You can count on two things if you’ve decided to eat at a bar in River North. One, around 7pm the bass is going to crank up and make your drink look like the glass of water from Jurassic Park. Two, the menu will probably have tacos, sushi, and a brussels sprout salad. Most likely all three. Centennial sets itself apart from these places by serving pub food with an Indian twist, and the rustic space is also one you want to spend some time in. And as long as you order correctly, it succeeds.
Centennial doesn’t really fit in with the River North scene. Everything is made of wood, brick, and metal with exposed bolts and iron fixtures, and the space sort of feels like what we imagine it’d be like to hang out in the hull of a Colonial ship. It feels like it’s been around forever, and is a perfect spot to post up with some heavy beers from their extensive list and scurvy food.
Speaking of food, Centennial’s menu leans heavy on the meats, and you’ll find pork shank, lamb, and lots of sausage. None of the food here could be considered light, and most dishes come with some kind of heavy curry or yogurt sauce. They do some stuff really well: the mussels, which are steamed in Belgian beer with potato and curried sausage, are great. We also like their pulled chicken sandwich, which is smoked with curry and served on a flatbread with a yogurt sauce and pickled onion. But some of the more ambitious plates fall short. The scallops are overly complicated, and there’s a roasted carrot wrapped loosely in phyllo dough with lentils and cauliflower that just doesn’t work. The safest plan is to stick with the simpler dishes, or stuff that seems reasonable to be coming out of the kitchen in a bar.
Despite the inconsistent food, Centennial can still be an enjoyable spot. Servers are really friendly, quick to offer tastings of their favorite beers, and happy to let you linger after you’ve finished with your meal. This is the kind of place you won’t mind staying for a while, and if you stick with the right dishes, it’s a great place to put in your River North rotation.
Pork belly is smoked, fried, and served with a mustard glaze. It’s straightforward, delicious, and a good way to make sure that you won’t get your rings off of your fingers the next day.
PEI mussels are steamed in a beer broth, with curried sausage and potato. The baguette they’re served with is perfect for soaking up the broth, and everything about it is hearty and delicious.
Centennial’s version is really good - it’s perfectly cheesy with a panko crust on top.
The smoked chicken has a nice curry flavor, and it’s served on flatbread with pickled onion and a yogurt sauce. It’s one of the lighter options, if you ignore the fact that the flatbread is the size of a mattress.
The burger here varies and its success depends on the preparation. When we first had it, it had onion jam, bacon, and was delicious. But the version we had with smoked gouda and horseradish, not so much.
This side dish has too much going on. Corn is served with curried yogurt, cilantro, lime, and peanuts, and it’s ultimately an unsuccessful attempt at a Mexican/Indian mashup.
The roasted carrot is undercooked, and wrapped in phyllo dough that tastes like how a refrigerator smells. It’s on a bed of mushy lentils, overcooked cauliflower, and comes with a pasty yogurt sauce. Nothing about this dish is appealing or tastes good.