If you give it just a cursory glance, the menu at The Feller almost reads like something you’d find at an Applebee’s: You’ll see potato wedges, a Caesar salad, chicken nuggets, and a burger. But there’s a little bit more to this new restaurant than first meets the eye. The Feller is actually a place-within-a-place, a restaurant concept inside of a bar. Specifically, inside of Spilt Milk in Logan Square, which until now has never had food service.
It’s the brainchild of chef Adam Wendt, who used to be executive chef at The Delta. Wendt has had a relationship with the team behind Spilt Milk since his days at Bangers & Lace (which he helped to open). Spilt Milk does a regular Monday barbecue series called Family Meal Mondays, where visiting chefs come and make a special menu; after Wendt participated in this (and thanks to bar patrons clamoring for regular food service) he started talking with the team about bringing in something more permanent.
“Spilt Milk had always served cheese from Pastoral, chips, jerky, things like that, but no real food,” says Wendt. “Everyone wanted them to do food. People would order in food from other places. The tamale guy would come in and clean up.” So Spilt Milk renovated a space that used to be a kitchen in the ’80s (and had since turned into a storage closet) and, bam, The Feller was born.
The Feller is actually a separate business – Wendt is renting out the space, an arrangement that is more common in other cities but rare in Chicago. “It benefits both of us; they generate rent from me, we share in the expenses, and they don’t have to worry about running it,” says Wendt. The menu was inspired by Wendt’s own late-night eating as a chef. “You can cook all this crazy food, but then after work you’re in the McDonalds drive through or getting pizza or mixing weird meats in your fridge,” he says. He wanted to focus on dishes that satiated his post-midnight cravings, but made with a bit more thought and care. “People want wings, they want chicken nuggets, but they don’t want processed Tyson’s stuff.”
About those nuggets. Wendt takes fresh dark meat chicken, grinds it and emulsifies it with herbs and duck fat, sous vides the result, then portions them out, dredges the nuggets in a buttermilk breading and fries them. It’s still processed chicken, in a sense, but this is definitely not a fast food nugget – and it’s selling like crazy, quickly becoming the Feller’s most popular dish.
Other menu items are a little less fast-food-ish. Croquettes are a take on a croque monsieur sandwich in a small-bite format, made with Benton’s country ham and mornay sauce, set with gelatin, and deep fried. For the vegetarians, meaty hen of the woods mushrooms are seared in olive oil, salt, and pepper, dredged and fried, and treated like Nashville hot chicken with hot spices, homemade pickles, and a creamy garlic slaw. If you want a burger, Wendt claims his is “out of control”, made with a special blend of short rib, chuck and brisket with an extra high fat content. It’s topped with sherry onion jam, white American cheese and hickory smoked bacon – an 8-ounce double burger will run you $10.
If you have a sweet tooth, Wendt has teamed up with Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) to bring in special cookie sandwiches. “My grandpa had a tavern in my home town when I was a kid, and I would drink kiddie cocktails and eat oatmeal cream pies,” says Wendt, “so I always wanted cookie sandwiches.” These come in flavors like gingersnap and honey fleur de sel.
Food service at The Feller runs from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Tuesday through Sunday.