I am a Midwestern girl. Like being a New Yorker or growing up in the South, that comes with its own traditions and an indescribable sense of place. And I have discovered the embodiment of it, charmingly, at Twain—and turns out I’m not alone. “We get the most amazing stories about people eating our food and remembering what their mom or grandma used to make them. It’s incredibly touching,” says Rebekah Graham, who together with her husband, Tim, and Branko Palikuca opened the Midwestern-centric Twain this fall.
Named in part for the great author who hails from chef Tim’s native Missouri, Logan Square’s latest newcomer evokes childhood memories with flavors of home—of warming chili, dressed-down turnovers and mouthwatering baked chicken. The chef drew inspiration from Montreal’s Joe Beef, which “takes Quebec food, dusts it off and makes it like chefs would make it,” Tim says. “And it occurred to me that I have a food too—it’s central Missouri and Midwestern. I had never considered it a source of inspiration, but there’s something to take pride in there.”
Tim weaves the familiar into the unexpected, crafting upscale versions of Midwestern classics that satisfy those homespun cravings. While many of his dishes are sourced from his Midwestern upbringing, others are reimagined takes on age-old recipes gleaned from Tim’s massive collection of vintage cookbooks, like chicken and dumplings ($19) and sloppy Joe topping roasted bone marrow ($13). His spicy half-chicken ($21) is alive with rich notes of piripiri-like spices playing off the blackened bird and finished with honeycomb that melts into a lovely glaze—a recipe Tim has tinkered with for over a decade. My friends and I couldn’t help but wish, though, there was a heap of mashed potatoes underneath instead of the tomato-bread salad. A side of mashed potatoes can be ordered separately and comes brimming with a sweet miso gravy ($6). We’ll know better next time.