Belgian Cuisine: More Than Waffles

Well, what else do you think of when I say Belgian? Waffles! (And, if you’re a grown-up, perhaps beer.) But, you typically don’t say, “Gee. I have a craving for Belgian food tonight.” Or, “want to go grab a few beers and Brussels sprouts?” So, imagine my surprise when someone opened an entire restaurant devoted to nothing but Belgian-inspired cuisine.

And, then it turned out to be small plates. (Sigh.) I get it. Restaurants have to make money, and small plates are a great way to charge more for less food. I like communal dining, but I also like the option to not commune as well.

A group of us went to Leopold’s for a bit of after work dining and drinks. It’s a clean room—dark wood, gray upholstery, big bar that invites a sit-down. The menu changes regularly, so be prepared for seasonal goodies as well as favorites.

What We Ate

We shared a bit and went a bit hog-your-own-plate. I’m just going to discuss what I ate so as to remove any sort of confusion. I will say that one end of the table had a few oysters and a mound of mussels that looked pretty spiffy. I ate part or all of the following (Please do not judge. Remember they were small plates…emphasize small and also remember I am a pig with a bottomless stomach.):

  • Pierogi made from farmers cheese, potato, onion, winter squash and leeks on top. They were fabulous and I highly recommend eating a ton of them. Crispy on the outside from a good pan searing and soft on the inside. Yum.
  • Classic frites (just call them French fries, people!) with a samurai sauce. The sauce was a bit addictive. Pretty much a sriracha aioli.
  • Roasted Brussels sprouts served with chestnuts, bacon, and maple syrup. This is my favorite way to prepare these buggers—with loads of sugar and crunchy bacon on top.
  • Pretzel with currant mustard: Exactly like those salty goodies I used to get at the mall, but currant jam on the side.
  • Smoked rabbit: It was served with a prune glaze over mustard spaetzle, caramelized fennel and onion. This was my hog-your-plate, but I shared with others. It was so terribly delicious that I used my fingers to eat it. I’m a piggy.
  • I also had a bite of my friend’s braised short rib. Tender and smoky with just enough sauce. (It was served with a mash of autumn veggies and a small salad with pickled onion. They don’t mess around with the weird Belgian bits.)

Some of us ordered dessert (Not me… I ordered an espresso because I needed to burn off some of those calories and I feel that caffeine helps with my caloric intake. Oh, stop the judging. I hate working out and if it makes me feel better to think that coffee tones my muscles just let me be.):

  • The bittersweet chocolate pave looked great. Pave just means square or rectangular, but has come to mean a cake filled with some kind of frosting. This was pretty much chocolate mousse in long bars.
  • Someone else ordered a mashed up pie… I mean cobbler. It was made from apples and currants with a vanilla gelato on the side.

What We Drank

The beer menu here is extensive. They have a large selection of small craft brews in addition to seasonal beer selections. Unfortunately, I’m not a beer fan. So, I had a Cabernet Franc (by the glass) with dinner. It was decent, but not spectacular. I did enjoy my pre-dinner cocktail—a port and soda. Sounds simple, but it was really quite nice. They used a white port, soda, and a touch of lemon bitters. Refreshing and sweet without being overly so.

The plus side for Leopold’s is the food is amazing. I don’t think a morsel crossed my mouth that was not spectacular. Also, I had heard that service was spotty, but the night we went we had a wonderful waitress who knew her stuff and didn’t just recommend everything on the menu. In the negative category, the price is just a hair above what I feel is comfortable for small plates. Which moves the restaurant in that weird in-between area—it’s not a neighborhood place you’d go to regularly, but it’s not pricey enough to be special occasion. It’s a mildly interesting occasion restaurant. (But a pretty good one.)

Location: 1450 W. Chicago Avenue. Street parking is easy breezy and there are plenty of bars around for before and after dinner drinks.

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