It’s odd that in Wicker Park, one of the most active nightlife areas in town, it can be hard to score a good meal after hours. Machine, now open on Division, aims to change that. “There aren’t a lot of places on this strip, other than bars, where you can go and get a really great cocktail and some late-night bites,” says Trevor Hoyte, the chef at Machine.
With a menu packed with super-savory dishes (and a unique tableside flower program), Machine is likely to be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Machine comes to us from the group behind Headquarters Beercade, which has locations in Chicago and Nashville – this is the group’s first upscale restaurant (so don’t expect any video games). Hoyte, who previously manned the kitchens at IPO and AraOn, met the team while consulting for Headquarters.
Hoyte describes the cuisine as “globally influenced new American cuisine” but admits that it’s really just stuff he likes to eat. “I’ve been able to try so many foods from so many different places; it kind of naturally became a part of how my cooking style evolved.” There’s some Midwestern (there’s walleye and wild rice on the menu), Italian (veal osso buco makes an appearance), Spanish (a mussel escabeche tops one dish), and much more.
Almost every dish has an umami blast at the end—for example, the potato and clam starter is finished with a hit of togarashi, the walleye is served with duck fat-braised cabbage, and the smoked mushrooms get a shot of Hook’s parmesan. The carrot “tartare” (surrounded by quote marks on the menu because it’s half raw and half cooked) is topped with dehydrated black olives, as well as ricotta and a sweet and sour fennel.
Then there’s that burger, only available late night. Two thin double patties are topped with comte cheese, maitake mushrooms glazed with a foie gras sauce, pickles and some pieces of fried foie gras on top. “With each bite, you get a little nugget of foie gras so you can taste it and feel the texture,” says Hoyte. “It’s decadent.”
What about those flowers? The restaurant has a full flower shop, and also offers menus of bouquets at the table, which can be delivered during your meal. “I think flowers make everyone happy,” Hoyte says. The savory doesn’t stop during dessert, nor does the foie. Hoyte has been working for a long time to perfect his foie gras root beer float, made with foie ice cream, banana macaroons and a cherry gelee, and he thinks it’s one of the dishes that originally got him the job at Machine.
Hoyte hopes that Machine becomes a destination spot for the neighborhood, and he’s tried to price it accordingly. “We want to make people feel like they are going downtown and having a destination experience, but in their own neighborhood,” he says.