Pros: Soul food at its northside best
Cons: Somewhat inconveniently located, not heart healthy
Please note that as of writing this review, the details under the "view details" section is inaccurate. Do not go to 1800 W. Grand. Operating locations are listed at the bottom of this review.
Next time you're in the Windy City with your girlfriends to take in a taping of the Oprah show (and possibly a new car!), be sure to stroll just a block east to Wishbone restaurant at 1001 W. Washington in Chicago's West Loop district. You won't be disappointed.
Chicago does offer more authentic soul food on the west and south sides (particularly at the cafeteria-style B.J.'s), but Wishbone gives the competition a run for their money. I used to be lucky enough to work right across the street from this Southern home-style restaurant and ate breakfast there nearly every day without ever tiring of their delectable egg dishes, salads, and mouth-watering sides.
Wishbone offers the "best food value in Chicago," according to the Sun-Times and "one of the best breakfasts in Chicago," according to Chicago Magazine. The portions aren't as huge as they'd have you believe, but most entrees come with your choice of two sides which will help to satiate most diners. Options include homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Sauteed Spinach, Black-Eyed Peas and, yes, okra.
I can't seem to get enough of their Louisiana Blackened Chicken Salad, served with your choice of spinach or field greens, most likely because of the awesome garlic dressing. Dressings and sauces are amazing at Wishbone. I've never had a dish that featured a sauce or dressing that didn't taste like they were made from scratch. Somehow, this restaurant manages to remain consistent in spite of this.
Their crab cakes are delicious, as is their blackened catfish. I always used to get their Wishbone Omelette with onions, substituting feta for cheddar cheese with a side of homemade salsa. Yum! A lot of people I've dined with order the grits. I've never tried them, but Wishbone serves them plain or with cheese as a basis for their Shrimp and Grits dish.
Last week, I tried their Lemon Cloud Pie and had to hold myself back from licking the plate clean. All Wishbone pies are made fresh at their Lincoln Avenue location, and I would highly recommend ordering one or more for your next party. They aren't fancy - they're just plain good. Pies can be made to order with 48 hours notice and the selection is second to none (with the exception of Baker's Square). Not a big lemon fan? Well how about Strawberry Shortcake, Apple Pie, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Sour Cream Cake, Banana Cream Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Bread Pudding, Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Brownie Pie, Pecan Pie, Apple Cranberry Crisp, Pumpkin Pie, Flan (Creme Caramel), Cherry Pie, Peach Cobbler, Chocolate Mousse Cake, Three Milk Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Farmhouse Cake, or Rice Pudding? Any of those sound good to you?
The food quality is outstanding, though I will say that I did have a digestive issue twice after ordering the Louisiana Blackened Chicken Salad. Both times I ordered it with sauteed spinach as opposed to plain spinach, so this might have been it. I had the salad again without the sauteed spinach and had no trouble. It might just be too much oil for my system to handle.
Wishbone's food is always fresh with an understated presentation and approach. According to their website: Our intention was simple: to go back to the basics of preparing sophisticated fresh food at popular prices. Rather than the "art" of cooking which connotes artifice in plate arrangement, garnishes, and exotic ingredients, we chose to pursue the more self-effacing craft once found (and usually underappreciated) in the home. Anyone tasting our blue claw crab cakes or the sweet red pepper sauce of our Yardbird and corn cakes will know that this is no ordinary "home cooking," but we made up for the labor-intensive quality of the food by keeping table settings simple and service casual and friendly.
Wishbone also offers a children's menu and has lots of booster seats and high chairs to accommodate families with little ones.
The Wishbone Scene
The Wishbone ambiance is one where the waitstaff wear t-shirts with the Wishbone poodle on them and the decore is kitschy without being nauseating. The walls are painted in primary colors. Seating is good just about anywhere, including their outdoor patio at the West Loop location which is spatious enough to hold about 20 tables. The bathrooms are well-maintained and the table settings are clean. I like the fact that the cleanliness isn't compromised for the kitsch, which often happens at other comparable restaurants like the Lucky Platter in Evanston.
Wishbone does not seem to be phased by the competition (Blind Faith Cafe near the Lincoln Ave. location and LePeep right across the street from the West Loop location). They have their own unique niche and they stick to what they do best. I'm always impressed with the service staff, who are always young and casual but friendly and attentive. Tables turn pretty quickly and sections are large, making waitstaff positions lucrative and highly coveted. Perhaps this contributes to the fact that Wishbone can retain quality staff in spite of somewhat inconvenient locations.
I have made reservations in the past, but they've never been needed at the Washington location. Seating is ample enough and tables turn fast enough for walk-in eating. Cost is about $15 a head.
Carry Out and Delivery
Wishbone does a pretty good job with take out orders, though I did have to run back a few times for missed sides, etc. Once, they gave me a free dessert for my trouble, which was a welcome treat. I would check my order carefully if I was traveling a distance with the food though because they are busy and the host staff that typically fills carry out orders is less helpful than waitstaff. Sigh. Isn't this always the case?
Wishbone offers an Office Picnic for parties of 15 or more at the home or office, individual trays of food from entrees to desserts or vegetable sides, power breakfasts for early staff meetings or special off-site
Brunches and showers, and special box lunches or individually packaged meals for production crews, exhibitors and people in a hurry. A Catering Request Form is available on their website.
Wishbone offers a wide array of Cajun and Southern dishes that comfort the mind, body and soul. Why d'ya think they call it soul food? Highly recommend.
Locations and Hours
WISHBONE - West Loop
1001 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 850-2663 tel
(312) 850-4332 fax
Breakfast - Mon-Fri 7 - 11 am
Lunch - Mon-Fri 11 am - 3 pm
Dinner - Tue-Thu 5 - 9 pm; Fri-Sat 5 - 10 pm; (closed Sun & Mon nights)
Weekend Brunch - Sat-Sun 8 am - 3 pm
WISHBONE - Northside
3300 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657
(773) 549-2663 tel
(773) 549-4154 fax
Breakfast - Mon-Fri 7 am - 3 pm
Lunch - Mon-Fri 11 am - 3 pm
Dinner - Thu-Sat 5 - 10 pm; Tu,We & Sun 5 - 9 pm; (closed Mon night only)
Weekend Brunch - Sat-Sun 8 am - 2:30 pm
Payment Information, Parking and Website Address
Wishbone accepts American Express, Diners Club, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. Parking for the West Loop location is available in the lot across the street (on the corner of Washington and Morgan) for $5. Parking for the Northside location is metered parking (Sundays and holidays are free) with a lot located at Melrose just one block south of Lincoln Avenue.
For more information, visit www.wishbonechicago.com
©2005 Meagan Downey