Rhyme or Reason: Eclectic Meals, Groovy Music and Positive People
I’m all about making memories with good food, great music, and positive people.
It’s summertime in Chicago and there isn’t another city like it during the warmer months. One of my favorite indicators that summer has arrived is when restaurants set up their outside seating. It’s a key indicator that new seasonal flavors are about to abound. Ive been hearing the buzz about a new restaurant called Rhyme of Reason.
Rhyme or Reason is a very sexy space serving the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago’s Northside.
Executive Chef Chris de La Cueva is serving American eclectic food with a global influence. He puts a creative spin on some of your favorite cuisines and I had the pleasure of chatting with him about the motivation behind his menu at Rhyme or Reason. Follow along!
Whats the motivation behind your menu?
It’s a menu designed to bring people together. We focus on shared plates. I wanted to have items that you see day to day and give them an out of the box twist. For instance, our duck tacos. I put Asian flavors into them by using duck confit with a hoisin-lime sauce and sweet chili with a cabbage slaw on top.
What’s your favorite item on the menu?
The Kung Pao Cauliflower. Everyone loves kung pao chicken, so instead of chicken I’m using cauliflower. We garnish it with toasted peanuts and shaved chilis and top it with cilantro.
Are there any ingredients you’re excited about using this summer?
One of my favorites is the heirloom carrots. It’s tossed with a homemade harissa sauce, which is a herb sauce from Maroco. cilantro, jalapenos, parsley, and green onions tossed it with Israeli couscous. They give off the bright colors of spring and summer.
How do you feel about your team?
The back of the house team is family. We’ve had a past, they see my vision and they back me.
After an enlightening chat with Chef Chris, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Rhyme or Reason owner LeQoinne Rice.
When you were a child did you ever think you would own an establishment like Rhyme or Reason some day?
Absolutely not. The goal was actually to be an electrical engineer. My grandfather owned a bar but I never thought the industry would ever fall into place. I was told go to school, get good grades and get a job.
How would you describe the Rhyme or Reason concept?
I was watching “The Get Down” on Netflix one night and thought about the 1970s. I knew we wouldn’t be a 70s restaurant but there were small things that I could take from the 70s and late 80s like graffiti, funk, soul, and rap. I knew the color scheme had to be good. I had to create spots that were Instagramable and create a menu that is shareable.
I didn’t necessarily need a concept, I needed to create an environment that was entertaining and sociable. I didn’t focus on what we call a concept, I focused on the things that we felt was neglected on Division Street.
What’s the atmosphere like on a weekend night?
We have DJs and unplugged bands playing live. On a weekend night, it’s about 70% women, groups, birthday parties. Right around 10pm it transforms into something slightly more live. It’s more mingling, drinking, dancing.
How would you describe your beverage program?
I created cocktails that were approachable. You will look at the cocktail list and envision what the drink will taste like instead of playing roulette when you are ordering. You want to try different things, but you don’t want to go from A to Z so quickly. You want something that will meet you right in the middle and that’s what we do here.
By the way, our brunch is dope!
Is that right?
We took a ton of dishes we saw across America that people love in general and elevated them. We have the Breakfast Poutine, a Southern Bell Bottom Benedict and Chilaquiles. The vibe is good. A DJ comes on about noon. They spin all vinyl records.
What’s your biggest motivator?
I consider myself a provider for my family. It’s also no wanting to work until I’m 70. I take a ton of pride in working hard. It’s also the fear of failure. My grandfather was huge on never living a mediocre life. I’m a flawed human like everyone else but my goal is to be an example for my little cousins and my children.
I want to change our youth in so many ways. But to get their attention right away, you have to have a small amount of success and this is going to be my way to do so.
Biggie or Tupac?
I like both of them for so many different reasons. I love Pac’s soul. I like Biggie more as an artist. If I had to choose one to follow more than the other, it would be Tupac.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing restauranteurs in the country. They are all enterprising, smart, and extremely hard workers. After our interview, I came back to Rhyme or Reason to experience their popular brunch series.
Today was different, LeQoinne wasn’t suited and booted yet dressed in typical Rhyme or Reason uniform. If you didn’t already know who he was, you wouldn’t realize he was an owner. As I waited for my food, I witnessed him serving, greeting, checking in the guest, and cleaning up spills.
I’ve witnessed dedication like this from leadership like managers, but never an owner. I was impressed.
Now I’m ready to eat!
I really wanted to try the Edamame Toast, the Soul Power Tacos or one of the Hangover Specials such as Better Than Sex ( a doughnut bread pudding with sumac caramel and lavender whipped cream) but I landed on some of the fan favorites instead.
My meals were on point. I started with the Chilaquiles. A gluten free Mexican dish with pulled chicken, grilled corn, black beans, cotija cheese, salsa verde, and eggs over easy. The flavors were magnificent. The chicken was seasoned so exceptionally well, I literally had thoughts of Mexico.
Totally satisfying as a brunch item, but why stop there right?
From the Chilaquiles, I was served one of the most popular dishes on the menu, Chicken and Doughnuts.
With the brunch scene exploding in cities across the country, restaurants look to put their own personal spin on the brunch classic Chicken and Waffles. Rhyme or Reason decides to sub waffles with donuts and boom, just like that, my life changed.
The chicken was the star, as it should be. A tender, well-seasoned filet of chicken breast lightly breaded giving me a crispy cut of heaven. The donuts were huge, yet light and airy. The donuts were not super sweet. If they were I don’t think this dish would’ve worked as well.
The semi-sweet maple syrup sitting at the bottom of the bowl combined with the red chilies sprinkled on the dish brought all the ingredients together for an after party in my mouth.
If you are anything like me, music matters. I appreciate the focus on the music and social atmosphere here. Add in delicious light meals, summer inspired cocktails and you have a recipe for a great evening. Service is top notch. The crowd was hella cool. The music made me groove and so did the food. I love this place. I’m coming back, asap!
Stop by today and let them know Life Well Eaten put you in tune.
Rhyme or Reason is located at 1938 W. Division Street, Chicago, IL. 773.687.8240
Make your reservation today for brunch or dinner.
Special: Join Rhyme or Reason for Wine Crush Wednesdays, has 1/2 off bottles and glasses of either red or whites!