In this week's cafe review, we take a trip to Plonk, a hidden spot in Oak Forest that features a slightly rougher crowd and far better food than you'd expect to find at a wine bar. It's that study in total contrasts that makes Plonk instantly charming to me. Where else can you watch Monday Night Football while enjoying an $18 glass of Honig Cabernet, served at the ideal temperature from a carefully curated selection housed in a 55 degree Fahrenheit wine room that's the centerpiece of the restaurant?
Scott Miller, once the wine director at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, created Plonk as more or less an homage to everything he loves: great wine and food, yes, but also a comfortable atmosphere that feels less like a wine bar and more like someone's upscale man room.
Whe I was growing up, our neighbors across the street always hosted Christmas block parties in the husband's converted pool cabana, which featured enormous televisions, comfy leather couches and his own keg system. It was the dream man cave of every other husband on the block, and I get the feeling Miller created Plonk around a very similar concept.
But aside from just being comfortable, Plonk also features what I feel may be the best bacon cheeseburger in town: the Guanciale burger, served with thick strips of cured pork cheek smothered by a heap of caramelized onions and Swiss cheese.
I keep ending up eating these amazing burgers in the unlikeliest of places, like the Boss Burger at Zelko Bistro.
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Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm just consistently shocked to find juicy, oozing burgers full of character and flavor in places where the menu's emphasis is elsewhere. At Zelko, it's on seasonal, upscale-yet-downhome comfort food; at Plonk, it's on wine and microbrews. But both spots have me hooked on those burgers.
Guanciale isn't smoked like bacon or some other charcuterie products. This allows more of the pork's naturally fresh and buttery flavor to shine, even when coated with cheese and onions. Even the burger patty is biased toward the sweet swine, being a mixture of ground beef and pork. The result is, in essence, the apotheosis of a "bacon" cheeseburger.
And it happens to go great with a bottle of Côtes du Rhône Brézème.
For more photos from Plonk and the construction of the Guanciale burger, check out our slideshow.