Beyond the usual 'burger bar' label
Refinement, rock 'n' roll mingle at Three Aces
More than bar food: The most striking dish at Three Aces is the braised pork shank. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)
Only one dish veered into over-saltiness — the cioppino ($21) — but even that illustrates Troost's cooking philosophy. I've had versions elsewhere that amount to a big bowl of soup, where the seafood sinks to the bottom. Here, the clams, mussels, crab and head-on prawn sat above the surface like a grown man inside a children's aboveground pool. The seafood stars. The broth acts as a bit player. The cubed 'nduja, a typically spreadable pork sausage, was smoky with paprika and salty as bouillon cubes. If only the tomato broth were gentler, then it might achieve what I believe was Troost's desired effect: a flavor pop, an exclamation point to contrast its inherent lightness.
The most striking dish brought out was braised pork shank ($22), arriving with bone pointing skyward like an offering to the Minotaur god. It's as head-turning a visual as it is a fully realized dish. The shank is roasted to a crisp and fatty crust, the fried kale providing that appealing green taste, crunch from pecans, and a sweet potato ravioli that's thankfully not cloying from its sweet potatoey-ness.
That ravioli wasn't necessary, yet it brought out an earthiness that elevates an otherwise homey dish into refinement. One might not associate refinement with a burger bar. If so, stop looking at Three Aces as one, because it's better than that.
1321 W. Taylor St.; 312-243-1577; threeaceschicago.com
Open: 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sunday-Friday; 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Saturday
Check average: Burger and a beer, $20 per person. Full dinner with appetizer and dessert, $35 per person.
Recommended: Ace burger, gnocchi, winter garlic soup, Brussels sprouts pizza, braised pork shank