Tucked away in a space that’s almost easy to miss, save for the Day of the Dead-style skull decals on the windows, is Villains. Industrial in atmosphere and quiet in tone, this spot may be one of Printer Row’s best-kept secrets. But it shouldn’t be.
The original Villains (same name, different location), which closed in 2012, had a completely different feel: divey with an emphasis on cheap beer and burgers. Today’s Villains is sleek and upscale, offering guests a thoughtfully curated food and beverage menu that encourages trying a lot and staying awhile.
The restaurant is about to mark its one-year anniversary this May since reopening and the new concept is definitely something to celebrate. On a recent visit, the menu, which changes seasonally, walked the line between a taste of winter and spring (which seemed appropriate to this diner based on the weather the city is currently being hit with). The food offerings are split into three sections— Small Bites, Starters (which, when a few are ordered, are big enough to constitute a meal), and Entrees— plus dessert, and make choosing difficult for both carnivores and vegetarians alike. But don’t stress about which beer to order with your dish of choice; the menu lists a suggested pairing for each food item.
A recent meal included plenty of standouts like the potato leek soup, a rich silky puree with pickled leeks and a crunchy topping of crispy potatoes which will turn anyone into a true believer of the amazing merits of pickled vegetables, and the wild striped shrimp crudo, a dish with the perfect amount of acidity and spice and an overarching freshness that’s everything you want in a crudo.
The grilled corvina, a white fish from the Pacific, had a delicious, charred flavor, but almost more exciting were its accoutrements: green radish, olive oil braised greens, and a terrific toasted almond salsa. The 30-day dry-aged top-sirloin steak also delivered; cooked beautifully, it was served alongside watercress, savory popovers, and roasted rutabaga.
On this particular visit, the featured dessert, a pound cake, was ordered, but skip it and instead opt for another beer or cocktail. You won’t go wrong with the the Villains Punch (5-year aged rum, grenadine, old fashioned bitters) or the Fortunate Son (bourbon, Gran Classico, orange oils).
730 S. Clark St.; (312) 583-0283