Chicago’s Boarding House

In 19th century Chicago, boarding houses were an institution in the city. Visitors and newcomers could feel very much at home in one of these private households offering lodging and meals. The host or hosting families played an important role in connecting them to Chicago living and lifestyle.

The Boarding House restaurant on North Wells Street offers a similar cozy and welcoming space to those wanting to connect with Chicago’s contemporary metropolis. The owner, in this case, Alpana Singh is herself a Chicago institution.

Singh is the youngest woman to ever achieve the rank of master sommelier, and became a local personality with her TV show Check, Please! Singh is an author, columnist, Food Network judge and now restaurateur. The Boarding House is a reflection of all that passion. And the place is gorgeous.

As you come inside, the first thing you see is an impressive chandelier made out of over 9,000 wine glasses. The warm-colored walls and the vintage chic décor also add character, charm and a distinct feminine elegance.

We enjoyed how wine was an important part of the concept. Yet, it’s not the whole concept. There is a cellar. But there is a bar, a full-bar on the first floor. While waiting for our table on the second floor, we had cocktails that were simply lovely. A traditional old fashion for Nabol and a Dirty Bird for me, made with sparkling wine, peach liquor, orange juice and fresh mint. Light and refreshing. 

The second floor is just as beautiful. But this time with an even bigger chandelier made out of green wine bottles and a great view of the city through the tall windows. The space is open and inviting.

The dinning tables for two are relatively close to each other and some guests are tempted to share impressions on food and wine with the next table. This is a place for foodies that speak food like their native language.

Just wait until they serve you the polenta fries with béchamel sauce, truffle shavings and an egg sunny side up. You’ll be so delighted, you are going to want to celebrate with more people than the person in front of you. It’s that good. 

The merguez stuffed calamari was Nabol’s choice for appetizer. With a bed of flageolet beans and a touch of harissa is not a bad option either.

For dinner options, you can’t go wrong with their succulent mushroom risotto or you can try their Amish chicken with a Yukon potato hash, piquillo puree, calabrian chili and lemon crème fraiche. Both options paired perfectly with a simple glass of their Brezza Chardonney from the Piedmont region of Italy. 

Portions are pretty good too. We almost didn’t have room for dessert, but couldn’t resist. My favorite was the chocolate bar flowerless cake, while Nabol really liked their oatmeal cookie sandwich with cream cheese and bourbon caramel filling. A nice ending to a gorgeous dinner.

Overall, the Boarding House does deliver on the dinning experience you expect downtown, with comforting, new flavors that are unexpected. It’s whimsical and takes elements from our city’s trends and traditions. It’s the kind of perfect place you take out-of-towners to give them a taste of what your city has to offer.

Up next more pictures of The Boarding House. 

Boarding House's Mushroom Risotto with parmesan, mascarpone and truffle cream.

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Boarding House's merguez stuffed calamari 

Boarding House's dessert sample with their chocolate bar flowerless cake, their carrot cake and their heir oatmeal cookie sandwich with cream cheese and bourbon caramel filling.

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