The new Peruvian-inspired restaurant Cabra is basically Macchu Pichu for Millennials, cougars, and horticultural enthusiasts.
Which is to say it is a Riverdale episode, a mecca for the extremes of two different scenes, though it is not, as it is with the Incan temple, a tiring hike or dusty bus ride away, but an elegant elevator-swoop up the recently christened-shafts of the Hoxton Hotel.
Walk out the sliding doors and you will be greeted by a palette of teal and beige and gold that looks a little too much like every other restaurant in town right now including Aba, Tied House, Funkenhausen, and Galit. Without taking a single bite of food, you might even mistake Cabra, as the twinning, part duh! of Boka sister restaurant combo Somerset/Devereaux.
Cabra is a scene, a competitive jostle of desperation and hopefulness. Beneath green plant tendril-wrapped rafters, honey-colored wood tables, a flickering fire pit and, yes, a shimmering swimming pool, are ringed equally with the well-worn, but freshly-nipped and tucked, as well as those who have only recently shed the Cuervo caul of their college days, the dewy-eyed Instagramming elites.
They are all eating, praying, and loving.
Except me. I am chowing and petitioning, but not so much participating in the affection biz.
I am supplicating for so many things right now.
A service staff not still in training, that can deliver more than watered-down cocktails without asking who gets what.
Full-sized napkins, instead of the Smurf loin cloths that pass as lap towels up in this joint.
A swap out of serveware somewhere before the fifth shared course.
Non-plastic drinkware that was not purchased from the Target seasonal dollar bin (did I mention the pool? Real glass = bad).
Non-chilled non-transparent plates that donâ€™t look like they came from the all-you-can-eat salad bar.
A full-sized banquette, not the half-settee numbers here which force you to give your fellow seatmate a lap dance and/or a reacharound in search of lumbar support.
If you have just come off a binge of Stranger Things, season 3, you will love the proliferation of acid-washed daisy dukes and high waisted tie-off mom jeans worn by the staff.
You will also love the bandannas/headbands, especially as rocked by the bartender with the long stringy mane channeling 1981 Wimbledon Bjorn Borg.
You will also probably like Izardâ€™s now familiar friendly culinary colonization (taqueria opening at the United Center next week!), this time, of Peruvian food.
The ceviche and tiraditos are chill beach-body friendly acid-smacked beauties. The slither of melon-perfumed kampachi punctuated by the crunch of tiny ice lettuce sprouts is a textural masterpiece.
The duck ceviche studded with micro-popcorn crackle of crispy quinoa and splashed with the zing of pickled mango and gooseberries is pretty awesome, though I do feel they missed an opportunity to pair the dish with a shooter of Andreâ€™s flagship sparkler, Cold Duck.
The crab causa is a 1990s pre-fixe restaurant crab salad dropped on top of your abuelaâ€™s picnic potato salad, old reliable tropes reunited and rejiggered into something delightfully jarring like a Tarantino flick.
If you are one of those people who likes to get baked before rewatching Pulp Fiction, you will absolutely dig the stoner-surprise that is salchipapas, aka golden lithe frites dripping with chorizo and mayo, a South American clap back at Canadian poutine.
You will also likely relish the empanadas, half-moon pastry stuffed with silky slivers of goat surfing a riptide of huacatay chili-spiked mayo. Though, if you like a little more brightness, the aji de gallina or pepper-kissed chicken dipped in spiced-pecan chimichurri will be your thing. The texture of the dough has a slight floury dryness, and while itâ€™s minor, it made me relish the deep-fried shatter of the empanadas at El Che or the buttery numbers from 5411.
Izard loves shishitos like Snoop Dogg loves Purple OG Kush â€“ I have been growing them in my backyard every summer since I first tasted them at Girl and the Goat â€“ and she delivers a good batch here swizzled with red pepper mayo and an umami hail of chicharron furikake.
You may have to be super high to truly enjoy the chicharron del puerco, a family-style Flinstonian-hunk of bone-in fatty pork shank served with mayo, pickles, plums, herby vinaigrette, and sweet-potato flatbread rounds. Itâ€™s sort of like a Latin American version of Chinese pork bun service, where you roll your own sandwich. Itâ€™s a great idea, and the magnificent crackle of the mahogany colored crispy skin is as releasing as an adolescent game of mailbox baseball. But the insides are mostly $30 of a gelatinous goo that reminds me of the leftovers of carcasses of people infected by the mind flayer in Stranger Things (two references in this piece, I know â€“ sorry, I suck).
The gloppy parade continues in to dessert where passionfruit honey bogs and tangs a cloud of chocolate whip, aka the suspiro de limena.
Though they are only $11, I would totally pay double for the sweet potato donuts, an autumnal cider mill reverie, dunked in a caramel river of dulce de leche that you will sop up with your finger once the sweet dunkers are gone.
Izard and Boka Group hit so many home runs, that a solid base hit like Cabra feels like a letdown. Then again, when you hit a lot of long balls, you often earn an intentional walk or two. For me, though, itâ€™s a luxury to return to restaurants, which means that if Iâ€™ve gone to a place many times, it really means something (unless of course weâ€™re talking about Red Lobster â€“ thatâ€™s mostly just a nostalgic personal weakness). My list of regular joints is pretty short and includes places like Rubiâ€™s Tacos, Rainbow Thai, and most germane here, most of the Izard canon like Duck, Duck, Goat, Little Goat, and Girl and the Goat. Cabra, however, doesnâ€™t compel me to be a repeat visitor. Then again, if you are on the prowl for a fling, looking for your second marriage, or your first betrothal, your mileage may vary.
Cabra is located on the roof of 200 N. Green in Chicago.