Porkchop, the well-known Hyde Park restaurant with southern roots has made its way north all the way to West Loop. Now open, the newest location of Porkchop features a full menu of BBQ and other southern-style favorites while boasting a full Cabaret theater space. You can really choose your own adventure at Porkchop: you can sit at the bar and enjoy one of the many cocktails from their robust bar program; eat in the dining room and treat yourself to diverse offerings everything from boiled lobster, to brisket, to Belgian waffles; or you can get a ticket and take down some ribs while you watch a burlesque show (if that’s your thing). I will say, the food here was genuinely good (for the most part, we’ll get there later). The burnt ends and brisket were tasty (although they were not smoked, just drenched in liquid smoke as far as I could tell) they had well rendered fat, were not dry, and generally solid. The chicken and waffles were great, and while invented in New York City, I guess it can be called southern. The coconut cake was probably the best thing I ate there, it tasted like it was out of a grandma’s kitchen. Also good: the mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, catfish bites, and cornbread.
The most important aspect of a restaurant is, of course, the food. The food here is good, so there is merit here. With that said, almost every other aspect of this experience felt like this location just didn’t have its feet yet. From the time we sat down, it took us over an hour and a half to actually eat anything. A magician came to our table before a waiter did. Now, I’m not anti-magician, he did a great job, but it was a signal of the time to come, just sort of off kilter. Our servers were so kind and clearly hustling very hard, but clearly had been thrown into the weeds by some force that we couldn’t see. Orders were coming out of the kitchen wrong, or twice, or not at all. I’m fairly certain the menus for the media event we attended weren’t even printed yet when we walked through the door. At no point during the evening were we able to try a pork chop. The whole operation just felt out of sync, and the handsaws hanging down from the ceiling didn’t really help the energy.
Look, it’s a pandemic, EVERYONE deserves grace and extra space right now, especially restaurants. But isn’t new anymore, and we didn’t surprise them. This was a special, invite-only, media event for maybe 10-12 tables. I would be remiss in my duties as a critic if I didn’t tell you about these issues. This may improve over time, and I genuinely hope it does, but maybe give Porkchop a month or so to hit its stride.
Before I move on, I’m not sure if the people behind Porkchop knew that I had just moved out of New Orleans when they invited me in, and I’m absolutely positive they didn’t know my partner was native bread New Orleanian. That’s what brings me to the red beans and rice. My partner LOVES red beans and rice, so much so that I shipped in 2 cases of canned Blue Runner Red Beans for a Valentine’s Day present, and it went over great. What is served at Porkchop is not red beans and rice. Sure, there are kidney beans in there, and rice involved, but it’s so far from what’s authentic that it made my partner viscerally angry. She literally hasn’t stopped talking about it. Folks at Porkchop, if you read this, you’d be much better off shipping in the cans of Blue Runner. It’s what the people deserve. Everything else was good! Just skip the red beans.
A highlight of the Porkchop experience, however, is the bar program. We got to try a few cocktails and they were all balanced, sweet, and sipable. The minty-fresh Honey Mojito was one of the best iterations of a Mojito I’ve tried. The Porkchop Punch is dangerously good, and gorgeous to boot, and the Peach Smash was strong and tasty. I can totally imagine these paring perfectly with a show in the theater
Being welcomed into a restaurant always feels like an honor to me. Food is so personal, and I know first-hand the herculean effort that goes into operating a place like Porkchop. It’s hard to do at all, it’s harder to do now. I believe the issues here are ones that will improve over time, but it’s not there yet. I will reiterate, most of the food here was very good. I’m automatically skeptical of any place billed as Southern up here in Yankee country, but the food here, for the most part, delivers. But, right now, eating out is a big choice, for a few reasons, and I think that Porkchop in West Loop is likely to be more enjoyable if given additional time to measure up to the Hyde Park location. For orders check here
Photos: Adam Gerber