Stout Barrel House rolls out far more than just great beer
With a name like Stout Barrel House & Galley you might assume that this venue is primarily a bar with some typical bar food items on the menu. Certainly, Stout has a prodigious beer list and an inventive craft cocktail program. What makes them stand out, however, is not so much the bar but the restaurant. This is not “just a bar.” This is a superb restaurant that happens to coexist with a great bar.
I was recently invited to bring a friend and sample some of the more unique items on Stout’s menu. At the end of the tasting, both of us had decided to add Stout to our list of recommended restaurants in River North. The food far exceeded my expectations and you owe it to yourself to stop in and try it for yourself.
First, let’s talk about the bar. Stout has an impressive beer selection. As of the 8/17/14 they have 20 on tap, 43 bottles, and 8 cans. If you check the beer menu on their website, they update that count on a regular basis so you can see what’s there before you visit. Whatever your taste, you are sure to find it here. As someone who has only limited knowledge of beer, I was excited that they offer a series of beer flights served with a handy placemat explaining the characteristics of each beer. For my visit, I sampled a flight including Allagash White, Revolution Anti-Hero IPA, Left Hand Nitro Milk Stout (yum!), and Victory Golden Monkey Belgian-Style Tripel. For the food menu, each item has a suggested beer pairing. I paired the four beers of my flight throughout the meal and gained a new respect for the art of food/beer pairing.
The menu, of course, offers some standard bar items – hummus, soft pretzels, chicken wings, chicken strips – but the true standouts on the menu are their specialty items. We weren’t able to sample them all, so I will be visiting again to check out some intriguing items such as Animal Fries (white & yellow cheddar, bacon, short rib), Crispy Pork Belly & Corn Flatbread (smoked corn cream, crispy pork belly, white cheddar, house sauerkraut, black truffles, crispy Brussels leaves) and Lamb Sandwich (blue cheese, mixed greens, pickled red onion & horseradish sauce on grilled sourdough).
On our visit, we were lucky enough to try all of the following and I highly recommend each and every item:
- Spicy Calamari (crispy hand-breaded calamari strips tossed in an orange sriracha glaze with lime sour cream) – Forget everything you thought you knew about calamari. This is one of the most unique preparations I have had. The calamari is cut into long strips, so you don’t have to worry about your friends who hate eating calamari because of the shape. The spicy fruity glaze is perfectly balanced out by the lime sour cream.
- Cold Zucchini Salad (zucchini, yellow peppers, pickled Fresno chilies, pickled red onions, scallion, garlic oil, lemon juice, parmesan cheese) – It may sound simple, and it is, but this is one tasty salad! Light, refreshing, and a perfect accompaniment to any of the spicier dishes on the menu
- Smoked Mac & Cheese – They served this one with the additional bacon and lobster. How can you go wrong with a combination of smoky bacon, lobster, and creamy cheddar? I am not normally a great fan of Mac & Cheese but I would order this one again . . . and again.
- Stout Sliders (Iowa cheddar, arugula & Dijon aioli) – My guest grew up on a cattle ranch so she is understandably hard to please with beef. After one bite she looked at me and said, “This is the best slider I have ever had.” I am unsure how they manage to make something so simple stand out, but this is one excellent slider and apparently it’s the same recipe as their burger. I will be back for that burger for sure.
- Scallops & Soba Noodles (scallops served with soba noodles in a soy ginger broth, radish, cucumbers, ginger, carrots, chives) – Scallops are one of my favorite foods and they are notoriously easy to overcook. These were perfectly-prepared with a light flavorful sauce of soy and ginger. The soba noodles were an excellent pairing with the scallops.
- Ginger-Glazed Faroe Island Salmon with Pearl Couscous (yellow squash, zucchini, roasted sweet tomatoes, garlic, ginger, broccoli, with a ginger soy glaze) – Of everything we sampled, this was my second favorite. The lightly cooked veggies paired perfectly with the salmon and the pearl couscous was cooked just past al dente so that everything melded together well. The same type of soy ginger flavor used on the scallops was lovely on the salmon.
- Cornflake Crusted Fried Chicken (served with watermelon, cucumber and feta salad & corn elote) – I saved the best for last. I am a hard sell on fried chicken since I grew up in the Deep South and have very high fried chicken standards. This was some of the best I have had in Chicago. The chicken is brined for at least 48 hours in sweet tea and herbs. Yes . . . sweet tea! It is then breaded with cornflakes and deep fried. They serve it with a ramekin of hot sauce that you can use as a dip or can drizzle over the chicken if you like. The elote is some of the best I have ever had and the great bonus is that they remove it from the cob so it’s not messy to eat. If you use the hot sauce, the wonderful watermelon/cucumber/feta salad is a perfect cool pairing for the hot sauce. But it’s the chicken that stands out – succulent, slightly sweet, tender, and juicy. Wow!
Whether you are just in the mood for a beer and a bar bite or in the mood for a full meal – Stout Barrel House & Galley is a place you must try. Stout Barrel House & Galley is located at @41.8937555,-87.6315175,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x880e2cb31a08abb7:0x91019e05b87f2c02" target="_blank">642 North Clark Street. You can get more information on their website or by calling 312-475-1390. Follow their social media conversations on Facebook or Twitter.