Monday, March 18, 2013

The Chicago Dining World Tour: A Taste of the Swede Life

Tre Kronor
3258 W. Foster, Chicago

What I Ate: Baked Brie, Norwegian Salmon, Swedish Meatballs, Almond Cake

In 2008, I was in Sweden; Stockholm to be precise.

I enjoyed my time there and know I liked the smorgasbord at the Grand Hotel, supposedly the world's best. I also ate at a cafeteria-type place in the heart of Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Old Town, complete with beautiful blonde attendants.

But I can't recall having eaten anywhere there--nor in Copenhagen or Helsinki--that had the same type of Scandinavian quaintness as Tre Kronor, located in Chicago's North Park neighborhood.

Happy to have my mom accompanying me on one of my worldly local dining excursions, we chose Tre Kronor in part due to her having heard them oft cited as providing food during WFMT pledge drives.

Tre Kronor is across Foster from North Park University at Spaulding Ave., with the restaurant-affiliated Sweden Shop just to the west. The waitress wasn't blonde, nor likely Swedish, but the restaurant felt rather authentic, complete with a rather fun painting on the wall.

The waitress explained that Tre Kronor is owned by a Swedish man whose wife is Norwegian, and in addition to a signed jersey from Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson--"Thanks for feeding me," reads the inscription--the wall decor also had a poster referencing Denmark.

Thus I imagine the menu is of cross-Scandinavian design, but probably primarily Swedish. And though the waitress seemingly wasn't, she was quite nice, as was our meal.

After a basket of fresh-cut bread and some savory crackers, we started with a special appetizer: Baked Brie with apples, honey and almonds. It was delicious.

We ordered two entrees and shared them. Best was the Norwegian Salmon with a Door County cherry and orange reduction (essentially a sauce), accompanied by au gratin potatoes and seasoned asparagus. All parts of this were terrific.

Though likely the most culturally-authentic dish, and not unpleasant, I was less wild about the Swedish meatballs. I just don't think I'm a big fan of the traditional gravy. But the lingonberry sauce provided a nice touch along with mashed potatoes. What I really liked from this dish were the pickled cucumbers.

Though the menu listed a number of appealing desserts--Milk Chocolate Mousse, Lemon Tart, Swedish Pancakes--we went with a special here as well: Almond Cake with a lemon cream sauce and blueberries.

It was good in a how-could-it-not-be sort of way, but nothing especially phenomenal.

All in all, the ambiance was probably the best part of Tre Kronor, but the bread, brie, salmon, asparagus, potatoes and pickled cucumbers were truly superb, with the meatballs likely well-made, just not that thrilling for me.

It provided a great taste of the Swede life, without having to go to Stockholm. And perhaps even then.

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