Eat what you can, Can what you can't


Time Out Rates Perennial Brunch Top 20 in Chicago!

The case for a better brunch

Critical praise for the gluttonous, strident, restorative culture of a weekend tradition.

By Julia Kramer

Where you should be brunching now

After making our way through more than 50 brunches, we narrowed down our list to 20 favorites. Some we love for their warm, inviting rooms; others for their ambitious but balanced morning cocktails. But all of them are killing it in the kitchen, with careful sourcing, imaginative dishes and consistent execution.
Big Jones
Birchwood Kitchen
Bite Cafe
the Bristol
City Provisions
Julius Meinl
Kingsbury Street Cafe
Longman & Eagle
Lula Cafe
Owen & Engine
Perennial Virant
the Publican
Southport Grocery
Table Fifty-Two
Tre Kronor


Chicago Tribune Review! 3 Stars!

C’est la Vie?


Paul Virant’s city restaurant is reminiscent of his suburban spot, and that’s a good thing

November 03, 2011|Phil Vettel | Food critic
The fact that chef Paul Virant and I share the same monogram shouldn’t confuse anybody, although years back the chef sent me a letter he received from some luckless job applicant who, instead of writing “Paul Virant” in the salutation, used my name instead.

Inattention to detail is not the path to a chef’s heart. It certainly won’t get your calls returned from Virant, currently displaying his culinary precision at Perennial Virant (yet another PV), where he has been cooking since May.

The restaurant Perennial has been around for some time, of course, but when founding chef Ryan Poli announced his departure (joining the Sandoval brothers to open Tavernita, due later this year), owners Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, who have a positive genius for teaming up with top talent (with Stephanie Izard in Girl & the Goat, Giuseppe Tentori in GT Fish & Oyster, Chris Pandel in the as-yet-unopened Balena), recruited Virant, who already had Vie, a highly regarded restaurant in the west suburbs, to join them.

In the process, Boehm and Katz remade Perennial, now called Perennial Virant, in Vie’s image, giving the dining room a more rustic look and incorporating Virant’s love of all things preserved into the design, fashioning light fixtures from vintage Mason jars and installing a wall of shelves displaying jar upon jar of preserved fruits and vegetables (all of which eventually make their way to the kitchen).

The menu is very Vie-like as well, reflecting Virant’s farm-to-table, everything-made-in-house ethic, and his fondness for combining deeply satisfying, hearty flavors with bursts of bright acidity.

Dishes are divided into small, medium and large plates, seven per category. There are gems throughout, naturally, but I’ve yet to find a large plate that didn’t wow me. You can’t go wrong with the duck breast over bitter greens (balanced with grapes and almonds) or the whole-roasted trout with pecans, spaghetti squash and whatever mushrooms are in season, and I hope the crispy-edged walleye, matched to hush puppies and a smoked-tomato vinaigrette, returns to the menu soon — though in its place is a sensational grilled sturgeon, served in cubes over a bed of red-wine-braised beef neck.

There’s a stealth Thanksgiving dish decked out with sweet-potato puree and a chunky cranberry vinaigrette, only instead of a turkey breast it features a thick slab of skin-on barramundi, which takes to its sweet-tart plate companions astonishingly well. And I love the pappardelle bolognese, the toothsome pasta married to chewy nuggets of goat sausage, perked up with slivers of pickled garlic and a killer tomato-cream sauce — comfort-food heaven.

Among the smaller choices, there’s a very clever “tarte tatin” of butternut squash topped with tangy shavings of Capriko cheese, set amid greens brightened by a tart apple-cider dressing; and a cheese-rich plate of cloud-soft gnudi over braised rabbit and root vegetables and a sauce bearing whiffs of mustard (like an ethereal take on a rabbit-and-spaetzle preparation).

And don’t skip the “bar snacks” plate, a trio of fun bites. There are always a couple of deviled eggs and a ramekin of spicy corn nuts; the third component has varied from fried pickles to crisped kale to, currently, a warm pretzel with smoked-cheddar sauce. No disrespect intended to the fried pickles, but, chef, please keep the pretzel around awhile.

All of this is abetted by smart, personable service, which has become a hallmark of Boehm and Katz restaurants all over town.

