Just after 6p.m. on a Wednesday, City Mouse’s dimly lit dining room is about halfway full, and every seat at the bar is taken. As the night continues, handfuls of groups—likely some from Google across the street—stream in, rendering City Mouse nearly a full house. Later still, a four-top of 40-something men scoot their table to join up with that of two single women, and they all order another round.
Infused with a spirit of camaraderie and an all-are-welcome mentality, the latest restaurant from Jason Vincent of Logan Square’s Giant is a solid fit with its mother ship, Ace Hotel Chicago. For starters, one of Ace’s mantras is “cultivating joy attracts more joy.” The phrase manifests in every part of the highly shareable, slightly adventurous menu at City Mouse.
Dead Work is a clear winner on the cocktail menu. A supreme sipper for winter, the whiskey-based drink has a kick of cinnamon that warms from the inside out. Equally comforting is the Country Mouse starter. Biting into a ball of fried cheddar breaded in panko and topped with caviar evokes the same feeling as wrapping yourself in a blanket hot out of the dryer. Go ahead and order two.
A variety of salads provides heaps of both fruit and veggies. Try the Mutsu apples and farro with roasted pears and kohlrabi, or the roasted beet salad, which, while not hugely original, is well executed. The star of the small plates is the lemony Brussels sprouts, paired with grilled bread spread with garlicky bagna cauda. It will leave you scraping the last crispy bits from the bottom of the bowl.
Moving on to slightly larger plates, all the pastas here are made in house. Tagliatelle tossed with gulf shrimp, fried tomatoes and chili butter goes down nice and easy. And you can’t go wrong with lasagna: Tall, rich and handsome, it’s destined to become your new favorite carb.
If or when you make it to the entrees, find five hearty options that fulfill any protein desire, from seafood to beef to poultry. Sea scallops take on a decidedly Asian flavor, paired with king crab, green curry and butternut squash; the plate of smoked chicken and cashew rice does the same, with raw cabbage salad adding a satisfying crunch to the dish.
While City Mouse isn’t exactly a place for macro counting, the dessert menu offers several gluten-free options. Order pastry chef Angela Diaz’s individual apple pie. Not too sweet, it has a biscuit-like crust and juicy hunks of apple, plus apple-caramel ice cream and candied cinnamon almonds on the side. Other Eastern-inspired treats, like an ice cream sandwich with black sesame or cheesecake with shiso, don’t quite make sense on paper but all play well together.
The same can be said about the wide variety of relaxed patrons hanging out on City Mouse’s patio on a recent chilly night. Cozied up to the fire and perhaps a few Dead Works deep, they’re not the least bit bothered by the wind.
311 N. Morgan St.
Open for brunch, lunch and dinner every day
Small plates, $5-$17; pasta, $15-$19; large plates, $15-$32; desserts, $3-$9