Dove’s brings Southern comfort to Chicago


Photo Editor

Dove’s brings Southern comfort to Chicago

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Welcoming patrons with intoxicating sounds of old-school Chicago soul and blues music, Dove’s Luncheonette, 1545 N. Damen Ave., is a fresh addition to the booming Wicker Park restaurant scene.

The James Beard Award-winning One Off Hospitality Group founded Dove’s, which opened Sept. 22. Part of a family of restaurants, which include The Publican, Blackbird and The Violet Hour, Dove’s is the group’s eighth sit-down restaurant in Chicago and is keeping One Off’s hot streak alive with its fusion of Southern comfort-style cooking and traditional Mexican cuisine.

Southern food and Mexican cuisine may appear to be polar opposites, but Dove’s Luncheonette blends the two seamlessly with its diverse array of menu items. The thought of having chicken fried chicken and chile rellenos on the same menu may scare casual diners, but Dove’s makes it work.

Chef de Cuisine Dennis Bernard’s inventive menu, mixed with the familiar atmosphere of a neighborhood soul food joint, features items such as the Smoked Brisket Taco Norteno ($13), bursting with brisket, avocado, cucumber, chicharones and green chili vinaigrette served on a large flour tortilla.

The drink selection at Dove’s is equally stylish. The restaurant has a full bar stocked with a variety of beers, tequilas, wines and mezcales—a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant native to Mexico. For those not in the mood for alcoholic drinks, the restaurant also serves a variety of coffees, teas, juices and several different sodas, including the classic Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda ($3) and Mexican Coca-Cola ($3).

One of the standout dishes is the Chicken Fried Chicken Plate ($15). The dish is made up of a succulent buttermilk-fried chicken breast bathed in chorizo verde gravy and topped with sweet peas and green beans. The comforting crispiness of the chicken breast rounds off the kick of the chorizo, giving an old Southern classic new life. The entree could rival any chicken dish south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Other dishes such as the Red Chile Enchiladas ($13) offer a more traditional Mexican flavor. Corn tortillas and roasted chicken thighs covered in guajillo-ancho chile sauce, queso Oaxaca, queso fresco, cilantro, onions and pickled Serrano chiles, make up this spicy dish. One bite into the zesty enchiladas will send your taste buds into a frenzy for more. However, the roasted chicken mixed with an array of elegant spices still hints at the blend of Southern and Mexican cultures that make up the restaurant’s signature flavor.

The restaurant’s choice of vegetarian dishes is a nice detour from the abundance of comfort food items, from the Summer Tomato Salad ($9) to the Betabels ($7).

Reflecting the fusion theme, the side dishes and desserts are a scattershot of Southern and Mexican staples. Choices include grits, blood sausage, chili con carne ($4 each), and an exceptional Texas Toast ($2). The desserts also pay more homage to the Southern side with sweets such as the honey vanilla ice cream and the bourbon butter pecan ice cream.

If there were anything negative to be said about Dove’s, it would be the close-quartered dining area. Between the full-length bar tables and the community style dining tables, the seating arrangement makes for a bit of a cramped dining experience, with hardly any room to stretch after eating all that food. The cramped space makes for a semi-claustrophobic eating area, always making sure not to bump into a server or customer. 

While some of Dove’s menu prices can be on the expensive side, the restaurant’s service, atmosphere and delicious food makes up for the semi-extravagant pricing. Decorated with vintage photographs and artwork, diner-style seating arrangements and enchanting background music, Dove’s is a great choice for diner enthusiasts. 

Judging from the already-packed house, it does not seem like the restaurant will have any trouble finding a faithful following in its Wicker Park location.