Balena Pop Up (at Dutch & Doc's)
Our beloved Balena was taken from us quickly, and without warning. She is remembered fondly among the culinary community in Chicago and holds a very special place in our hearts. She was home to celebrations for many, from birthdays to engagements, so it feels appropriate that we commemorate her with a deserved farewell.
From November 1st - December 31st, please join us for a pop-up dinner experience that will serve as a celebration of life for Balena at 3600 N. Clark Street (Dutch and Doc’s). A menu highlighting your favorite dishes ranging from the Tagliolini Nero with Sea Urchin and Crab to the Lemon Kale Orecchiette will be available from Executive Chef Chris Pandel, Balena alumni, and friends.
We were neighbors who sadly watched Balena burn that night...and instantly saw a local fave go up in smoke. Whether pre-show, pre-movie, casual dinner, late night eats, cocktails and pizza, special night out, Balena was incredibly versatile -- when we heard that we would get a chance to enjoy Chris Pandel's incredible menu once more, we were so excited: a busy November drifted into Dec., but we got our chance...and we should have set proper mental expectations. This was NOT Balena. From the hustle of Wrigleyville, to the odd platings and sorely missing menu items, to the confused bus staff/runners not marking silverware and share plates, poor coursing and "just not the same" ambiance, it felt like a random friend that cooks well and is trying to replicate their favorite restaurant. Everything was "kinda like" Balena, but none of it was accurate. I'm a believer in "salt/acid/fat" (hallmarks of Chicago chefs, esp.), but it was too much lemon, too much salt, or too much fat in every dish along with the wrong venue. I still miss Balena, but this was not the proper send-off. I'll try to erase last night and remember a 2017 fall day with a Creole No. 5, Tajarin and rabbit strozzapreti instead.
Lots of children there due to Santaland.
Food was great but atmosphere lacking.
It was OK, but really not outstanding enough to recommend. I was very fond of Balena on Halsted, but, this past Thurs night, only 1 of 4 food items we purchased was exceptional. The rest were just OK. But the service was very good (from maitre d', to server, to busboy), and the upstairs area offers a dazzling view of the big red Wrigley Field sign.
Balena Popup was wonderful. It was so enjoyable I went twice in one week.
Food was marginal but the host and server made up for it
Here’s hoping that Balena reopens. Amazing food!!!!
Great experience from start to finish! The staff was amazing and the food was a perfect tribute. Go while you can!
Fantastic service and food
Really enjoyed our server Joel(?) - who was friendly and informative. Food overall was really really good (gnocchi, beef entre and Branzino entree in particular). Restaurant is lovely itself, though this is a pop up.
The food was good but not quite as good as the original banana. Probably Durbin part to the service being slow, which is in part due to our table being as far away from the kitchen as possible. However the room and am once and view was great.
Also, limited wine list which was surprising.
We went to the Balena pop up dinner at Dutch & Doc's. I had never been and it's a very nice place. The atmosphere is wonderful being right across from the ball park. The service is very good. The food was good, but I didn't remember any of the dishes we had from Balena. It was a fun pop up though and I am looking forward to going back when the pop up is over to experience the regular menu! A really fun place to dine.
Great food and really good cocktails!
Not as memorable as the original Balena but overall a good experience!
We had never been to the original Balena before the electrical fire but were intrigued as new Chicagoans to try the Pop-Up. We chose an app (smoked mackerel), two mains (meatballs, scallops) and one side (cauliflower). The highlight of the meal was the meatballs. Disappointed with the smoked mackerel & cauliflower. Scallops were good but on the small side. We probably should have tried a pasta dish but did not. Not sure if the pop-up is a test for a re-open in the future or a farewell?
Everything was great. I just wished for a bigger table. We were a party of 7 and ordered a lot of delicious food.
After hearing a few less-than-stellar things about the pop-up I was hesitant to keep my reservation- but I am so glad I did!
Our server was incredible- sweeping by to check in but not overbearing, and very friendly and knowledgeable about everything we ordered, both food and drink.
We started off with two glasses of red wine. For food we had the white bean bruschetta, the seafood tagiolini, the duck pasta, the meatballs, and the onion gratinato. For dessert we had the amaro sundae, tiramisu, and an amaro. Everything was excellent the only two notes I had were that the server offered to course out our food for us and I was surprised that the duck pasta came before the seafood pasta, but overall a small thing. The second was that that the bomboloni that were served with the amaro sundae were not as "melt in your mouth" delicious as the little donuts at Balena used to be- but I did love the homemade soft serve and will definitely be back to try more flavors in the future. The ambiance is quite different than Balena's rustic vibes of course, but the space here was very interesting. Front door staff was kind and accommodating (we called a few minutes late) and we were seated in a roomy booth upstairs.
The POP UP conversion of DUCTH AND DOCS to BALENA was amazing. BALENA was spectacular and the transformation was beautiful with an amazing view of WRIGLEY right at our table!! The food was delicious! Chef Chris and Staff outdid themselves here! FANTASTIC!
