The snow-packed streets of Cicero have proven no match for Hamilton County fans of local wonder 10 West (10 W. Jackson St., Cicero, 317-606-8542), which opened in early winter at the town’s main crossroads—an outpost of urban cool. Housed in a revamped storefront full of intimate tables and timber-chic accents (the main-floor bar is lit by exposed bulbs dangling inside jug-like glass pendants, and the community table is a custom-made slab of poplar that could have come off the set of Twin Peaks), this cozy family tavern has been packed to its exposed brick walls on the past two weekends that we popped in. To endure the hour-long wait, we ducked down to the subterranean bar, complete with a fireplace and piano, for cocktails—including the potent but refreshing Paloma, a concoction of tequila, grapefruit juice, and club soda, and an indulgent Rumchata-spiked Tiramisu Martini.
It’s worth the wait. Chef Bill Wampler’s menu of gentrified pub grub is at its best when having some delightful fun with the standards. The Grilled Cheese Crostini appetizer pairs miniature grilled cheese finger sandwiches with a shallow dish of cream-of-tomato soup intended for dipping—let’s just cut to the chase. Twisted Tacos come in three varieties: blackened fish, plum pork, and peanut chicken. And an excellent half-pound BBQ burger ordered medium-rare arrived with the perfect sear and pink center, dressed to the hilt with cheddar, bacon, sweet sauce, and frizzled onions. Some of the dishes have some kinks to work out, like a plate of blackened Mississippi catfish that didn’t need quite so much of the creamy tomato saucing weighing it down, and a fried ravioli starter too pedestrian for a restaurant with this much potential. But the little touches, like the Green Goddess house dressing and a tiny dish of creamed corn that comes with your dinner, has already won the hearts of many.