Pastry chef Elissa Narow, who also makes the desserts for Vie, is in fine form, as usual. Her offerings at Perennial Virant include a sensational chocolate bar, a reimagined s’more with Valrhona caramelia mousse and manjari ganache under a blanket of raspberry-laced marshmallow (artfully torched), and a bowl of impossibly delicate goat-cheese puffs accompanied by little jars of apple butter and honey.

There’s also a beautiful cookie plate, a comfort-food collection of thumbprint cookies, snickerdoodles, a dulce de leche bar and a ramped-up homage to the Oreo using cocoa-powder cookies and butter cream.

I keep intending to try Narow’s bourbon-butterscotch cremeux, but the dessert has been sold out the last two times I tried to order it. Maybe if I wrote the chef a letter. …

Watch Phil Vettel’s reviews weekends on WGN-Ch. 9’s “News at Nine,” CLTV and at

Perennial Virant

1800 N. Lincoln Ave., 312-981-7070
Tribune rating: Three Stars
Open: Dinner Monday-Sunday; brunch Saturday-Sunday
Entree prices: $17-$25
Credit cards: A, M, V
Reservations: Strongly recommended
Noise: Conversation-challenged
Other: Wheelchair accessible; valet parking

Ratings key:
Four Stars: Outstanding
Three Stars: Excellent
Two Stars: Very good
One Star: Good
No stars: Unsatisfactory

Reviews are based on no fewer than two visits. The reviewer makes every effort to remain anonymous. Meals are paid for by the Tribune.

Twitter @philvettel


Amazing Review from Chicago Magazine!

Reviews: GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant

THE GOLDEN BOYS: It’s not even fair how many good restaurants Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz own. Here, two more

By Jeff Ruby

(page 1 of 2)


PERENNIAL VIRANT 1800 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-981-7070
FYI Hey, water guy, cool it with the constant refills.
TAB $35–$45
HOURS Dinner nightly; brunch Sat., Sun.

Tab does not include alcohol, tax, or tip.

The last time I saw Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz, they were outside Perennial Virant, talking on their cell phones and to each other. At the same time. Their latest restaurants, Perennial Virant and GT Fish & Oyster, which opened in the span of 49 days, would be impressive enough in their own right; hot on the heels of 2010’s Girl & the Goat, they’re particularly ambitious. I would say it’s like the Beatles releasingRubber Soul, Revolver, and Sgt. Pepper within 18 months, but Boehm and Katz are not the Fab Four in this scenario. They’re George Martin—visionary producers who recognize talent and then provide a framework to capture and nurture it.

The pair is on a magical run right now, one unmatched in Chicago since Jerry Kleiner’s Vivo/Marché/Red Light/Gioco stretch in the nineties. The difference is that Kleiner’s restaurants were first and foremost Kleiner restaurants—curvy, roaring Technicolor circuses—and the chefs, while talented, seemed secondary. Lately, Boehm and Katz, who started with Boka in 2003, have been coming at it from the other direction: Get the right chef and build around him (or her). They’ll use the same formula this fall with Chris Pandel (The Bristol), who will help them make the old Landmark space on Halsted Street into a rustic Italian spot called Balena.

For Paul Virant, it all happened fast. The St. Louis native was busy at his wonderful Vie in Western Springs in February 2011 when he got a call from Boehm. Chef Ryan Poli had just announced his departure from Perennial, and Boehm and Katz wanted to overhaul the whole restaurant with and for Virant. Three months later, it reopened with a slightly different name, Perennial Virant, but as a completely different restaurant—and a damn good one. The renovation, into what my waiter called “farmhouse posh,” was so complete I couldn’t remember the old décor. Light pours in on sleek oak tables, big potted trees, and a wall of canning jars. The abundant staffers, casual and confident in T-shirts and sneakers, are true believers in a kitchen that plays to Virant’s strengths: Americana cooking, pickled stuff, and an uncanny knack for combining sweet and salty.

