While Evanston may cater to the culinary preferences of many, there’s one sect that may feel a little left out: the cheese lovers. And no, Cheesie’s doesn’t count. I’m talking about indulging in cheeses of all shapes, sizes, flavors, funkiness and textures with delicate, warm baguettes and carefully selected accompaniments. Bar Pastoral boasts all of the above, along with one of the most absolutely delicious desserts I’ve come across in my Chicago dining exploits.
This quaint cheese, bread and wine bar is located in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview East neighborhood, near the Wellington stop of the Brown Line. The trip will be worth it once you find your way to this small dairy-filled paradise—a dairy-dise, if you will. A well-designed ambience sporting dim lighting and smooth tunes whispering in the background gives Bar Pastoral an intimate feel. Sit down at a table, booth or at the gorgeous hardwood bar.
The restaurant may have only opened in the fall of 2012, but the Pastoral team has been around for years. As their website states, Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine opened their first venture in 2004. Success brought its founders, Ken Miller and Greg O’Neill, to open a second location in 2007 and a third in 2009. These three locations weren’t restaurants, but “specialty food and wine shops” that added sandwich making. In a smart business move, the Pastoral team plunged into the restaurant space adjacent to their first establishment last fall.
In addition to its extensive cheese menu, there are also smaller bar snack options such as marinated olives, small appetizer-type plates like the roasted bone marrow, and larger dishes such as the duck leg confit. Similar to other cheese bars, diners can also treat themselves to charcuterie. Lastly, there are several alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage options that will enhance your cheese experience.
Diners can choose individual cheeses for $6, three cheeses for $16 or five for $25. The cheeses are separated into four categories: ‘Softies’, ‘Washed Rind’, ‘Semi-Firm/Firm’ and ‘Blue.’ For the ultimate cheese experience, order the set of three and try not to choose two cheeses from the same category. A great set can be started off with the Coupole, which is a soft goat cheese. The Coupole’s citrus flavor pairs well with the honey accompaniment. Moving into the next order of cheese, try the Petit Frere, which has a distinct funkiness about it. For a third, choose the Gouda, which pairs well with the potato chips.
For those who desire something more substantial than a plate of cheese, the breaded mac & cheese ($8) is intensely rich and flavorful with cheddar and Asiago cheeses taking center-stage and tomato béchamel making for a worthy supporting cast.
And be wary if you decide to look at the dessert menu, because you’ll end up ordering something. Specifically, the s’mores tart ($7) with its brown sugar crust, delectable vanilla bean marshmallow crème topping and to-die-for chocolate filling will put you in an internal conflict of simultaneously wanting to devour it and admire it.
Address: 2947 N Broadway (between Oakdale Ave & Wellington Ave), Chicago, IL 60657
Hours of operation: Mon-Thurs: 5pm to 11pm, Fri: 5pm to 1am, Sat: 3pm to 1am, Sun: 3pm to 10pm