Green Door Tavern – 678 N Orleans St.
Living in River North for the past 10 years, I had found a comforting bar spot in the Green Door Tavern. Last year I moved, still in the area, but a bit farther out, so I hadn’t been to the Green Door in about a year. A few nights ago, I was jonesin’ for some bar grub, so I walked up Orleans to grab a bite at the GDT and was met with a pretty big surprise – a completely revamped menu.
Which, I’ll admit, I was immediately skeptical and disappointed about. The GDT has been around since 1921, making it one of the oldest bars in Chicago – really, the bar was actually built as a grocery store in 1872 right after the fire, but was opened up as a “restaurant” in 1921, operating as a speakeasy until prohibition was repealed in 1933. The bar is decorated with trinkets and signs from the bar’s history and some real interesting old school pictures. In the basement is the door to the building’s old school speakeasy, which you can rent for private parties. Enough history, though, on to the food.
Formerly, the food at the GDT was pretty standard bar grub – wings, the typical apps, burgers with your choice of toppings (they had a few menu options but they were pretty standard – a black and blue, a bbq burger – something along those lines). So I was pretty shocked when our waitress put down the new menu – the new menu reads like gastropub fare with a bit of ethnic flair. Scotch eggs and scrumpets as appetizers, Korean influenced “Lawrence Avenue Wings” and a pork belly slider with kimchi and watermelon, and an interesting selection of fries – poutine fries, chili cheddar fries, and Saratoga chips.
Now usually I’m not a purist and can accept change when it comes, but I’ll admit I was a little skeptical when I first looked at the new menu. If anything, I guess I felt like if any place should stick to tradition, it should be this place – but I guess I use the word “tradition” loosely, because I have no idea what the menu was like in 2002, let alone in 1930….ha.
But I came for a burger and some wings, so that’s what I ordered….
Not really the buffalo I was looking for, but they sufficed – good size wings, marinated in a spicy Korean sauce reminiscent of Kam Pong Gi – spicy sweet Korean chicken wings. These had a barbecue sweetness to it with just a hint of spice and a gentle crisp to the skin.
The burger choices were also a bit more adventurous than before, with ingredients that are in line with the new gastro-pub theme, but they’re nothing overly ambitious. In the end, what’s important is still here – they’re still a solid 1/2 lb, and they still brand the buns – a pretzel-style roll, with the “GDT” initials – a nice touch. And the burgers are still accompanied by side of crinkle-cut fries that are just lightly salted.
Sara went with the bootlegger, a monster topped with applewood bacon, ketchup, and an overeasy egg that mostly kept its form with just a bit of runniness.
I went with the CH-CA-CO Burger, named after the ranch in Kentucky where they get the beef for the burger from. For a few dollars premium, the beef from the ranch is grass-fed, antibiotic free, yadda-yadda – ethical yet, maybe a touch better. In terms of the beef themselves, both burgers had minimal seasoning, but were well cooked. This burger was topped with watercress of average freshness, a thick slice of bacon, and the “GDT sauce” which was a bit of a chipotle mayo.
Overall, I’m not a huge fan of the transformation of the GDT menu. On the inside, the place is the same, and has the same neighborhood bar feel. The price did take a small bump, but a hugely significant one. The quality of the food isn’t a whole lot better, which is to say it’s not bad, but pretty standard bar grub. Despite that, there’s a sentimental spot in my heart for the GDT, and I will still keep coming back.