A stroll down a Chicago neighborhood is nothing short of captivating. Expect to leave with a piece of history and discovery of a hidden gem. After skimming through Thrillist Chicago's archives, I stumbled across their list of Chicago's Best Bar And Restaurant Openings In November. I spotted Bar Marta, dragged my dear friend Kori Coleman of The Chicagolite and one Uber ride away from experiencing this neighborhood bar and eatery in the heart of Chicago's vibrant Humboldt Park.
Humboldt Park holds true to it's rich history. In the mid-1950's, Humboldt's diverse neighborhood made up of a melting pot of Germans, Scandinavians, Italians and other ethincities grew to include Puerto Rican residents. By the 1970's, Humboldt Park was known for it's predominately Puerto Rican community filled with diverse history, a mixture of different languages, food and traditions - all still recognized today.
Back to the experience...Kori and I hopped out of the Uber with growling stomachs and excitement to cover the much raved about American fare and classic cocktails spearheaded by Hogsalt (Au Cheval, Bavette's, Gilt Bar, Green Street Smoked Meats and The Doughnut Vault) vet Austin Baker. As Kori and I entered the restaurant on the corner of Chicago Ave, with small white typography printed "Bar Marta"on a black awning, we were greeted by a modern dim lit ambiance, the buoyancy of seated diners and the coziness that gave you the nostalgia of fall weather. As soon as we were seated, first up on the menu were shared plates of Burrata on top of couscous, snap peas, almonds, topped with radish. Honestly, Burrata is not my cheese of choice. But, after Kori egged me on to try this dish, I fell in love. Thank you, Bar Marta.
The Ora King Salmon Crudo captured me at salmon. Key ingredients lemon, fresnos, and ginger accompanied the succulent dish causing Kori and I to fight for the last bite. We also shared the Lamb Tartare, perfectly moist on top of lightly toasted bread. An egg over-easy was the final touch to this dish and the slow pour of the yolk had me on an ultimate high. My absolute favorite was the Chicken Liver Toast. The smoothness of the chicken liver immersed with chillies, a little honey drizzle and the right amount of crispy chicken skin sprinkled on top was the perfect concoction. Kori and I were in awe of how much we were capable of eating and also how much the food lived up to it's hype. Add all three dishes to your list next time you plan on dining in.
Bar Marta is known for their expansive drink list including an assortment of cocktails, whiskeys and wines. Kori and I couldn't end the night without a cocktail to perfectly pair with the delicious dishes we had throughout the night. The Strange Brew which consisted of gin, pineapple, and IPA was Kori's drink of choice. I chose the Lion’s Tail immersed with bourbon (my absolute favorite), alspice dram, and Angostura. One of my favorite cocktails thus far and the first drink of choice next time I dine in at Bar Marta. Cool fact, the lion is a symbol of my zodiac sign Leo. It was fate that brought me to this cocktail.
One thing I have learned that both Humboldt Park and Bar Marta stays true to tradition. If a table buys a bottle of champagne, it is Bar Marta's tradition to share a glass with the closest table. Who knew a glass of bubbly could also be an initiation into a family. After discovering Bar Marta means "Old Friend", it made sense why this neighborhood gem makes strangers feel like childhood friends. Until we meet again, Cheers!
A big thanks to Austin Baker for allowing us into your family. Also thanks to Kori of The Chicagolite for collaborating with me.
*Bar Marta provided all food complimentary. All opinions are my own.
Photo credit: Kori Coleman