The food was hit or miss - definitely not worth the price.
We were so glad to see that Balena was getting a second life following the devastating fire, and we were thrilled to find that they were thriving at Dutch & Doc’s. The food was just as delicious as we remembered, and our server Randy took excellent care of us. Congratulations, and here’s to the renaissance!
Went to the original Balena a few years ago. It was outstanding then, and it's outstanding now. The view was amazing, the service was top notch, and wine was incredible.....and the food, well unbelievable. Just loved it. Will try and get back.
A truly disappointing experience. I took my family because we always loved the original Balena. This pop-up was a horrible imitation. Pasta was under cooked (way before al dente). The braised beef dish was dry and flavorless. The roasted cauliflower was under seasoned and undercooked. The kitchen didn’t seem to have a clue as to how any of the pop-up dishes were to be prepared.
Both entrees came to the table cold. Beautiful location. And service was great. Disappointing
On the positive side, the squash frites, mushroom bruschetta, and onion gratinato were excellent. Tagliolini Nero was good. Drinks were fine.
Unfortunately, everything else about the meal was a disappointment. Uncomfortable seating, staff wasn't knowledgeable about the food, extremely poorly planned coursing (I hesitate to call it coursed at all), undercooked pasta, underseasoned/overseasoned dishes, burnt meatballs, overcooked and stringy *tiny* chicken thighs, zero plate refreshes, and one water refill after getting up from the table and asking for it.
Be careful with later-night reservations. As the staff dropped off the third "course" of seven dishes moments after dropping off 3 undercooked pasta dishes, we were informed we'd have to order dessert immediately because the kitchen staff was done for the night. I've never been rushed out of $500 meal, so that was a new experience at least. Many of these things are commonly experienced by a new restaurant and are worked out in time by a dedicated staff, but I imagine there's no impetus for improvement given it will disappear forever in a few short weeks.
Before it burned down, Balena was among our all-time favorite restaurants, and we were thrilled to see that they were doing a pop-up so we flew out from Denver for it. I guess it just goes to show that a good restaurant can be like catching lighting in a bottle. It's unfortunate that what amounts to a new restaurant's first-month jankyness is going to be the lasting legacy of what was once one of Chicago's finest restaurants.
I miss Balena and hope some of these dishes (especially the orecchiette!) find a home on the Dutch & Doc menu!
Amazing food, great space and fantastic service!
We ran into numerous issues: 1. plastic in the appetizer 2. all the food deliver at once and chilled by the time we got around to it. The staff made good on the execution but was overall disappointed on the experience when I enjoyed the original so much.
This isn’t the Balena I remember. My biggest criticism has to do with the music. Try as I might, with the music blaring, I could imagine myself no place other than a bar. You can’t change the room but the right music with nice light could go a long way in recreating the feel of the old restaurant. Next, the service was indifferent at best. Long gaps between checking in, poor pacing. Most of the food was very good but if this is the best you could do to honor the memory of Balena, I would have preferred to live with my memories.
There was no negative complaints about the restaurant, i just felt like none of the dishes we got (a group of us) stood out as amazing wanting me to eat there again. It’s a one and done place.
Sorry to say this didn't properly honor Balena. Disappointed.
Pasta was way undercooked. Rest was just mediocre
Sad to hear that the restaurant will close in 2020. Love the idea of getting great restaurant in pub place for the off season (Boka group is onto something ! - great idea). As expected the food and service was excellent. Will definitely be back. Highlight was the urchin pasta (usually not a fan but this one works!) and the duck ragu pasta.
Absolutely amazing. One of the best Brussels Sprout salads I’ve ever had great mushrooms.
Food was not like original Balena. I was so looking forward to this too
The food was not as good as I remembered from the Balena glory days. Service started out strong but then our waiter disappeared and there was a very long lag in getting the check picked up and returned. Disappointed in the bulk of the dishes we ordered
All three of us got sick from the meal. Not sure which dish made us sick. Service was meh.
As much as I hate to write this ( I am a huge fan of the Boka group and Balena) I have to be honest. I would say we were underwhelmed by almost everything we had. We enjoyed the octopus salad and the onion gratin dish the most. The cauliflower side was so so as were the pasta dishes. Overall average food and as I have written before about Duch and Doc’s food it doesn’t live up to the rest of the Boka restaurants. I am not sure why the Boka group doesn’t feel like Lakeview can support a sophisticated Resturant worthy of the hood, including visiting Cubs fans. We like the space , the service and the wine list but come on Boka, get it together here because we are fans .
Loved the meatballs. Branzino did not have the wow factor but was good. Was hoping it came out whole similar to Dutch and Docs branzino. Tuna appetizer needs less beans and more tuna. Service was excellent.
I HAVE MISSED BALANA!!!! Every single dish was just so delicious... Please please PLEASE reopen the restaurant permanently.