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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. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

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  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

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