You’d be confident, too, if you were serving dishes like crispy carnaroli rice logs filled with oozy Brunkow Cheese curds in a spring onion vinaigrette. “Like arancini with some Midwestern cheese curd goodness,” says Virant, and he’s underselling it. His ever-evolving menu includes a $37 three-course prix fixe meal and shareable plates that for once make sense communally (think homemade corn nuts). Slagel Family Farm pork shoulder confit, a delicious pork-cake disk with a browned cap and shreddy innards, gets a boost from a homemade giardiniera of beets, turnips, and onions. You will want to soak up every last drop of rich pork jus with fantastic whole-grain bread that has been baked in a Blodgett triple-deck oven in the basement. You will also fight your tablemates for the astounding Wisconsin morel mushrooms with milk jam, sweet-salty oat crumble, and chive blossoms, and you will win. And while they’re wasting their time with the flat cream of Klug Farm asparagus soup and overly fatty smoked Dietzler Farms beef short ribs, you’ll be polishing off the lovely herb Parisienne gnocchi with spring vegetable ragoût and pesto.

Perennial Virant’s clever cocktails by Matty Eggleston, who made his bones at Hollywood’s Hungry Cat, shine far brighter than the half-cocked desserts, none of which deserve a spot on this sharp menu. In the end, though, everything you need to know about this restaurant is in the six-ounce wheel of soft grilled Camembert with homemade lavash and amazing red wine raspberry jam. It’s nothing flashy: just an intricate gem masquerading as a crowd pleaser. Which is exactly what Boehm and Katz wanted all along.

Great Brunch Review!


The Boka Restaurant Group boasts some of the city’s hottest and most talked about restaurants (Girl and the Goat, Boka, GT Fish & Oyster, Landmark, and, previously, Perennial). Mid-winter, despite a constant buzz of activity, Perennial shut its doors to be reworked and re-born Perennial Virant showcasing Chef Paul Virant’s culinary skills. Virant gained a sterling reputation for his use of fresh, seasonal ingredients in contemporary American cuisine as Executive Chef of Vie in Western Springs. Virant and the Boka Group brought this same fresh food focus to Perennial Virant with outstanding results.

The carefully chosen menu options, the expertly mixed drinks, and the transparency, with which each plate is prepared, culminate in an elegant and delicious brunch experience. The menu boasts relatively few entrée items but each is prepared with an eye for perfection. Just steps away from the Green City Market, Perennial Virant seems to embody the very philosophy of farm to table dining—presenting the farm names in which the meat and produce came directly on the menu.

Should you be inspired to go, here are a few suggestions. The salmon panzanella receives a well-balanced seasoning of dill and sits atop a bed of watercress with crisp, thinly sliced bagel chips. For those with a sweet-tooth, the pecan sticky buns are amazingly light but with the delicate, honey sweetness that will send you on a sugar-rush that will fuel the rest of your day. The rosemary shortbread cookies with crème fraiche and strawberries are a must-try and wonderful as a plate to share for the table.

Perennial Virant puts as much thought and care into each glass as they do on each plate. If the rhubarb honey mimosa does not tickle your fancy, enlist the advice of the inventive man behind the bar, Matty Eggleston, who has been nationally recognized for his original alcoholic creations. If you are looking for a twist on a childhood favorite, try the vodka based dreamsicle with fresh juice and cream.


PV offers brunch 10 am to 230 pm Saturday and Sunday. The outdoor space along Lincoln Park is wonderful if the weather agrees but if the lake breeze is too forceful for a casual brunch, tables by the floor to ceiling retractable windows offer the best of both worlds. The trendy yet confortable décor will put you at ease and the food will definitely provide ample conversation pieces.


Jessica Milton

Chicago Brunch Restaurants Examiner

Join us on the Patio Tonight!

Lisa Arnett Reviews PV!

Review: Perennial Virant

Award-winning Paul Virant’s garden-fresh cooking is now in the city

By Lisa Arnett

May 27, 2011



Review: Perennial Virant

Photo tour: Perennial Virant Photo tour: Perennial Virant Photo tour: Perennial Virant Photo tour: Perennial Virant Photo tour: Perennial Virant
1800 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL, 60614-5812


Brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday Dinner: 5-10 p.m. daily
Official Web Site:

Rating: !!!! (out of 4) Already hot

While every other newbie restaurant seems to be talking the “local, seasonal” talk, Paul Virant has been walking the walk at Vie in southwest suburban Western Springs since 2004. And city foodies haven’t been making the mini-pilgrimage on the Metra for nothing; he does it really, really well.

