True American Kitchen is all over the map.
Chicago hot dog, Lower East Side sandwich, Southern fried chicken, Louisiana shrimp and grits, New England lobster roll, New York strip steak, pan-roasted Long Island duck breast -- you get a quick geography lesson here.
And you're in for a pretty good time along the way. True American Kitchen is a lively new restaurant with real personality and enough homey choices to feed the most contrarian group.
True moves into the address vacated by Lula Trattoria. The exposed brick remains. Now, you won't have to worry about missing the sporting event of the moment on TV, either.
The real show, however, starts with an artfully arranged, roasted-beet "carpaccio" that's much better than it has to be, boosted by goat cheese and frisee. The roasted pear-and-Gorgonzola combo, with endive and apple, also is appetizing. There's the requisite organic kale salad, too.
But you'd rather sample "Grandma's meatloaf poppers," wherein the meatloaf becomes meatballs, which find a happy spot atop mashed potatoes. They're light and well-seasoned. So are the filet-mignon sliders, with caramelized onions and horseradish aioli; and the lobster roll, with a caper-driven sauce rémoulade. Meaty Buffalo-style chicken wings have some spark.
Shrimp and grits, however, is more about the nuggets of andouille sausage and the tomato cream than the small shellfish. Forgettable: the dull "Amerasian" duck taco. Just as disappointing is the fried chicken and waffles. The bird is crisp but bland; the Cheddar-bacon waffles, flavor-free and limp. Much better are the rare, black sesame-crusted tuna; grilled striped bass; and the tender filet mignon.
True finds its veritas with casual fare. The Lower East Side, which translates into an updated, very good riff on the Reuben, this time with corned beef, Gruyère cheese, pickled cabbage slaw and spicy mayo on grilled rye. The house's hamburger is juicy, generous and crowned with slab bacon, smoked Gouda cheese, avocado, crisp fried onions and chipotle-spiked aioli, all piled on a pretzel bun.
And the half-pound Wagyu beef Chicago-style hot dog is a hefty spectacle. This epic frank receives the full treatment with chopped onion, jalapeno, yellow mustard, green relish and cabbage slaw. You'll be rooting for da Bears, if not looking forward to the expected renovation of Wrigley Field.
None of the desserts matters, especially arid, molten-center chocolate cake; and the cheesecake capped with cherries that taste as if they've been marinated in cough syrup.
Besides, you won't have room.