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Telegraph Wine Bar sending out strong message about great food

The seared frog legs Telegraph are flavor-enhanced with dill creme fraiche spices. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

The seared frog legs at Telegraph are flavor-enhanced with dill creme fraiche and spices. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

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Telegraph Wine Bar ★★1/2

2601 N. Milwaukee; (773) 292-9463;

Hours: Open at 5 p.m. daily for dinner and late-night

Try: Tartine, seafood salad, chicken, frog legs, pasta and sweetbreads.

Prices: Tartines, $7-$9; “first courses,” $6-$15; “second courses,” $15-$22; desserts, $9.

In a bite: A wine bar with a sharp focus on specialty wines and creative food. Wood serves as a rustic preamble to the casual yet romantic atmosphere. Wines by the glass galore (on tap, actually). Half-bottle choices, too. And carafe pours. Large-format wines including a rare Gravner “Anfora” Ribolla Gialla Friuili from Italy and a Gruner Veltliner from Austria, for example. Wine prices range accordingly, so you live large or tone it down. Reservations suggested. Not good for children.

KEY: ★★★★ Extraordinary; ★★★ Excellent; ★★ Very Good; ★ Good; Zero stars: Poor

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Updated: September 15, 2011 7:54PM

Now that the gastropub idea doesn’t appear to be brewing as frothily as it once did, it is likely that we will see the re-emergence of the wine bar as the go-to eat-meet-and-greet place to be. And Telegraph Wine Bar in Logan Square just might be the paradigm for the genre.

TWB is casually romantic, a bit rustic around the edges, but with a view of Logan Square Park, it just might find itself on the cutting edge of a culinary shift that the 30- to 40-something spenders find more approachable than the beer-centric, flat-screen-TV hangouts of the not-so-distant past.

Along with an inspired and varied (and sometimes rare) wine selection (the work of sommelier Jeremy Quinn), Telegraph Wine Bar serves up a menu of dishes that while short in selection is tall in stature. John Anderes, who worked at Avec as a sous chef, doesn’t always nail it, but he gets it right more often than not.

The menu changes frequently, but you can pretty much count on three or four tartines, a fish or two, simple salads, chicken and a meat or two. I don’t mean to downplay that brevity one bit, because within each of those choices a thoughtful relationship exists between the primary ingredient and what comes in around it. For example, a “salad” composed of squid, mussels, shrimp and octopus would stand on its own freshness, but then that insalata di mare (my words) got all fine-dining fancy with cuttings of cherry tomatoes and toasted couscous. A tangy citrus vinaigrette worked beautifully to bring this fish salad to a level of pure enjoyment. It was made even more alluring by its $15 price.

Similarly, a grilled Amish half-chicken would work based simply on the lush meatiness of the chicken, but when varnished with a dried fruit glaze and plated with sauteed rapini and slices of fried lemon, the dish moved beyond the ordinary into the exceptional. At $17, it was a bargain.

Telegraph’s frog legs were sauteed to a turn and married with a gentle back-taste of cinnamon and a fine-tasting dill-accented creme fraiche. A real kicker of a first course.

And when you take a basic pasta, bucatini (that long pasta with a hole), and toss it with an agrodolce (sweet and sour) sauce and crispy nuggets of sweetbreads, it becomes a dish that some of the best restaurants in town would find it hard to duplicate.

About those tartines. I did not save the best for last. I am not a big fan of tartines. I find them to be nothing more than a fancy French open-face “sandwich.” Nevertheless, one night we split an avocado and whitefish tartine. Maybe we should have ordered the ham and cheese tartine. C’est la vie.


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