This week Vera is celebrating its 2nd birthday and I just wanted to offer a few words of tribute.
Over the last couple of years Vera really has become one of my favorite restaurants in Chicago. Liz is always an extraordinarily gracious host and her husband Mark does a fantastic job putting out wonderful, straightforward food.
When I recommend Vera to people they ask me what kind of food it is. I usually respond with “Spanish-influenced wine bar”. I guess that’s more or less accurate, but an almost better way of putting it (although much more crass) is “no bullshit”. What do I mean? Just read this interview with Liz and Mark from yesterday. It’s pretty honest, soul-baring stuff. We don’t hear it enough but owning a restaurant is hard. Most fail. We as diners don’t get to see the hard work, the struggles, the tears. We see celebrity chefs tweeting pictures of their “research trips”. We hear about what awesome celebrity was in the dining room last night. We read about what the latest “protein wrapped in fat” creation got conjured up by the kitchen.
We don’t have to deal with this with Vera. Instead we get fabulous, simple (but not simplistic) dishes that Mark creates as we move through the seasons (see the chicken thigh dish on the current menu). Or we get things that rightly stick on the menu like beef tongue pinchos. Perfectly tender, but with a nice sear, beef tongue and some salsa verde. Who needs cronuts or a ramen burger when you can go eat those with a perfectly paired sherry from Liz? Who needs annoying restaurant PR when you just have Mark tweeting out pictures of some new dish he’s come up with? Here, come eat this. Done.
This is all a bit fawning, but Vera really does deserve more praise and attention than it otherwise gets. So Happy Birthday Vera. Congratulations Liz and Mark. I wish you many, many more years of happiness and success.