Vera's Otro Bar's Seasonal Specials - Chicago

Stellar seasonal specials--and a recipe--from Vera's Otro Bar

Mark Mendez says his goal with the Otro Bar offerings at Vera was simple: "To use as much summer produce as humanly possible."

The outlet is a new chalkboard menu at his Spanish-slanted West Loop restaurant. Each day, it lists at least five specials inspired by farmers' market abundance.

Heirloom tomatoes arrive adorned with arrope (grape-must syrup) and blue cheese. Thick tomato slices are tossed with house-made, oil-poached tuna conserva, too. Served with green beans, herbs and a soft-boiled egg, it's a superb treatment for the silky, tender fish. 

A pepper glut is imminent, and in recent days Mendez has blended roasted peppers and eggplant for a savory dip, or served them with sliced tomatoes and baked Spanish goat cheese.

The dish that had us dragging our fingers across our plate was an equally simple combination of Little Gem lettuce and grilled peaches. Its secret superpower was bacon vinaigrette, a punchy dressing made from sautéed garlic, onion, bacon and sherry vinegar (click here to see the recipe).

The dressing transformed the salad into a complex marriage of sweet, sour and fatty. We can't wait to try it on more of the season's players, especially corn, melon and plums.

Vera, 1023 W. Lake St.; 312-243-9770 or