“There are great people here.” I beg your pardon? “People here. The staff, the regulars. There are so many great people here!” I am standing next to the bar at The Delta, waiting to be seated for dinner. One of the owners is behind the stick slinging drinks on this busy Friday night. He chuckles, overhearing my exchange with the one-man welcome wagon. In fairness, this stranger isn’t wrong. By the looks of the crowd, this is the kind of place where everybody knows your name. Small but mighty, The Delta is buzzing with friendly energy. A good sign, I think to myself.
Anyone who has ever traveled below the Mason Dixon line, has experienced the infamous Southern hospitality. The Delta aspires to bring that touch of the South to our fair Northern city. And it does so successfully. The vibe here is relaxed and easy, even amid a very busy service. No one stands still, but also no one is rushing. The tables linger over desserts and large format cocktails for two, served in dainty vases: two straws, Lady & the Tramp style. Our server Lawrence is attentive and intuitive, without being overbearing. His forethought is impressive from the very start. After I order a glass of rosé, Lawrence brings one over along with a sample of the sparkling rosé on offer. He quickly explains that Wednesdays are for unlimited rosé. (Wait, what?! Tell me more…) And that the previous Wednesday depleted the rosé stock down to a couple of glass pours. “Just in case we run out, please try this one. We have to have a plan B!” Touche, Lawrence.
While I am on my wine adventure, my dining companion dives head first into the delicious sounding cocktails. These are well balanced, freshly made concoctions, fragrant with herbs and fruit. I take a sip here and there. An easy going, summer-in-a-glass Smashley and creamy smooth Rock’s Cache Sour are our top choices. Both delightful. I could waste an hour or two sipping these tipples on The Delta’s patio…
We seek some guidance from our good friend Lawrence in regards to the food. (He does seem like a friend at this point, no exaggeration.) We are hungry, but don’t want to over order. We both enjoy food and would like to make sure we sample all the goods. Lawrence comes through yet again, recommending things he likes. I love our productive exchange. We start with a Jim Shoe tamale. Now, if you call yourself a Chicagoan, you are familiar with a Jim Shoe sandwich, a Chicago South Side specialty. Just like the city itself, the Jim Shoe is an amalgamation of cultures and ethnicities. And The Delta version is no exception. It arrives in a glorious mess of a heap: beef, lamb, crispy pastrami, lettuce, tomato, onions, giardiniera, special sauce… Instead of bread, a pillowy bed of cush, steamed corn meal base, a Southern-style tamale. Jim Shoe has been on the menu since the opening. And rightfully so. It is delicious! And the nod to Chicago’s own “South” isn’t lost on us. Traditional tamale this is not, but what a glorious homage to sweet home Chicago!
We order grilled head-on prawns, whole catfish and flank steak to share. Oh, the things I have to do in the name of research! The prawns are pretty glorious in their simplicity, served with spiced butter and two lovely drop biscuits. Catfish (boned out and headless) arrives with sweet potato puree and bok choy. An odd choice of greens? Yes. Delicious? You betcha. Steak is tender and medium-rare perfect, served with a chimichurri and roasted potatoes. Delightful! We save room for dessert, a mixed berry cobbler topped with savory biscuit dough and vanilla ice cream. Not too sweet, it is a perfect final note to our meal.
We walk out of The Delta shiny and happy. The dinner was tasty, the service superb. And we vouch to return to taste the rest of the menu, though maybe on a day warm enough for some patio action. It’s a friendly place, The Delta. There are so many great people here. That one-man welcome wagon at the bar was right after all.
The Delta is located at 1745 West North Avenue in the heart of Bucktown.
The Local Tourist dinner for two compliments of The Delta.
Photo credit: Kevin Hartmann