I love this slide into winter because it gives me an excuse to don a huge sweater and eat comfort food for the next six months. Regional cuisine gets no more comforting than the French—all that butter and cheese and drippy bacon fat. A good rustic French farm-type meal just speaks to me on a very basic level. Of course, sometimes it’s nice to have a French essence without all the French to-do.
Enter Maude’s Liquor Bar: It’s a vintage white-washed brick and wood affair downstairs while the upstairs is a dark and cozy bit of mahogany inspired lounge. If you’re historical enough to imagine pre-WWII France and the cocktails you might have therein, you’ve got a glimmer of what Madue’s is trying to accomplish. And, for the most part, it does it pretty well. The food was mostly fantastic, the cocktails were delightful, and the room is loud without being raucous.
My big complaints actually occurred before and after our group’s dining experience. The before is that Maude’s web site is horrible. Who makes their downloadable menus images? Small but irritating complaint, I know. But, I’d like a PDF, please. The after we ate complaint had to do with the leftover food. One member of our group ate half of her salad and asked to have the rest boxed up. They gave her three leaves of lettuce (out of a seriously large plate).
What We Ate
- French onion fondue: A fondue made from gruyere cheese and caramelized onions…. Sweet and cheesy with crunchy bread on the side.
- Escargot: Burgundy snails with traditional herbed garlic butter, served with the same crunchy bread as the fondue. A pretty large platter (I think there were 10 total). As much as I love escargot, now that I’ve made it at home, I’m not sure if I would order it in a restaurant again. Canned snails swimming in butter is pretty easy to cook up (once you find the snails).
- Pomme frites (that would be French fries): served with garlic aioli. You can’t go wrong with fried potatoes, but then again, they’re nothing to get super excited about.
- A few oysters (your choice of West Coast or East Coast) served traditionally with hot sauce, horseradish, and lemon. Raw fish is delish (and so are raw oysters)
Because we had shared a bunch of small plates, we went smaller with the main course. (Well, some of us did… not me!) I had a traditional cassoulet. The night we went, it was a duck with white beans and a thick but not overly heavy sauce. A really good blend of flavors—not too much meat, not too many beans.
Two of my dining companions had the shaved vegetable salad. A tall mound of über-thin vegetables (radishes, beans, lettuce, carrots) with walnuts and a light dressing. After the fest above, veggies went home. My sister ordered the Bibb lettuce salad (served with a sherry dressing). This was the aforementioned salad of three leaves in a box. What she ate of it was good though.
We also ordered a side of blackened Brussels sprouts (annoying misspelled on their menu). They’re served in a wee cast iron pot covered in Parmesan cheese and browned butter. I love miniature stuff so serving tiny lettuce heads in a tiny pot just sent me over the edge. (And, they tasted darn fine as well.)
What We Drank
They do these lovely cocktails called “Smashes.” They’re basically a muddle of herbs with a heavy liquor pour and a bit of mixer. Mine had a ton of mint (which I love) so it was a light and refreshing way to start the meal. We also took advantage of the by the glass house wine (either red or white). At $4 a glass, even if it tasted a bit off, did it really matter? Turns out it was a decent wine. Not amazing, but certainly nothing that would ruin your meal.
I’d suggest going to Maude’s for a cocktail and bit of late night nibble—especially the fondue. I really recommend that fondue.
Location: 840 W. Randolph. Valet available, but amazingly I found unzoned, unmetered, street parking around the corner. (I know, I couldn’t believe it either.)