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Green Door Tavern Gets New Menu After Years of Same Old Bar Food

By Janet Rausa Fuller | December 4, 2013 8:48am
 The Green Door Tavern in River North gets a new menu after years of the same old bar food.
Green Door Tavern's new menu
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RIVER NORTH — The wraps had to go.

For years, the multipage menu at the 92-year-old Green Door Tavern had been serviceable but dated, rife with buffalo chicken this and blackened that, much of it in wrap sandwich form.

The last time owner Lou Waddle changed some dishes around was when he bought the place in 2001.

"We got stuck in the syndrome of putting too big a menu out," he said.

Waddle knew it was time for a major nip and tuck. For help, he called up chef Dirk Flanigan, formerly of The Gage and Henri, who is working on opening his own restaurant.

"He's such a talented guy. I loved his style at The Gage," said Waddle.

A month ago, the old tavern at 678 N. Orleans St. finally showed off its new menu of hearty but sophisticated fare. It's the first of several changes Waddle hinted are coming.

The wrap sandwiches, one of the most popular items, are gone, as are the nachos and mini-corn dogs. The burger selection has been whittled down from 15 to five. Buffalo chicken wings are now Korean-spiced "Lawrence Avenue wings," while the poutine is "Chicago-style" with giardiniera, cheese curds and Italian beef gravy.

Other new dishes include a Scotch egg (a Flanigan signature) and a venison sloppy Joe that Waddle "was afraid wouldn't be embraced by our regulars."

So far, he's been proven wrong.

Waddle said the biggest hit has been the crispy braised beef sandwich. After an eight-hour braise, beef navel is chopped and crisped on a flattop grill, piled onto pretzel bread and topped with horseradish sauce and havarti cheese.

"I believe it's the only sandwich of its kind in the city," Waddle said.

The beef comes from Waddle's Ch-Ca-Co ranch in Kentucky, which has been in his family for generations (the farm's name comes from the first two letters of his three kids' names). Waddle purchased the farm a decade ago after his grandmother died, and started raising Black Angus cattle there about eight years ago. He's using meat from the farm in a few other dishes, too.

Waddle said the new menu has prompted "a little bit of pushback" from regulars, but not enough to turn them away.

When Nigel Jackson, a three-days-a-week customer, came for lunch one day and didn't see his usual buffalo chicken wrap on the menu, "It definitely threw me off," he said.

"I was like, 'Whoa. Signature drinks — what is this?' " said Jackson, 31, who works in sales at Groupon.

Thankfully, the buffalo chicken sandwich that replaced the wrap ("We enhanced it," Waddle said) has passed muster with Jackson. On a recent weekday, he polished off a sandwich sitting at the bar with his friend Randy Palumbo, who had ordered one on Jackson's suggestion.

"It's amazing," said Jackson. "There's a lot more sauce on the sandwich versus the wrap, and the pretzel bun is like butter, it melts in your mouth."