthropic and energy-conserving efforts, the place serves up delicious food and drink.
We snacked on sweet potato fries with goat cheese fondue, which took an unusual amount of time to arrive at our table. Perhaps they take the Slow Food movement too literally, or perhaps it’s an attempt to give diners time to appreciate the art-decked walls. I patiently sipped my cucumber collins and sampled my sister’s hot toddy, both of which were full flavored and robustly alcoholic. Finally the fries appeared, along with the perfectly tangy and creamy fondue—not the typical dip for sweet potato fries, but a welcome variation. The crispy duck leg confit with wild mushrooms, spinach, and divinely roasted potatoes was no conceptual masterpiece, but that is not the nature of Uncommon Ground. It was like the duck confit I’d had at sexy, more modern restaurants, minus the pretense. My grandma might have cooked this food, if she knew about confit and was a little less German. While I have had more interesting dishes, even in the scope of this trip, rarely has a meal (that wasn’t made by a member of my family) uplifted me so entirely. Restaurants are applauded for a unique dish or their trendy location, but sometimes you have to respect a place for what it does not try to be. Uncommon Ground offers Chicagoans authentic Chicago fare, or at the very least Midwest fare, and does it simply and gracefully, without gratuitous fanfare. This food speaks for itself.
Uncommon Ground – Wrigleyville
3800 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60613