In the ever-growing expanse of tasty, trendy West Loop restaurants sits a gem so rare, I almost don’t want to share it with you. It’s not off the beaten path, and you may have heard of it already, but when located amongst Girls, Goats and Grant Achatz, it can be hard to compete. Her Tasty Life doesn’t keep secrets from its friends, however, so let’s peel back the curtain on my newest obsession, TÊTE Charcuterie.
With a modest, rustic exterior, Tête Charcuterie can be found nestled along the west end of Chicago’s “Restaurant Row” on Randolph Street. In the warm summer months, a charming street-side patio beckons, though on this last visit I dined inside the thoughtfully-appointed, open-concept dining room with some of my favorite ladies-in-food, Chicago Food Authority, Everything Erica, Chicago Food Girl and Rach, Esq. Although, you’ll see as the post continues, we rarely (if ever) stayed in our seats! Such is the life of a food blogger. Always running amuck with plates in hand, chasing the light, and getting “the shot.”
See, isn’t it lovely? Reminiscent of European cafe styling with a far more modern, urban slant. Tête fits in and stands out all at the same time.
Our carnivorous crew was greeted with darling personalized menus – loved that touch! – and my personal favorite libation, a generous pour of cool, crisp, French rosé.
With wine in hand, I was ready to dig into the menu and was immediately surprised to see how wide-ranging the Tête Charcuterie menu actually is. The menu is full, robust and not just filled with endless cured meat and salumi offerings. Though, of course, there is pâté aplenty for you purists out there.
A veritable salami-terrine-a-palooza! I’m confidant saying there are very few things more beautiful to me than meat atop wood.
We sampled a few off-menu specials in addition to the: beef chips, dry-aged smoked bacon, foie gras truffle pâté and heritage pork shoulder coppa to name a few. We needed to slip into our adventure pants for a few of these, you know chunky pressed meats and fats and all, but everything tasted heavenly.
While we most definitely had no reservations about kicking off the meal with an obligatory array of charcuterie, what was to follow got me far more excited…
It was my first time trying an (almost) obscene amount of Tête Charcuterie’s starters and entrées and they BLEW MY MIND. I was apparently oblivious to the fact that they are doing some really amazing, composed, distinctive dishes here. The starters were a nice little intro that got our palates in gear for some of that big, bold flavor.
Shishito peppers with fried garlic, black bean aioli and shabazi spice was first up. I absolutely adore shishito peppers! I love their mysteriousness – will they be spicy? will they be sweet? – and how they eagerly take on the flavor of almost anything they’re paired with. Which, also, is often to their detriment if under-dressed and not seasoned properly. Luckily, Tête’s peppers sing! They’re zesty, garlicky and absolutely packed with tastiness.
The pickled beef cheek salad was up next and tasted amazing with the stone ground mustard and toasty bread we had at the table. Making little sammiches with the meat was the key to Flavortown… and I’m the Mayor.
This next round of delights really gave me the big, wide, food eyes. You know the ones. They almost pop out of your head while simultaneously rolling all around your cranium.
The food is just THAT beautiful. How a dish tastes – of course – is paramount, but we eat with our eyes just as much as we do with our forks… the artful presentation was not lost on me. Not one little bit.
The Moroccan lamb merguez sausage with its flora and fauna adornments just wowed everybody. Salty, spicy and rich with bright, fresh sidekicks. Flawless, y’all. This sausages gives life.
I. Can’t. Even.
What can I say, the pictures speak for themselves, right? Just posting them makes me want to lick the screen. Let’s move on to a quick recap before I try putting the whole laptop in my mouth.
This final round of savory dishes sent me over the edge from excited to fanatical… desire to compulsion… fancy to fascination. I really had to take pause and reflect for a moment on why I hadn’t been eating at Tête Charcuterie on the regular until now.
Maybe because I thought it was just charcuterie? We all make bad decisions sometimes. Le sigh.
Of the last main plates, I was shocked to find that my favorite in the bunch was a brilliant vegetarian bounty called the summer garden. What the what? Vegetarian? In a charcuterie joint? I know how it sounds but trust me on this. The summer garden is an impressive journey in flavor. The intense array of textures and tastes is only surpassed by how absolutely stunning the dish is.
And then something sweet to send us positively over the top!
Ain’t she a beauty?
I’d love to tell you a story about how my fellow foodie femmes battled over these nectarous creations, but we were shockingly civilized throughout dessert. Blame it on the meat coma. These ambrosial plates did not disappoint and concluded our meal on the highest possible note.
We were dizzy with delight, bellies full of sausage, brains full of rosé. TÊTE, I am in love! We wanted for nothing. Except to come back. Soon.
TÊTE Charcuterie | 1114 West Randolph Street | Chicago | IL | 60607 | reservations accepted