When I lived in India in college, I ate one of the best meals of my entire life in a dingy hole-in-the-wall shop near Khan Market in New Delhi. $3 bought me some of the most flavorful, rich and positively delicious food to ever have graced my palette. Flies were swirling around, there was no air conditioning, and the service was horrible (typical of most Indian restaurants). But the food was life-changing and I’ve never forgotten that meal to this day.
So I’m a firm believer in the “don’t judge a book by its cover” mentality. Many of life’s greatest and most profound surprises have happened when and where I least expected them to.
Roscoe Village’s Commonwealth Tavern is one of those spaces you can’t judge until you’ve actually experienced it. When my darling Starr first asked me to join her for lunch there I was confused… why were two foodies going to “a sport’s bar”? Sports bars are just about as far from our typical stomping grounds of marble floors, creme brûlée cheesecakes, etc. as you can get.
Thank goodness I didn’t allow my prejudice to get in my way — otherwise I would have missed out on one of the best bar meals I’ve ever had! The space is what you would expect from a sport’s bar but with the warm and comfortable addition of wood-paneled walls and large bright windows.It was a particularly blustery day for our visit so we chose a seat right next to the big front windows and basked in the warm sunlight like cats as we perused the menu.
Starr started with the “Dictator” a delightful gin cocktail of muddled mint leaves, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, cherry syrup, orangecello and Bacardi 8 all topped with champagne. Refreshing and strong! While I chose this seasonal blackberry concoction that I slurped down like juice. Seriously delicious adult-only juice! I can’t find a description of it online but I think the photos speak louder than words anyways: For starters we ordered Commonwealth’s soon-to-be-famous kale greens salad.
Yes, I said kale.
Yes, I said soon-to-be-famous.
Why? Because this isn’t your grandmother’s salad of soggy, watery kale leaves sadly drowning in dressing and covered in just about everything under the sun to mask their healthy flavor.
At Commonwealth, their kale take is innovative, respectful and insanely delicious. Tossed with sliced apples, radishes, crisp-fried lentils in a creamy, rich tahini dressing, this salad is as crisp and fresh as it looks. I certainly wouldn’t mind eating my greens every day if they looked like this!
The addition of the crispy fried lentils is such an interesting spin on a more traditional crouton. Their earthiness lends a rich depth to the tahini dressing that, without masking it, makes the kale positively sing. I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a kale salad more and will be back very soon for a large bowl of this to dive my face straight into.
And I don’t say that about many salads, let alone kale salads… Next up came the sexiest appetizer on the menu! You know Starr and I go wild for burrata and we couldn’t restrain ourselves from sampling Commonwealth’s devilishly delicious version. Since the Commonwealth kitchen makes all their sauces and accoutrements from scratch (props!), sometimes they have to substitute ingredients when they sell out of their sauces. So I always appreciate when a good chef can improvise on the fly, which is exactly what happened with our burrata appetizer.
Usually served with peperonata, basil and pizza oil — ours was a similar, more Mexican-style take complete with spicy peppers and delicious zing. The POW of spiciness was invigorating but balanced beautifully with the creamy, mellow flavor of the burrata itself.
Ooey, gooey burrata on buttery toast makes me so very, very happy! We could have called it quits right there but what type of food bloggers would we be if we ate only appetizers? Starr ordered chef Donny Farrell’s “Off Menu Burger”, composed of 70 percent brisket and 30 percent bacon all ground in-house and topped with tavern sauce, bread ‘n butter pickles (again made in-house) and fried onions piled precariously on to a buttery New England bun.There is only one rule with this bad boy: no modifications! Not that you’ll need them or want them.
Starr’s comment of “this burger is totally worth the trip”, perfectly encapsulates our entire Commonwealth experience. Unique and surprisingly engaging dishes made from scratch all in a spot you would least expect to find them.I ordered the spinach falafel served on pita with tzatziki, piparra pepper, a sprinkling of feta, pickled onion and mint.
I’ve mentioned before how sad vegetarian sandwiches can feel, especially at restaurants known for their burgers and pork. So I when our server mentioned how much she loved the falafel, my curiosity got the best of me!
As far as innovative spins on falafel go, this dish rivals my favorite Asian-style take at MAK but for very different, more Mediterranean reasons. The spinach mixture makes these super crispy on the outside (any good sandwich needs that oh-so necessary crunch) but extra moist in the middle — a single bite will transport you to a land of true falafel nirvana! Oh, and I cannot forget to mention these deliciously crispy, skin-on (why isn’t this standard french fry practice??) fries that were beautifully seasoned and complimented both of our meals excellently. Are you searching for a spot that forgoes all pretension and instead puts all it’s effort into house-made meals filled with flavor combinations you LITERALLY can’t find anywhere else!?Commonwealth will be your new favorite stomping ground!
Did I mention they also serve brunch???
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal to facilitate this post. Review and all opinions are my own.