So well, actually, that it’s a wonder no one has convinced him to open a second restaurant in Chicago proper until now. The Boka Restaurant Group (Boka, Landmark, Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster) did just that after their chef at Lincoln Park restaurant Perennial, Ryan Poli, announced he was leaving for Tavernita, opening later this summer in River North. And so Perennial plus Virant equals the new Perennial Virant, which reopened May 18 after a top-to-bottom rehab.

I arrived at Perennial Virant, more casual than the special-occasion worthy Vie, via a quick bus ride from downtown. From the start it’s clear that Virant continues to be local to the core; even the whole-grain bread served at the meal’s start is made with grains from Heritage Farms in Elburn and barley malt from Goose Island here in town. Though the right side of the menu tempts with a slew of shareable plates, I stuck to the left side to see what the $37 three-course meal (called the PV3) would buy.

Every dish manages to …
balance flavors perfectly. Virant intends to change the three-course options often based on limited quantities of seasonal produce and meats he can get his hands on. During my dinner, chicken fricassee ($25 or part of the $37 three-course meal) is light but still hearty, with bites of meaty oyster mushrooms, green garlic and shaved bits of turnip. Virant’s well-publicized penchant for pickling shows not just in the dozens of jars lined up on the wall, but in vinegary veggies that provide that punch of acidity to counter rich, smoky flavors, like the sweet onion relish coating potato chunks alongside rich Great Lakes whitefish ($21 or as part of the three-course meal)

I can’t stop thinking about … the pork shoulder confit ($12 alone or part of the $37 meal) with a giardiniera of white turnips, fennel, carrots and radishes. It’s a crabcake-like disc of juicy, tender pork shreds, seared to a satisfying crisp. Also dominating my dinner daydreams is the butter pound cake dessert ($8 alone or part of the $37 meal). Virant borrowed Boka pastry chef Kady Yon from to collaborate on the sweets, and I gobbled up every bite of this Twinkie-hued bar of buttery cake with buttered hickory nuts and toasted milk ice cream (which, in case you’ve never toasted your milk, tastes kind of malty).

You’ll be glad that …
the oh-so-pretty, pergola-outfitted patio is still intact, though for now there’s some unfortunate scaffolding intruding on the picturesque park view.

Even if you don’t drink wine …
take a look at the bottle list for categories are helpful and fun, from “Liquid Dessert” to “Rhone Rangers” and “From Our Friends in Michigan.” Never-too-sweet cocktails follow the rightfully popular practice of tweaking tried and true classics, from Remember the Maine Forest ($12, like a manhattan but with tea-infused rye) and the Late Spring Daiquiri ($12) with rum, honey and allspice.

I’m already planning a return trip to …
dip into the shared-plates sides of the menu. These dishes will also change spontaneously, but Virant hopes a few will become signatures even as the preparations change, such as the Yukon gold potato gnocchi with spring veggie ragout ($17) or crispy Carnaroli rice, a take on arancini with cheese curds ($11).

Just wait until …
brunch launches in time for Father’s Day (if this sounds like your dad’s style, make your reservations soon). It’ll likely take on a Southern-inspired “meat and three” format, with your choices of breakfast meats plus sides of eggs, veggies or breads.

My only complaint … is that I still just can’t get on board with the name. It’s clunky. And awkward. I have yet to talk to anyone (correction: anyone not affiliated with the restaurant) who is genuinely crazy about it. The staff has taken to calling it PV for short, which, I’m sorry, sounds like something you should be treating with antibiotics.

Bottom line:
In theory, Virant and the Boka crew have created a restaurant that will make you want to come back because the menu will change often. In practice, you’ll be craving return trips because every bite delivers in the deliciousness department.

Food: $37 three-course dinner or shareable plates running $7-$27
Drinks: Signature cocktails cost $12, wines by the glass run $8-$20, American craft beers $5-$21
Reservations: Recommended
Crowd: Reflective of the Lincoln Park-meets-Old Town location, from twenties to gray hairs
Service: Casual and smiley, by servers in tees, jeans and sneakers
Must order: Pork confit with spring vegetable giardiniera
Skip: The prix fixe meal’s $9 cheese course supplement. For its small size, I’d put that cash toward another drink.

Lisa Arnett is the Metromix dining producer. She dines anonymously and meals are paid for by Metromix.