Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old Town Social

The City of Broad Shoulders has much to offer even a casual visitor. For the walker, there's glorius people-watching along the Navy Pier. For the shopper, there's the Magnificent Mile. For the builder and architect, there's the delight of the castle-like splendor of the enduring Water Works and the other buildings that were turn-of-the century monoliths to the preeminent superpower to be: The United States.

Adding to that the Second City offers an almost infinite variety of places to eat, drink and be merry: Your friendly Irish Pub, the dank dive bar, or the lively outdoor cafe packed with partying and unlaboring proles.

After trying all of the above on for style, when you've built a thirst like no other and want to try to someplace new, look no further than Old Town Social. Old Town Social recently opened and is located in the section of the city with the moniker Old Town and is short walk north and west of the Water Tower area.

On our recent visit to Chicago, we begain in the Gold Coast section and decided to try to find and experience Old Town Social for ourselves. While walking down North Avenue, we spotted Second City. You know: Birthplace to the comic genii: Eugene Levy, John Candy, John Belushi, et al? S and I didn't know when we might get back, so with just a few minutes to go before the 7:00 p.m. show, we decided to try to get tickets--No luck. So we continued down along North Avenue, forlorn yet still walking toward the light, searching as always for beervana. Finally, near um, the cross street of N. Cleveland I think it was, we spotted Old Town Social in an unassuming plain storefront--access via side entrance, please.

In the vestibule just inside the door on the wall hang a group of what I immediately assumed were clerical collars (!)--it was only after I queried the pleasant hostess, that I discovered that they were pin-on collars worn early last century by poor people as a means to make-do with a limited amount of clothing.

Walking inside and turning to the right opens to a long marble-topped central bar going down the middle of the space with a dining area on both sides. High original exposed-truss ceilings and strong brick walls lead me to believe this was some sort of industrial space in an earlier incarnation. The overall scene is old-school: antique roll-top arrival station; turn-of-the-century framed photos on the walls; light-colored leather-seated bar stools, dark marble bartop and back bar, dining booths set into one wall with curtain tails to each side, a shoe-shine station--A showpiece really, but still evocative of the overall old-time spirit.

We seated ourselves at the bar and now it gets good, really good. Check out their beer menu. Local beers? Natch. Imported Belgium beauties en draught? Certainly. PA beers? Got that covered too!

What else? Specific glassware for 23 of their beers. Slavering now: Hmmm....Must...Taste....Indeed.

From Two Brothers Brewing Company, their Prairie Path, Belgian Pale Ale started me along the path to beervana. This is a new beer and brewery for me. They're located in Warrenville, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. Check them out over here along with an interesting story about their new oaken Foudres. For S, she gave the beer menu a three times over and made a great choice if I don't say so myself: drum-roll please: Victory Prima Pils from draught. Need I say more?

Quickly downing my pint (we had walked a mile or so after all), the geese who usually flock, followed me next onto Goose Island - Matilda, a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. This brewery's situated in Chicago and is also one I've not sampled beers from before. Matilda's from their Reserve collection and sports a racy and spicy treat of wonderful light amber that kicked it just right.

Look Mommy there's a goose up in the sky...

Matilda paired perfectly with with my dinner choice: the B.L.T. As is well known, there is no finer food on God's green Earth than the majestic B.L.T. And when paired with the finest beer on God's great Earth, well, can you say Heaven? The bacon between toasted bread was perfectly done and thick, even after frying--as it should be. The tomatoes: End of summer sweet, sweet, Heirlooms. Aioli slathered on, was a different and unique twist (for me) adding just a bit of garlic flavor to the proceedings. Yummeee!

The final piece of the puzzle slipped into place when the barmaid brought me a housemade dill pickle. Now: You know there's just one other thing that a Polish boy is never separated from by more than an arm's length. Right? His sausage? Well yes, but... His dill pickle!

I am something of a pickle connoisseur as I make my own too and am always looking to other examples for points of comparison and ideas. Well let me tell you, this was one humdinger of a dill pickle. It was crisp, spicy, zippy, and had some flavor component I don't often taste--I'm wondering if these were aged in an oak barrel?

After these treats(the whole menu looks just as sensational), I took to the beer menu again, this time aiming for something a little more familiar. I found it in Bell's Two Hearted Ale, an ale in the American IPA style. This beer brought me a few hundred miles closer to home. Frankly speaking, Bell's is becoming one of my favorite breweries and in a ship's hold worth of IPAs sailing about the world, this single IPA is just different enough to stand out in a very crowded harbor.

About this time I finished my meal and S had just finished an exquisite chopped salad, and for my night-cap, in correct glassware please, I ordered up a farmhouse ale from the brewery Dupont, their Saison Dupont seasonal beer. Prior to this beer I had been an avowed Farmhouse Ale anti-devotee, but perhaps I had been showing my naivete? I humbly sit before you and admit I was wrong. Saison Dupont has turned me into a believer. A more exquisite beer I have not tasted--refreshing, fruity, spicy, dry in the finish.

Restrooms: Spotless.

Service: Eye-popping.

Beers: Excellent selection for all tastes from the lightest to some heavyweight stouts and all SRMs in-between.

Any place that has housemade dill pickles, an interesting overall food menu, and great beers, is home indeed. I will be back. Highly recommended.

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