I'm certain that no matter how you feel about the food at Ukrainian Village's Boeufhaus you'll find it hard to resist repeatedly blurting out to your friends, family, and pets the satisfying portmanteau of the French word for "beef" and the German for "house." Truthfully, I'm certain I know how you'll feel about the food too.
You have to appreciate the quiet confidence with which chefs Brian Ahern and Jamie Finnegan—who seemingly came out of nowhere—have opened this unpretentious spot in a former Polish deli. It's literally and conceptually so far removed from downtown's expense-account feedlots you'll sooner find yourself sitting among native Ukrainian Villagers than conventioneers.
At the core of their tight but eclectic menu are five steaks, three of them priced high enough relative to the neighborhood to inspire a bit of sticker shock. But topping out with a 22-ounce, 55-day dry-aged rib eye for $60 (the 35-day version is $6 cheaper), these are easily as good as—and in most cases better than—anything you can find in the city's center. Seared, presliced, and fanned crimson across the plate, both steaks have a proper edge of funk and minerality and are lusciously tender. There are similarly pricey options for filet and New York strip, but a $26 steak frites entree allows more budget-conscious guests to enjoy the uncommonly good grass-fed, grain-finished beef and the thick-cut spuds lightly fried in beef tallow. All of these steaks are available au poivre or with bordelaise or bearnaise sauce on top or on the side, but it'd be a shame to sully their natural opulence with anything more than the salt that's seared into them.
In fact Boeufhaus offers a number of good values with which to supplement a celebratory steak or build a memorable meal without one altogether. Though much of the menu is flesh heavy, the kitchen is doing some surprisingly sophisticated—and some simply satisfying—things with vegetables, starting with the brilliantly colored crudites, thinly shaved or batonette-cut watermelon radishes, celery, purple cauliflower, beets, peppers, and carrots, arranged in a bowl like a blooming flower and served with a side of creamy green goddess dressing. There are nods to traditional steak-house sides as well, including a crock of cauliflower gratin, rich with bechamel and topped with a cheesy crust of Gruyere and bread crumbs. Crisp spears of green and white asparagus are light and springlike; mushrooms roasted with thyme and vinegar are meaty and substantial.
Bar snacks like the goat-cheese-stuffed onions, which are fried in bread crumbs and sauced with a savory acidic duo of black olive tapenade and salsa verde, are as sophisticated as the Alsatian sausage and pasta roulades fleischnacka are irreverent. On the other hand, beignets stuffed with braised short rib are a bit drier than expected, and the pastrami croquettes, rolled in rye panko, have a pasty interior.
Appetizers for the most part stray from the meatier tendencies of the menu to provide a good amount of balance—like a creamy stracciatella loaded with smoked onion, a surprisingly light polenta topped with a judicious dose of minced escargots, and a dish of tiny, tender chickpea-flour cavatelli tossed with house-made merguez sausage and fried chickpeas in a vibrant and cheesy paprika-spiked sauce.
It's hard for me to recommend not ordering a steak at Boeufhaus, particularly when the mushy lardo-wrapped veal loin can't compete with any of them, but the plump seared duck breast is among the beefiest and best I've ever encountered. Jacketed with a generous layer of creamy fat and an outer shell of crispy skin, it's served choucroute style with potatoes, sauerkraut, and thick bacon lardons.
Just a few desserts rotate frequently. A simple, creamy pot de creme sprinkled with orange zest may be a better choice than tough, dry chocolate-tahini doughnuts, but I'd really love to see the kitchen supersize the miniature Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches they're currently serving as mignardises.
To drink there's a tight but well thought-out selection of spirits and liqueurs, and more than a few European and European-style beers on draft and in bottles. The wine list, put together by Red & White wine shop owner Nathan Adams, is what you'll want to pay close attention to. Leaning heavily on German, Austrian, and French wines, particularly lighter and sometimes agreeably austere reds from the Loire Valley, it's also peppered with unusual and affordable gems like Causse Marines Peyrouzelles, a barnyardy syrah from the southwest of the France.
Overall Boeufhaus is the kind of place I don't run across often enough, and one that I'm happy to say is the sort of restaurant every neighborhood deserves. v