It's perhaps one of the most anticipated restaurant openings the South Loop has seen in years. You may remember Villains, as a dark hallway of a bar on Clark St. A neighborhood spot, boasting a huge beer list and good burgers. Much to the dismay of many neighbors it closed about 2 1/2 years ago.
Tonight, however, Villains returns, bigger and badder than ever. It's really more like Villains all grown up. The new space is larger, a little brighter, and the music is more contemporary. A ton of custom design completes the look. The skeletons have been traded in for accents of skeleton wallpaper, the stage area has been replaced with a proper sit-down restaurant. The fried mac & cheese (which was long gone before they closed in the first place) has been replaced by the far more sophisticated and delicate Cheese Gnudi. Still a beer bar- a wall of rare, previously enjoyed, bottles pays homage to a favorite German bar.
Villains was never known for its cocktails before, but they could always make a good one. Now the menu offers some great selections. They have their take on the Vesper, which is super smooth and dangerous, as one might expect from 007's drink. The Lion's Tail is packed with spices, it reminded me of Christmas. I'm not sure how else to describe that, but I love it. Their take on the Whiskey Sour had a little Peychaud's bitters decorating the top. It's beautiful and super creamy, just the right touch.
Since one of the owners has his distributor's license they are able to bring in spirits and beers that other restaurants in the city can't get. All the spirits used in their drinks are from Mikkeller and the Aviary is the only other establishment in Chicago that has them.
We have not yet seen the wine list or the beers, but they will have 40 taps tonight from Mikkeller and we did sample a nice Malbec from Argentina.
I already mentioned the Cheese Gnudi, it's a great starter. It comes with lots of veggies. It has some spice, but just enough to boost the flavor. I have the weakest palate when it comes to spice and I love this dish!
The other starter we tried is the Bass. It was just like Ceviche deconstructed. It's refreshing and plated beautifully.
Have you ever tried Skate Wing? It's rare to see in restaurants, but perhaps one of my favorite seafood dishes and Villains now has it! It's nothing to be intimidated by, the meat falls right off. Since skate are cartilaginous fish there are no bones to worry about. The preparation of the skate is heavenly. It's meaty and the perfect texture.
Another surprising dish was the aged sirloin and beef tongue. Without specifying how to prepare the beef it was cooked to perfection with flavorful mushrooms. The tongue can be best described as super high-quality deli meat. Jamie, one of the servers, likes to compare it to thick Italian beef.
It's been a long wait for Villains to return and while we knew they wanted to kick it up a notch and focus more on food than they had before they have really outdone themselves. They already shared much of the same clientele, but now I think they have officially joined the ranks of some of Chicago's best gastropubs such as Dusek's, Three Aces, and Paramount Room.
I'll be the one at the bar tonight enjoying a burger and a Perfect Manhattan. See you there!
Villains is located at 730 S Clark
Written by Molly Heyen - Executive Coordinator for Terri Buseman