Grab a quick brunch or bundles of fresh produce at River Valley Farmer’s Table.
“It’s not farm to table, it’s farm to mouth.” That’s how chef Jordan Rose describes his new restaurant, River Valley Farmer’s Table. An extension of the popular River Valley Ranch — the decades-old farm in Wisconsin that sells its fresh produce and small-batch products at farmers markets across Chicago and Milwaukee — the new café and retail space has sprouted up on Wilson Avenue and serves a full menu of sustainable fare all day long. Best of all? Almost everything in the place is made from River Valley Ranch products.
That means on the retail side, you can count on finding at least five kinds of fresh mushrooms (River Valley’s signature product; try to spot them in the murals painted on all the walls), eggs, root crops, tomato sauces, dips, frozen ravioli and more. The spot also boasts an enormous cheese selection, a deli case full of meat and will soon stock 50 different wines by the bottle. Here’s what else you’ll find at River Valley Farmer’s Table:
Chef stats: Rose grew up on the farm, but like many kids, he wasn’t all that fond of working for his parents. He left to work in the kitchens of local spots like Moto, Bin 36 and Browntrout, but later came back to help River Valley develop its line of prepared foods. “My parents met at a restaurant that my grandfather owned that my father was running,” Rose says. “The whole time I was growing up, I was told to stay out of the restaurant business, but I guess it’s in my blood.”
Must-try dishes: Rose isn’t a local-food purist — what’s most important to him is the price, the quality and keeping it in the family. “Nothing that we grow will I buy from elsewhere,” Rose says, and with 35 acres of vegetables growing on the family farm, that means there’s a lot to use.
But his willingness to compromise keeps prices down. Sandwiches (including a Swiss cheese brat cooked in beer — one of the best brats we’ve had in Chicago) cost about $8 on average, and the most expensive option is a grass-fed 8-ounce farmer’s burger for $10. If you’re looking for a quick snack, snag some beer-battered mushrooms, served with a homemade spicy sauce ($6).
Don’t skip the pickles: Rose is a fermentation geek, which means pickled things show up a lot at River Valley. “Everything we do here is slow-pickled; we use a 3-9 percent salt solution and then we let it sit and get stinky,” Rose says. There’s a selection of pickled veggies in the case, a pickled veggie plate for $5 and 50-cent whole cucumber pickles in a giant jar on the deli case — grab a couple and munch while you shop.
A perfect circle: Brunch and breakfast are big at River Valley — breakfast sandwiches are topped with eggs straight from the farm — so Rose wanted to get bagels right. “I feel very strongly about bagels and the deficit of bagels in the city of Chicago,” Rose says. He starts with organic flour, mixes in a natural yeast starter, combines it with extras like smoked mushrooms and onions, and then boils the whole thing in malt syrup ($2.50).
1820 W. Wilson, (872) 208-3267; Rivervalleykitchens.com