Your Chicago Guide dinner for two compliments of The Delta.
In this year of the global pandemic and other cataclysmic events, one has to grab any opportunity for joy. Smell the flowers, buy the shoes, eat the cake, pet the puppy… And for us, die-hard Chicagoans headed for the longest winter in the history of winter in the time of COVID-19, the joy lies in any chance to absorb the fading warmth of our short Chicago summer. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to dine alfresco year round, folks? Especially now? Well, it just so happens that I know a spot… In the heart of Bucktown, a Southern-inspired beauty is tucked away on North Avenue. The Delta is back, emerging from lockdown with an awesome all-weather patio. And every day she is open is a good day for tamales and cocktails. I am 100% here for the alfresco action.
On a recent visit, we sat on the patio amid hanging plants and warm wood accents. As the sign above the door implies, cocktails are the name of the drinking game at The Delta. So, we obliged. Expertly crafted, the drinks were well-balanced and darn delicious. I can see wasting the evening away over a cocktail or seven. Our favorites included Cypress Water, a refreshing riff on a gin & tonic. We also enjoyed the tropical yet herbaceous notes of Smash & Stay Friends: a medley of coconut rum, ginger, lime & dill. Truth be told, you cannot go wrong ordering any cocktails here. So, just pick your favorite spirit, find it on the ingredient list and take the plunge.
Obviously, we also did not sleep on the tamales here. The Delta specializes in the Southern version of these delightful little cornhusk bundles. The Southern hot tamales use cush (cornmeal) instead of masa. At The Delta you can enjoy Red Hots stuffed with beef brisket and slathered in red sauce. Or try the vegan version with spicy wild mushrooms. However, the swan song in my opinion is The Delta’s ode to Chicago, Jim Shoe. Part tamale, part Chicago staple, it combines lamb & beef tamale with housemade pastrami, giardiniera, provolone cheese, D.A.F. sauce (yes, that stands for Delta AF), topped with lettuce, onion & tomato. Part Southern charm, part Chicago grit, 100% delicious…
Tamales aren’t the only game here though. Every Friday fish fry is on special: crispy cornmeal-crusted catfish comes with freshly made fries and Cole slaw. Mississippi smoked brisket is smoked for 12 hours, slathered in char siu sauce and comes atop of wasabi mashed potatoes. The green tomatoes wear an audibly crispy crust, the inside flesh soft and tart. These come with grilled succotash, okra & remoulade. Don’t miss The Delta’s shatteringly crispy fried chicken with chow chow, excellent braised greens or smoked gouda mac & cheese either. Believe me, you will not leave hungry.
Dessert is the house-whipped banana pudding with vanilla wafers. Not one for dessert most days, I enjoyed this cool, subtle version. Less sweet than expected, well-chilled and brimming with fresh banana slices, the dish carried a savory note that made it irresistible.
As we finished our meal the patio got vibrant with sounds of laughter and din of plates and silverware. The tables were full, which elsewhere would put me ill at ease in the time of COVID-19. But here great care is taken to ensure the diners’ and the staff’s safety. Temperature checks and masks are required, tables are well-spaced and the patio is vented on all sides. Nicely done.
The convivial spirit thrives at The Delta. Dining here is not unlike a hug from an old friend. Remember hugs? The pre-pandemic ones? Stop into The Delta, have a tamale and a cocktail, feel that Southern hospitality envelop you. It will feel like a hug. I can’t wait to return.
The Delta is located at 1745 West North Avenue in the heart of Bucktown neighborhood.
Please, consult the restaurant for COVID-19 restrictions and requirements. Dine out responsibly.