Knife & Tine: Creating Delightful Dishes and Stylish Drinks
Lincoln Park is one of my favorite neighborhoods on Chicago’s northside. A diverse area is known for its abundant shopping, schools and what seems to be an endless amount of bars.
While it is easy to find an amazing meal at one of the area’s top eateries, every once in a while you’ll find a diamond in the rough, like Knife & Tine (click HERE).
First impressions are everything and I was impressed with its outer appearance. Walking through an interesting corridor leading me to the front door, I knew I was going to have a great experience.
One of the first things you’ll notice upon entry is this big beautiful dining room. I had to ask about it. Knife & Tine Proprietor Carissa Shaffer had this to say, “On a sunny day, sitting in this front room is almost like you are outside. Very invigorating and brightens up the whole restaurant. During dinner its dark, romantic and enchanting. It’s really special. It brings a totally different atmosphere. We are really lucky.”
I had to feed my fetish for hidden gem eateries, so sitting down with Carissa for an exclusive interview was more than a treat. Although this was my first time chatting with Carrisa, I felt like it was two old friends catching up after some years. Her team has that same spirit of bubbly hospitality and I love it. Lets chat!
How would you describe Knife & Tine in a nutshell?
We are a New American restaurant. That’s how we have to describe ourselves. How do you have fried chicken on your menu but then have shrimp and grits, a really nice hanger steak but then have kick ass east coast crab cakes? It’s new American, a little bit of everything.
You folks are known for a great brunch, how do you stand out from the crowd?
Our menu is unique, not just your typical eggs and pancakes. We have some really awesome items like a Shakshuka. We have a really good following of people who like to come in, eat, drink and enjoy the atmosphere.
We have an incredibly talented kitchen team that is so passionate about brunch. Our line cooks are aspiring to take on greater roles. We give them opportunities to create. They present an idea, we source out the ingredients, cost everything out, and put it on the menu.
What kind of experience can a first timer expect at Knife & Tine?
We make sure our guest feel comfortable. We really try to make this restaurant approachable for everyone. We have some unique things on the menu as well as warm basic items so we can fit everybody’s different palates to really make them feel at home here.
We want you to be able to come dressed to the nines and have some cocktails before you go to a charity event or come in with jeans and t-shirt, have a beer at the bar and relax.
Our community and our neighbors really rally around us. It’s great to see how this place and be different things for the same person. It’s fascinating to see someone come in with their kids for a Saturday brunch, come in on a Thursday night with the girls at the bar, then Friday with her husband for date night.
When you’re onboarding staff, what characteristics lets you know they will be a great fit?
We hire based on personality I can teach you about wine and food. I can get you excited about our products. Our chef can teach you how to cook. What I can’t teach people is personality, how to treat guest and coworkers. We treat each other like family.
What’s the most popular dish on the menu?
One of the most popular dishes on the menu currently is our butternut squash souffle with zucchini blossoms. We have shrimp and grits on the menu that are pretty ridiculous. My partner is from the south and is a major shrimp and grits snob. We’ve had many people come in and let us know it’s pretty legit. They love it!
What’s your favor dish?
One of my favorite things to eat is the Shakshuka. Shakshuka is an Israeli breakfast dish. It’s made with a tomato cumin sauce, a poached egg, feta cheese, garlic non-bread to dip, and it all sits on a shredded tater tot pancake. We put it on for brunch but everyone loves it so much that we had to put it on the dinner menu as an appetizer. So many people would come in and ask for that shaaky shukey thing, lol. I would eat it all day every day.
Describe Executive Chef Paul Caravelli in one word.
Fiery! Like any chef, he has a temper, but he is very excitable. You can give me a project and he gets super excited. He also has bright red hair!
After my chat with Carissa, I sat at the bar to chop it up with some staff.
While I sipped on a very refreshing Mediterranean Mule, Bar Manager Nikki Allen insisted that I try a beautiful specialty cocktail called the Tea and Tonic.
When I asked about her inspiration behind the drink Nicki replied, “My inspiration was using FEW breakfast gin which is from Evanston, IL. They infuse their gin with Earl Grey tea leaves. I made a really cool black tea rose petal infusion from a local Lincoln Park floral shop called Cat Tails.”
“So I infused black tea, rose petals, honey, sugar and made a simple syrup out of that. In the cocktail there are 2 ounces of FEW gin, 1 ounce of my homemade black tea syrup, 2 dashes of Fees Brothers grapefruit bitters, top it with ice and tonic water and garnish with a fresh rose petal. Cheers!”
Guys, honestly this was one of the most creatively delicious drinks I’ve had in a while. Make sure you try one when you visit Knife & Tine. Kudos to the cocktail program.
Now of course, at this point I was ready to sample the goods.
First up was the beef skewers. When I bit into the beef, the flavor began to take me on a journey. The first thing that popped into my head was summer time. The beef lies on a bed of crispy frites. Under the frites is an amazing sauce worthy of dipping these gorgeous skewers in. Topped with feta cheese, I wish I can eat this daily.
Next up was the Shakshuka. Since this was Carissa’s favorite dish, I had no choice but to see what all the rave was about. I did not disappoint. It got its name from a vegetarian ragu. The tomato base is perfectly seasoned. A nice small arugula salad on top. I enjoyed the pita style non-bread.
A very hearty, yet light vegetarian dish. I felt like I can go about the rest of my day with the energy you need to get through the rest of the day. Now I see why the locals love it here, I’m a believer!
Out of all the awesomeness that exists at the restaurant, I was most impressed with the staff. Yes, everything from the drinks to the food was mind-blowing, but I’m a sucker for hospitality. If there is one word I could use to describe the staff is world class. Servers like Katie and Jessie make you feel like a million bucks.
There is something really special going on at Knife & Tine. Pay them a visit ASAP. Don’t forget to tell them Life Well Eaten sent ya!
Visit Knife & Tine today at 1417 W. Fullerton Ave. Chicago, IL. 60614 (773) 697-8311