Balena Pop Up (at Dutch & Doc's)

4.2
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70 Reviews
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$30 and under
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American
On August 8, 2017, during a full dinner service, an electrical fire broke out in the ceiling above the kitchen at Balena. Despite the quick response from the Chicago Fire Department, Balena suffered extensive fire, smoke, and water damage.

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.
What 70 People Are Saying
Overall ratings and reviews
Reviews can only be made by diners who have eaten at this restaurant
4.2based on recent ratings
4.2
food
4.3
service
4.3
ambience
3.9
value
Noise · Moderate
71% of people would recommend it to a friend
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JO
Chicago
5 reviews
Dined on December 31, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

We went for NYE 2020, and it was a very chill vibe. Food was very yummy and service was excellent.

OT
Chicago
2 reviews
Dined on December 31, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Wish the pop up could continue or comeback at another time

S
Chicago
1 review
Dined on December 31, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Great to go back to a taste of Balena- even if it was only for one evening!

J
Chicago
1 review
Dined on December 28, 2019
Overall2food2service5ambience3

The Balena Pop Up experience at Dutch & Doc's was below average. The food was very disappointing because it was not as good as the food at the original Balena. As a matter of fact, none of them reminded me of the food from the original Balena. Also, the actual menu was missing many of the food and beverage items that were listed on the menu on the website. Majority of the dishes that I was going to order were missing, which didn't make sense because those were some of the highlights from the original Balena menu. I was very excited to introduce my friends to the food at Balena because they never had chance to experience it before the tragedy. Unfortunately, I didn't get that opportunity to do so. The highlight of the evening was the exceptional service from our server (Taria). She was very professional and helpful. Her fantastic attitude helped us forget about the disappointing experience.

OT
Chicago
3 reviews
Dined on December 26, 2019
Overall3food4service2ambience2

Food was okay; service terrible. Our sever spent most of her time on her phone. We went bc we had loved Balena. In general we realized we had loved Balena more due to the ambiance and decor rather than the menu.

OT
Chicago
1 review
Dined on December 22, 2019
Overall3food3service1ambience3

Poor service. Only 1/3 full but server forgot sides and would disappear for periods of time.

OT
Las Vegas
1 review
Dined on December 21, 2019
Overall1food1service1ambience3

Terribly slow service. Took us 35 minutes to get our salad, another 20 to get one entre and another 30 minutes to get the other entre. How does a restaurant bring out one entre then wait 30 minutes to bring out the other?
Food was mediocre, very small portions filled with overly rich food; all food items were over saturated with butter and grease, making both my parter and I pretty sick after. This place is not worth the price tag!

OT
Chicago
3 reviews
Dined on December 20, 2019
Overall4food4service4ambience3

Great for a Balena pop up. Food selection was far better than Dutch and Docs menu ever has been, so kudos to Boka for working in other restaurants and chefs. Great for the neighborhood.

a
Chicago
28 reviews
Dined on December 18, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Just amazing food from Balena popup

A
San Francisco
27 reviews
Dined on December 18, 2019
Overall3food2service3ambience4

Staff was unfamiliar with the menu items when we asked questions. No biggy just a bit surprised since the pop up has been open almost two months. The bread was cold. The brussel sprout were bland or undressed entirely. The pasta we ordered was just okay. Favorite part of the meal was the drinks and the mushroom toast.

Was really looking forward to it. I wouldn't come back for the food, but I would come back for a drink.

JD
Chicago
4 reviews
Dined on December 18, 2019
Overall3food2service5ambience4

The food was ok but nothing special. If you went to Balena prior and expected the same food you will be disappointed. The service was great but everything was on the salty side.

JH
1 review
Dined on December 15, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

I love and miss Balena, and this was a great opportunity to experience it again. Please do consider bringing this pop up back next year!

JS
Chicago
1 review
Dined on December 14, 2019
Overall2food1service2ambience3

Really disappointing.

EG
Chicago
1 review
Dined on December 14, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

I missed Balena so much and we had a great experience at the pop up. Our server, Liz, was friendly, helpful, and paced out our meal beautifully. Highly recommend checking this out before it’s closed!

CF
Chicago
4 reviews
Dined on December 13, 2019
Overall3food2service5ambience1

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.

c
Chicago
5 reviews
Dined on December 13, 2019
Overall3food5service4ambience2

Lots of children there due to Santaland.
Food was great but atmosphere lacking.

S
Chicago
4 reviews
Dined on December 13, 2019
Overall4food4service5ambience5

The drinks we had were good but the quantity of food was smaller and quality was a little less than I'd like for the price.

CP
Chicago
44 reviews
Dined on December 12, 2019
Overall4food3service4ambience4

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.

a
Chicago
29 reviews
Dined on December 5, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Balena Popup was wonderful. It was so enjoyable I went twice in one week.

A
Chicago
8 reviews
Dined on December 5, 2019
Overall4food3service5ambience5

Food was marginal but the host and server made up for it

OT
Chicago
1 review
Dined on December 5, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Here’s hoping that Balena reopens. Amazing food!!!!

KR
Chicago
1 review
Dined on November 29, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Great experience from start to finish! The staff was amazing and the food was a perfect tribute. Go while you can!

OT
Chicago
3 reviews
Dined on November 27, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Fantastic service and food

C
Chicago
19 reviews
Dined on November 24, 2019
Overall5food4service5ambience3

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.

DS
Chicago
1 review
Dined on November 23, 2019
Overall4food4service4ambience5

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.

ME
Chicago
26 reviews
Dined on November 23, 2019
Overall4food4service5ambience5

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.

OT
Chicago
4 reviews
Dined on November 22, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Great food and really good cocktails!

JL
1 review
Dined on November 22, 2019
Overall4food4service3ambience5

Not as memorable as the original Balena but overall a good experience!

CD
Washington DC
126 reviews
Dined on November 21, 2019
Overall3food3service4ambience4

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?

F
New England
14 reviews
Dined on November 21, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

AMAZING FOOD!

OT
Chicago
1 review
Dined on November 20, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

Everything was great. I just wished for a bigger table. We were a party of 7 and ordered a lot of delicious food.

RC
1 review
Dined on November 20, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience4

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.

SD
Chicago
3 reviews
Dined on November 20, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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!

L
Chicago
1 review
Dined on November 17, 2019
Overall3food3service4ambience4

The food was hit or miss - definitely not worth the price.

MG
Chicago
5 reviews
Dined on November 17, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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!

SS
Chicago
1 review
Dined on November 17, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

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.

B
Chicago
12 reviews
Dined on November 17, 2019
Overall1food1service4ambience3

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.

OT
Chicago
3 reviews
Dined on November 16, 2019
Overall3food2service4ambience5

Both entrees came to the table cold. Beautiful location. And service was great. Disappointing

s
1 review
Dined on November 15, 2019
Overall1food2service1ambience1

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.

AD
Chicago
1 review
Dined on November 15, 2019
Overall5food5service5ambience5

I miss Balena and hope some of these dishes (especially the orecchiette!) find a home on the Dutch & Doc menu!