Classic Tables: Bistro Campagne

The Lincoln Square gem is still firing on all cylinders

Even chef Adam Dittmer was struck by Bistro Campagne's undeniable charm. "I dined here before I got the job; it's like going to somebody's house and sitting in their living room."

Dittmer was faced with a tall order almost exactly two years ago, when beloved long-time chef and owner Michael Altenberg suddenly passed away, and the torch passed to Dittmer.

"I didn't want to change that comfort aspect of the food," Dittmer explains. He has spent the last three years doing his best to maintain Altenberg's legacy while also making subtle tweaks that keep the place fresh.

Altenberg's famous roast chicken, served with wild mushroom ragout and onion frites ($24), is still on the menu ("That chicken can't be changed," Dittmer insists), and the near-perfect steak frites ($26) remains a winner. However, Dittmer has kept moving forward, creating new country-inspired dishes like salmon paillard with buttered cabbage and fingerling potatoes ($25) and a chickpea crepe with beets braised in white wine ($10).

Salmon with buttered cabbage, cipollini onions and fingerling potatoes

The restaurant has added a small but lovely cocktail program; it's one of the few places in Chicago you can find a Vesper (you know, James Bond's original drink). It serves local beers from places like Half Acre and Two Brothers and sports a back bar full of interesting craft spirits. "I found a lot of old menus in Michael's collection, and the drinks have really expanded."

"It was sudden when Michael left us," explains Dittmer, "but the regulars are very positive about the changes." So are we.