Last Updated on December 26, 2019 by Angie
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Bonfire is a two-story restaurant concept in South Side by Chef Chris Bonfili, former chef of the now-closed Avenue B restaurant. While the South Side neighborhood may not have historically been on anyone's radar as a dining destination, restaurants like Bonfire are helping to slowly change that.
At Bonfire, you can dine in the more formal upstairs space with dishes like mussels, blistered shishito peppers, arctic char, and strip steak. Or, you can relax in the more casual space downstairs with options like flatbreads, mac and cheese, and sandwiches. Either way, the menus are a far cry from the bar food typical of this neighborhood.
Focusing On the Wood-Fired Oven at Bonfire
On our recent trip this fall we perused a seasonal cocktail menu to start. We enjoyed the Aperol and autumn with tequila, Aperol, orange, and spices, served with a whole star anise floating on top. It had a nice bitterness from the orange but also pronounced anise and cinnamon flavors. We also tried the Maple's Mark with Maker's Mark, apple cider, maple syrup, and a dehydrated apple slice on top.
That sounds like a recipe for a potentially very sweet drink, but it was actually a really balanced cocktail.
We started with an appetizer of the crispy Yukon potatoes with herbs, a light dusting of parmesan, microgreens, and a bearnaise sauce. The sauce was more like a roasted red pepper sauce with a hint of sweetness and smokiness.
Not all of the potatoes were crispy but the bits that were hit the mark. This was an overall good, comforting starter that happened to be $2 off during happy hour (Tuesday-Friday from 5-7pm, and Sunday from 8-10pm).
For my entree I opted for a dish from the mac and cheese menu with roasted mushrooms, boursin, and smoked onion. The portion size was massive and it was served in a huge cast-iron pan. It was topped with a layer of crispy (perhaps almost too crispy) cheese that had been finished in the wood-fired oven.
In general, the dish was not as creamy or cheesy as a conventional mac and cheese. The boursin gave it a lighter flavor and texture, allowing the mushroom and onion flavors to dominate. We didn't have any real complaints about this dish but thought it was not really a standout.
On another visit, we tried some of their wood-fired oven flatbreads including the pesto, pear, gorgonzola, and onion jam option. We thought the flatbreads generally fared better than the mac and cheese, specifically around the unique toppings, and would probably go that route if we dined here again.
We are happy that Bonfire is elevating the standard for South Side eating and drinking establishments, but can't say the dishes we chose were too memorable. We would definitely consider coming back and trying the upstairs dining room, though. When we do, you can be sure we'll update this one!
Bonfire is located at 2100 E Carson Street in the South Side. The above review is about the first-floor restaurant menu only.
Looking for more restaurants in South Side? Click the previous link to check out some of our favorites in our neighborhood guide!