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DINING: Ember attempts Cultural Trail culinary spark

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Dining - A&E

The Cultural Trail gained another dining stop with the transformation of a former chain pizza shop—which nobody but locals were likely to have even noticed was there—into Ember Urban Eatery (435 Virginia Ave., 340-1868). And while our visits didn’t turn up anything particularly inventive or outstanding, we did find an inviting, friendly place that’s a welcome addition to a neighborhood that’s becoming increasingly dining-radar worthy.
 

aedining-apb-ember02-15col.jpg Italian Beef, smothered (in a good way) in spicy giardiniera, is a highlight. Parking is also a plus. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

A bit of backstory: Condo sellers Rob and Shelly Ordendahl spotted the space when trying to sell space in the Villaggio at Page Pointe at Virginia and East streets. Now—thanks to restaurateur Tom Main—they have a place to feed the people they formerly helped house.

An intimate 60-seater anchored in American fare, Ember (or maybe it will be known as Ember Urban—only time will tell) keeps its lunch offerings fairly tightly in the $8.50-$9 range for sandwiches plus a side. The most a dinner entrée will set you back is $16.50.

Urban Wings ($9) promised a dozen “made our way,” which means smoked with pull-right-off-the-bone tenderness. Wandering Chili ($4/$6) tipped toward the Cincinnati style of seasoning over spiciness. The Italian Beef sandwich ($9) offered well-seasoned and tender meat in a mass of giardiniera. If you aren’t a fan of those Windy City pickled veggies, explore other parts of the menu.

The lunch portion of Pasta Arrabbiata ($9) was a stated favorite of our waitress. After trying it, I can see the pleasures in the subtle mix of mezzi rigatoni, a slightly spicy red sauce and fresh parmesan. But those pleasures bordered on the forgettably simple. It would have been better appreciated as a side to something stronger.

While it doesn’t have the creative cache of nearby newcomers Rook or Bluebeard, Ember Urban Eatery does have a stop-in-for-a-bite appeal—as well as a parking lot—that could be kindled into staying power.•

—Lou Harry

__________

First in a month of theme-free restaurant reviews.

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  • Parking shmarking
    Missi R, I'm willing to venture that all your trips to "Chicago" to learn about Italian beef were waaaay out in the suburbs. Because you'd be hard pressed to find a parking lot to any of the fashionable restaurants in the city limits. Have you ever had to spend more than 2 minutes finding a parking space in Fletcher Place along Virginia Avenue? I haven't.
  • Italian Beef
    They need to take a field trip to Chicago to see what Italian Beef means. At least there is a parking lot. That is a definite plus for a downtown restaurant.
  • Italian Beef?
    Yikes. That "Italian Beef" pictured is likely to horrify Chicagoans.
  • What an unmemorable name
    Hope that awful name for the restaurant doesn't hold them back. Clunky, unmemorable, doesn't tell you anything about what to expect.

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  1. In reality, Lilly is maintaining profit by cutting costs such as Indiana/US citizen IT workers by a significant amount with their Tata Indian consulting connection, increasing Indian H1B's at Lillys Indiana locations significantly and offshoring to India high paying Indiana jobs to cut costs and increase profit at the expense of U.S. workers.

  2. I think perhaps there is legal precedence here in that the laws were intended for family farms, not pig processing plants on a huge scale. There has to be a way to squash this judges judgment and overrule her dumb judgement. Perhaps she should be required to live in one of those neighbors houses for a month next to the farm to see how she likes it. She is there to protect the people, not the corporations.

  3. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/03-111.htm Corporate farms are not farms, they are indeed factories on a huge scale. The amount of waste and unhealthy smells are environmentally unsafe. If they want to do this, they should be forced to buy a boundary around their farm at a premium price to the homeowners and landowners that have to eat, sleep, and live in a cesspool of pig smells. Imagine living in a house that smells like a restroom all the time. Does the state really believe they should take the side of these corporate farms and not protect Indiana citizens. Perhaps justifiable they should force all the management of the farms to live on the farm itself and not live probably far away from there. Would be interesting to investigate the housing locations of those working at and managing the corporate farms.

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