Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood attracts two types of people: hipsters and foodies. The combination of the two creates a dining scene that is less pretentious and more authentic than other restaurant hotspots in the city. When the folks at Parts & Labor invited me in to try their offerings, I couldn’t say no to eating out in one of my favorite neighborhoods.
I soon found out that Parts & Labor fits in perfectly with its surroundings. The restobar (a word I just made up to easily combine “restaurant” and “bar”) serves an impressive collection of beers and grills a mean burger in an environment that lets you unwind without feeling like you’re on display at a fashion show.
Parts & Labor looks like the kind of restobar Bob the Builder would design if he were a Logan Square resident. Traffic lights are brought together to create wall art. A collage of trucks serves as a cool backdrop to a modular seating area. The look is an industrial, grown-up playground.
Parts & Labor’s floor-to-ceiling windows and large outdoor seating area cement that this is not your typical drinking establishment.
Aesthetics aside, Parts & Labor has a very fun vibe. Before long I was participating in an impromptu round of trivia, fueled by several burger patties and cocktails which I will now tell you about.
I knew that Parts & Labor was known for their extensive beer menu. I also knew that I do not enjoy beer and would not be able fairly judge it myself. My boyfriend Daniel, on the other hand, is a beer enthusiast so I brought him along as Better Than Ramen’s resident beer expert.
David, Parts & Labor’s general manager, recommended that Daniel try a flight of beer to sample as much of their selection as he could. Daniel’s favorite was the Hopewell Off-Black Pils ($6), which he gives a 10/10 and describes as the perfect beer if “you’re not looking to party but to drink.” The beer tasted like a combination of beer, chocolate, and coffee.
Next he tried the Right Bee Cider ($7). Although Daniel claims he isn’t a cider guy, he thought that this would be a great option if you couldn’t drink beer because of a gluten intolerance. He says the cider tasted “like pure honey in your mouth” and left an amazing aftertaste.
Beer #3 was the Revolution Crystal Hero ($7), which was light and refreshing with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Beer #4 was the Off-Color Alfalfa Kang ($7), which unfortunately I do not have taste notes for because by this point the food had come out and distracted me.
While Daniel is the beer enthusiast out of this pair, I’m the cocktail authority.
Under David’s recommendation, I started with the Porgy and Bess ($9) a refreshing, summery cocktail that David named after Gershwin’s opera because of the song “Summertime.” I loved this cocktail so much that I had two. It reminded me of MAD Social’s El Guapo — like a margarita with a spicy kick. If we’re getting technical, the Porgy & Bess is made with Ancho Reyes (a chili liqueur that was definitely the source of the kick), Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey, Aperol (the classic Italian aperitif), and lime.
David also recommended the Christmas in July ($9) because I told him I enjoy sweet drinks. The cocktail consisted of St. George Terroir gin, Cynar (an Italian artichoke liqueur), grapefruit bitters, house-made grenadine, and lime. While the cocktail was refreshing, the grapefruit flavor overwhelmed me.
The Classic Double Burger ($5) tasted exactly like a Big Mac, in the best way possible. I find this quite ironic because there is in fact a McDonald’s directly across the street from Parts & Labor. If you want a burger that is no thicker than a napkin and barely has any meat on it, head to McDonald’s. If you want what the Big Mac wishes it was: 2 thin-but-juicy patties, gooey cheese, and shredded iceberg lettuce between two warm, sweet buns, head to Parts & Labor. And at $5, Parts & Labor’s prices are even comparable to that of McDonald’s, but its quality is so much better. For $10, you can make it a combo and get a burger with curly fries and a shot or a beer.
The Curly Fries ($4) were crisped to perfection and vanished as quickly as they appeared.
On behalf of my vegan readers, I had to try the Herbivore’s Delight ($5), Parts and Labor’s vegan burger. Meatless versions of meat dishes tend to be judged by how similar they are to the meat they are replacing. While I am guilty of this, I’ve realized that this is probably the wrong approach and that food should judged for what it is and not what I wish it was. This is my way of saying that the vegan burger did not taste like or have the texture of meat. If you think of it as trying to replace meat, then you’d be disappointed, but if you think of it as a bean burger, it’s delicious. The patties had a nice soft texture that melted in your mouth. The vegan cheese was splendidly gooey and was too tasty for me to question how one makes such an oxymoron (“vegan cheese?”). While I typically opt for white bread instead of whole wheat, the flavor of the healthier bun on this burger went well with the protein. The crispy pickles on the burger gave it a much needed crunch.
The last entree I sampled was the Hawaiian Chicken Wrap ($7.50), which is the lightest non-salad item on the menu. I hadn’t looked at the menu before going in for a bite, so I didn’t even quite know what was in the wrap and I couldn’t easily make it out, but whatever it was was delicious.
Alongside our healthier options, we were also served a sampler of each side item ($4 each). Just to note, unlike in my photo, the sides are not come altogether on a platter. The staff served them like this so that I could try a little bit of everything without going into a batter-induced coma. All of the side items come separately.
The Fried Pepper Jack Cheese was my favorite side dish. I’ve had a lot of mozzarella sticks in my life, but this is a whole ‘nother beast. The fried cheese was delicious. The shell was crispy, while the inside was melty with a spicy kick.
Out of curiosity, I tried the Fried Gardiniera and Fried Pickles. Gardiniera is a pickled condiment I have only ever encountered in Chicago (does it exist elsewhere?). It was a bit too spicy and sour for my taste, but fans of gardiniera would love this dish. Although I enjoy pickles, I didn’t like them fried. They were just too sour. A sweeter pickle would’ve been a better pick for this battered snack.
I consider myself an Onion Ring aficionado and opt for onion rings over fries when I can. These onions were heavy on delicious batter. They were fluffy, crispy, and greasy. Although I’m not a beer drinker, I imagine that these onion rings would go great with a refreshing beer.
Everyone at Parts & Labor was very welcoming. We interacted with one host, two waiters, one general manager, and one trivia game hostess during our visit to Parts & Labor. David, the general manager, was knowledgeable about the menu and passionate about the establishment. The waitstaff was great at checking on us enough to get us everything we needed, but also gave us enough space to enjoy our experience.
The Bottom Line:
Parts & Labor has great food for an establishment that’s known first and foremost as a bar. This is a great place to grab a drink, gather with friends for trivia, or refuel after a night out.
Although this meal was generously provided by the restaurant, Better Than Ramen’s writers pride themselves in sharing their honest opinions.
2700 N Milwaukee Ave (Logan Square)
Chicago, IL 60647