Sky Full of Bacon

The Secret Hamburger of Western Springs

A secret menu at Vie? What would that be, stuff they flew around the globe in the middle of winter to eat?

No, there’s no secret menu but there is one off-menu item that you might want to check out, available only in a very small quantity on Friday nights: a burger. Yeah, so? you ask. Well, it’s a burger that right now is being made from bits of the whole steer they dry-aged at Eickman’s in Seward, Illinois and butchered themselves.

Accompanied by fries fried in the tallow from the same or at least similar beasts, this is very much a Vie-style burger, the pure, dry-aged-beefy flavor of the meat front and center with only minimal accompaniments: some pickled onions and ramps and a ketchup made in house from some of the small sweetish tomatoes that were in the markets a few weeks ago. Frankly, given the sweetness of the ketchup, I’d have liked the meat more salted and seasoned for contrast, but that’s a minor cavil, the flavor of the high quality beef is what counts and it was terrific. The fries as dipped in that ketchup were mighty fine, too.

It was also my first time having the Vie salad, a simple but outstanding mix of greens with two kinds of hearts of palm— marinated chunks, like you remember from country club dining circa 1967, and shaved slices of fresh hearts of palm, nearly three inches across and more like daikon or something than canned HoP, all set off— or I should really say, all made— by shaved parmesan which just burst with bright and deep cheese flavor. Really, the best composed salad I’ve had in a restaurant in as long as I can remember, and I wasn’t surprised when Paul Virant told us that they keep trying to take it off the menu and replace it, but they can never seem to beat it, and so it’s lasted two years.

Finally, I talked for a bit with Nathan Sears, Vie’s sous and the charcuterie guy, about lardo, my own attempt at lardo-making having been somewhat less than satisfying. He brought out a few slices of theirs, which I found a little sweet— it comes from a pig called a Crawford Sweet, and they use sugar in the cure— but melted in the mouth giving off a complex mix of herbal and porky flavors. I am newly inspired, and may use the winter to attempt another go-round at lardoblogging myself.

4471 Lawn Ave.
Western Springs, IL 60558

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