Last week, I was in Chicago for a work conference. Upon the recommendation of the hotel's concierge, I ventured out of our conference-center surroundings and made it up to Bin 36 twice during my stay. And let me say-- if I lived in Chicago, Bin 36 would be one of my most-visited, regular spots.
It's a huge, cavernous, airy space, filled with tables laden with cheese boards and happy people drinking wine. As a huge bonus to my wine century quest, they offer half-glasses of wine, so you can try lots of different types of wine as you nibble on some delicious food. Over the course of my two visits there, I tried a Sauvignon blanc/Semillon/Muscadelle blend, a Grenache blanc/Marsanne/Rousanne blend, a Cortese/Gavi blend, and a delightful sparkling rose. It was great to get so many unusual wine options on one by-the-glass list.
But what about the food? They offer small, wine-friendly bites with a huge selection of cheese. My first time there, I started with the Bin 36 Market Salad, with organic greens, dates, pistachios, pecorino cheese, and honey-champagne vinaigrette. It was incredibly fresh and light and tasty, each ingredient zinging against the mouthwatering wine.
Afterwards, I was still a bit hungry, so I ordered a dish of olives. This $5 starter was a veritable trough of olives, all mixed with thyme, anise, garlic, and orange zest. This was salty and tender and spicy all at once. And did I mention it was an enormous portion?
To cap off the meal, I ordered a dish of house-made ice creams. There was chocolate and pistachio and a honey-rum (I think) concoction-- three tiny scoops. Surprisingly, I liked the pistachio best; I tend not to like pistachio-flavored desserts, but this ice cream had some good texture and some extra creaminess from the nuts.
On my next visit, I ordered the endive, watercress, and pear salad, with goat cheese rather than blue cheese. This was another fresh, tasty, flavorful mixture, all capped off with a handful of roasted spiced seeds (I think they were pumpkin seeds). Unfortunately, it seemed that the chef had grabbed the bottom handful of the seed bin, so along with the seeds themselves was a handful of almost pure-salt spice dust. The bites that were laden with dust were chokingly salty, which made parts of the salad almost inedible. Other than that, though, this was another memorable concoction.
I cannot recommend Bin 36 highly enough-- it's a friendly, welcoming place for some great wine and some good food. Next time I'm in Chicago, you can bet I'll be back.
336 North Dearborn, Chicago, IL