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Project: Blackbird
Blackbird's classic endive salad.

We’ll always remember our first dinner at the sleek West Loop restaurant Blackbird, back when we (and it) were newbies to the city. We ordered the famous endive salad nestled in a crispy potato basket with pancetta and poached egg. It was beautiful. Who knew one glamorous, grown-up salad could make us feel like we’d finally arrived?

That salad is still on the menu 16 years later, and Blackbird continues to hold its perch at the top of many critics’ lists of standout places to eat in this town.

Now the culinary industry magazine Plate is taking an obsessive look at the restaurant’s history and influence with an in-depth, six-chapter, online multimedia feature called Project: Blackbird.

The piece is a modern-day oral history built from interviews with more than 40 former employees and chefs. Once you start reading, it’s hard to stop. What? Blackbird’s chef almost wasn’t Paul Kahan? The curried lobster corn chowder is Lenny Kravitz’s favorite dish?

If the refresher course inspires you to make a dinner reservation, check your memories at the door and order something new--like the pork collar (an unusual cut of meat) cured in miso and ketchup for an extra-rich flavor.

And, okay, get the salad for old times’ sake.

Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708 or

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