Belly Shack (Restaurant, Bucktown, BYOB)
Location: 1912 N. Western Ave.
Cuisine: Asian-Latin Fusion
This Bucktown spot is a hidden gem tucked under the Blue Line L tracks at Western and Armitage. A follow-up to Chef Bill Kim’s Urban Belly, this imaginative new spot is one of very few (in my opinion) unexpectedly good fusion places. It’s not trying to blow your mind with absurd combinations — simply pairing together flavors that you might not normally expect. Quite successfully, I might add.
The one-room space is carefully designed, keeping in mind the nature of the food, the location, and the patrons. It’s an industrial loft-style setup, with graffiti slurred on the walls and a semi-open kitchen. Guests sit at communal tables, and given that the clientele is on the young end, it makes for easy friend-making. Well, that and the fact that it’s BYOB. (With no corkage fee!) Once you’ve staked out your space, order and pay at the counter and the staff will bring your food out to you. Service is fast and reliable, which makes it a good place to get in and out of quickly if need be.
The cuisine is definitely interesting — in a good way. The best way to describe it is Asian-Latin street food. Like I said, interesting… You can expect many of the dishes to have a bit of a kick to them, including the tasty Lemongrass Chicken “Sammich.” The Somen Noodle Salad could likely be the most interesting “salad” you’ll ever eat. Lacking any kind of greens, its made up of tortilla chips, Somen noodles, shrimp, and jicama. Also good: the Asian Meatballs with rice noodles and mint. For sides, try the Roasted Squash with maple syrup or the tostones with chimmichuri. Want to try it all? Order a bunch of dishes to share with friends! Everything is very reasonably priced, so you don’t have to worry about going overboard.
Though you’ll probably be stuffed after your meal, try to save room for the soft-serve ice cream menu (“U Kud Lik Dis”). The vanilla with bacon bits and chocolate chips is fabulous, as is the mint ice cream with brownie chunks. So. Damn. Good.
Bravo, Chef Kim. You’ve done it again.
Open for lunch & dinner Tuesday through Sunday.