Eleven Eleven Opens Doors in Chicago's West Loop

BY Ariel Cheung | February 25, 2019 | Food & Drink Feature

A West Loop boite gets new life as Eleven Eleven, a cozy space with bites that delight.

The new bar area incorporates warm wine tones.

There’s a certain sense of place, of home, that’s rare and worth holding on to. Ahmed Braimah found it in the art deco-styled eatery that was once Honey’s. “It was like the aura of the space was grabbing me and said don’t let go,” Braimah says. “My soul was in this place.” So the former manager of Honey’s stayed after the critical darling closed its doors. He remodeled it, revamped the menu and flung those doors back open. Say hello to Eleven Eleven.

It’s warmer, visually, than its predecessor. Braimah, who got his start at spots like The Underground and Celeste after serving in the Army, recast the space in cabernet tones and brass accents. Where Honey’s sparkled, Eleven Eleven is meant to feel like an old friend. In that vein, it offers an unpretentious menu that delivers where it counts. Take, for example, the shaved fennel caesar ($12), a deceptively simple mound dusted with flakes of Grana Padano cheese and sourdough crumble. It’s a hugely satisfying start to a succinct menu of bar snacks, a couple of pastas and some well-portioned entrees. My favorite was a duck confit cavatelli ($16); the shell-shaped pasta is immersed in a smoky pepper oil mingling with preserved orange and meaty bites of duck.

Chef Pierce Buckman, an alum of Roister and Charlie Trotter’s, is having fun in the kitchen, tweaking dishes until they’re just right. Already, accoutrements of his seared fjord trout ($20) have shifted from shishito peppers and miso bernaise to smoked maitakes and spiced eggplant. But rue the day that his apple tart tatin ($10) rotates out. Irresistibly caramelized apples and chocolate-malted pepitas form the bottom of the turned-over tart, and a scoop of sarsaparilla ice cream perfects it.

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