Uncommon Ground in Edgewater is not your typical restaurant. You might go there to listen to live, local music nightly in the back room. Or to view the latest local art exhibition on the walls. Or maybe to shop at the organic farmers market in the parking lot on Friday evenings during the summer, and also to sample wines against a backdrop of live music from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm while chatting it up with others at the market. There’s even Chicago’s—and the country’s—“first certified rooftop farm” you can check out on top of the building. On a chilly day, you’ll want to settle by the two fireplaces in the bar. And, oh, by the way, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served daily, and the food is alone is worth a visit.
On this cool, breezy Tuesday evening, Slow Food Chicago held a dinner featuring Seedling Farm fruits. The evening started on the 2,500-square foot rooftop garden, where we sipped on summer mixed berry shooters dotted with goat cheese cream and fresh herbs and refreshing “Agua Fresco Local Koval,” a mix of cucumber agua fresco with tarragon from the garden, Koval Rye Chicago, Koval Ginger Liqueur, and maraschino-style ground cherry as we wandered about the cedar boxes of produce that are used for the restaurants two locations (also at 3800 N. Clark St. in Wrigleyville). While Natalie Pfister, Uncommon Ground rooftop farm coordinator, described the array of produce being harvested (including 17 varieties of tomatoes) this first full season, we nibbled on excellent appetizers of shredded smoked chicken and tart cherry BBQ sauce on crispy blue corn polenta cakes and lamb lollipops with ground cherry jam. A trio of musicians was playing off to one side. It was all quite heavenly.
When Helen and Micheal Cameron, Uncommon Ground owners bought the property in 2007, they saved the historic building dating from 1908 saved from demolition. They proceeded to have the building extensively rehabbed, including digging the basement an extra five feet and adding steel beams to support the extra weight of the planned rooftop garden that eventually included four tons of dry weight soil—six tons when wet. The effort was carefully executed with a local and environmental agenda. You can read more about the project and the farm on the Uncommon Ground fact sheet page.
Since the Camerons are serious promoters of local, seasonal, family-farmed, and organic food when possible as well as local products, providers and workers, their menus reflect those principles. As we moved downstairs and inside the building’s dark wood-paneled main room, we continued to enjoy the bounty of summer that highlighted fruits from Seedling Farm in South Haven, Michigan.
Chef Brian Millman and his crew prepared a first course of a flavorful summer salad of roasted beets, plums, toasted walnuts, and goat cheese with mixed greens and a champagne vinaigrette. This salad was followed by an apricot and mustard glazed pork loin accompanied by a crispy potato cake, sautéed swiss chard and a slather of plum apple sauce. The pork served was from Slagel Family Farm, where earlier in the week the entire kitchen staff visited to watch and learn how an entire pig is processed.
The dinner, finished off with a peach and blueberry napoleon with melon gelato, satisfied in hitting many summer notes. When Slow Food Chicago organizes a dinner with Uncommon Ground, I jump at the chance if I can. The menu always boasts a creative blending of seasonal ingredients that pleases the palate and the evening’s informal agenda includes some sort of educational aspects. You get to learn more about the food you eat and the people behind it, making your meal more interesting—and memorable.
Uncommon Ground (Wrigleyville)
3800 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60613
Monday – Thursday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm (kitchen); bar until 2:00 am
Friday 9:00 am – 12:00 midnight (kitchen); bar until 2:00 am
Saturday 8:00 am – 12:00 midnight (kitchen); bar until 2:00 am
Sunday 8:00 am – 10 pm; bar until midnight
Uncommon Ground (Edgewater)
1401 West Devon Avenue
Chicago, IL 60660
Monday – Thursday 11:00 am – 10:00 pm (kitchen); bar until 2:00 am
Friday 11:00 am – 12:00 midnight (kitchen); bar until 2:00 am
Saturday 9:00 am – 12:00 midnight (kitchen); bar until 2:00 am
Sunday 9:00 am – 10:00 pm (kitchen); bar until 12:00 midnight