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DISH: SAVOR Umami Burger; Acanto
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2014-10-20

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Umami Burger Wicker Park ( 1480 N. Milwaukee Ave.; www.facebook.com/UmamiWickerPark ro www.umamiburger.com/ ) is one of the latest franchises of a chain established in California, New York and Nevada.

A recent visit left a friend and me with a positive experience, overall, although there are some aspects that indicate it's still a work in progress.

The truffled beet salad ( with truffled ricotta, smoked almonds, wild baby arugula and truffle dressing ) was great—and made me feel better about eating a dish that was somewhat healthful.

Starters include fries—which you can "umamify" through truffling, smothering ( short rib and house gravy ), making them "manly" ( with beer-cheddar, bacon, onion strings and mustard spread ) and making them "sloppy." The sweet-potato fries hit the spot but we absolutely loved the sizeable and thick malt-battered onion rings.

As for the burgers, we tried the original ( with Parmesan frico, shitake mushroom, onion, tomato and ketchup ) and the Cali ( butter lettuce, tomato, onions, house spread and house American cheese ). There's a reason this chain is expanding—and these sandwiches are it. They were amazing, with a hint of sweetness thanks to the Portuguese bread ( made with milk and honey ).

Now, here's the catch: A burger, fries and drink go for $18.50 ( while a meal with a beer is $21.50 ). Is a burger here worth $12 bucks? I'd say "no" even though, like I stated, the sandwich is incredible.

Also, the decor seems unfinished. There were huge stickers on the wall, but there were large bare stretches. I don't know if that's what they're going for, but it seemed weird to both of us.

Overall, I'd recommend this place. However, be prepared to spend a bit more than you'd expect for a burger and fries.

Acanto ( 18 S. Michigan Ave.; www.acantochicago.com/ ) had plenty going for it before the first patron sampled the fare there.

The Italian restaurant ( replacing the more upscale French spot Henri ) occupies an area that is certainly tourist/workplace-friendly, with wide-open views of Grant Park.

That fortunate location no doubt played a role regarding how busy the place was on a recent Friday afternoon—even for a late lunch.

However, another reason for the activity at Acanto could very well be the food. Among the offerings are cheeses that no other local restaurant offers, including Capriago, Bo Peep, Cowabunga and Boho Belle. My dining companion and I tried the intriguingly named BoDacious with bread and slices of pear—which worked very well.

I then tried the duck egg spaghetti, made with creamy pork sugo, caramelized pearl onion and rapini. The dish provided a couple surprises for my admittedly sensitive palate ( a peppery kick and even a hint of sweetness ), but I'd definitely return for that item. My friend also enjoyed her selection: an eggplant parmigiano sandwich with caponata, sweet basil and ricotta salata.

Speaking of ricotta, it figured prominently in a dessert we shared: crostata al forno—an intoxicating concoction consisting of housemade ricotta, orange marmalade and whipped cream. It's filling, extremely tasty and not too sweet, thankfully.

The house cocktails looked inviting ( although I settled for a lemonade ); even the sodas have an edge, with selections such as housemade wood-grilled orange and strawberry balsamic sodas as well as Baladin ginger ( from Lazio, Italy ).

Acanto: Come for the view, stay for the delightful fare.


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