Though Scratch Kitchen & Lounge has been doing business for a few weeks, they're still in a soft opening phase and won't have their official grand opening for over a week.
We stopped in during last week's freezing rain/sleet/snow storm, and this new restaurant was reasonably crowded. This place has also generated a number of reviews on Yelp! and other venues, proving that even if you say you're not really officially open, you're still going to be treated like you're officially open…especially if your doors are open, you're serving food and you're taking money.
As the name implies, Scratch Kitchen makes almost everything from scratch, including their ketchup but not including (yet) their sausage. I swear, their ketchup tastes just like Heinz, which can be taken as either a compliment or a slam.
The "It's Greek to Me" Burger is all-lamb, ground with mint and oregano and topped with tzatziki, tomato and cucumber. It was a fine burger, not exactly a bargain at $11, but a good sandwich. There's feta worked into the meat, and the whole thing tasted like a tender and less greasy kind of gyros.
We also had the mac n' cheese with prosciutto, peas and roasted poblano, and although I must say (no really, I must) that I like my wife's version of mn'c better, this was a good effort and a comforting bite on a cold night. The roasted poblano provided texture, color and a pleasant chili bite. One suggestion to the kitchen crew: I think this dish would be tastier if you put it under the salamander to crisp up the top and caramelize the cheese a bit before serving.
Despite some positive comments on various blogs about the fried pickles, they're coming off the menu. Cook Bobby was kind enough to make some for us, but he was just being nice. Apparently, management got so much push-back from people who wanted just regular potato fries that they decided they couldn't keep handing out fried pickles with the burgers. Bobby made the breading for my pickle fries with Hamm's beer because, he said, "any beer that foams is good." The result was that these pickle fries were encased in airy, almost pastry-like breading. But I won't go on, because you can't have them anymore -- and you can thank all the parochial diners who pushed fried pickles off the menu because they wanted potato fries (because, you know, where else can you get French fries made of spuds?!).
There is a righteous beer menu at Scratch Kitchen. With some trepidation, I ordered a Hamm's – I don't think I've had one of these for maybe 30 years, and it was just as I remembered. All the beer here is in cans because, as the menu explains, its easier on the environment in that cans take less energy to ship than bottles and they're all recyclable. I'll buy that.
People have commented on the music here, and it was, as I recall, from the era when people still bought vinyl, which I guess ties in with the name of the place. I found it just fine, though some have complained that it's too loud, too 80s, etc.
Servers and cooks were very friendly, seemingly excited about their new place, and pleasant to speak with, eager to get input on the food. I chatted with the lady in the picture, and she lives right around the corner -- said she's been to Scratch like three times already because there's nothing that's quite like it in the area (there are restaurants, of course, but Scratch is more like, and I paraphrase the chef, "an upscale burger shop").
Scratch Kitchen replaces Deko's (which was one of the most westerly outposts of the Big Baby), and I'm guessing that having a late-night spot is going to be appreciated, not only by neighbors but by those who, for whatever unimaginable reason, find themselves on Madison in Forest Park, in the early morning hours, hungry and in need of some belly ballast before sailing into the night.
Scratch Kitchen & Lounge
7445 W. Madison
Forest Park, IL