Pretty, pricey bites at DryHop Brewers

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The beer tanks
Brewing equipment is a central design element of Lakeview's DryHop Brewers: the brewhouse and fermentation room are both on display behind glass, and behind the bar are six shiny beer tanks, striking against the red tile wall. And, of course, the beer in those tanks is central to the menu: not only is it incorporated into a few of the dishes, but all the food seems designed to pair with beer (there are a half dozen wines on the menu as well, clearly a sop to those people who insist on ordering something other than beer at a brewery).

Chef Pete Repak, a veteran of Charlie Trotter's, has designed a menu of small plates divided into categories like "handfuls," "fork and knife," and "brewer's favorites," seemingly at random. The portion sizes and average prices across the sections were very similar (except for "between bread"—the burger and sandwiches are bigger), and if there was another organizing factor I couldn't identify it. Across the board, though, the ratio of price to portion size seems just a little off: the plates are quite small, and average about $10 apiece. If you're sharing with even one other person, you're likely to get only a few bites of each dish. When our waiter recommended five to six items for the two of us, he wasn't kidding; we ended up ordering six and it was barely enough.

Ham and Gruyere croquettes with fried quail eggs and bechamel
  • Julia Thiel
  • Ham and Gruyere croquettes with fried quail eggs and bechamel

Hanger steak with mushrooms and rapini
The good news is that while it's pricey, the food is also excellent. The hops salt on our Belgian frites ($5) didn't taste particularly like hops, but the fries were crispy and went well with the creamy garlic Parmesan aioli and vinegary "dragon sauce." A single seared scallop on a bed of chorizo-shrimp hash with sweet-corn sauce and papaya relish ($11) was fresh, sweet, and tender; ditto the three large shrimp with white corn grits and greens ($11). Hanger steak with maitake mushrooms and garlic rapini ($12) came in a slightly larger portion, though the golf ball-size dollop of "leek crushed fingerling potatoes" was puzzling (potatoes are cheap, why skimp on that?). The steak was rosy and tender, but it was the beautifully roasted maitakes, nutty and umami rich, that really stood out. My favorite were the savory ham and Gruyere croquettes, crunchy outside and creamy inside, served atop a smear of bechamel and each crowned by a tiny fried quail egg ($9). The dessert menu is limited to a couple kinds of pie from Hoosier Mama, but that's not a bad thing; a slice of pecan pie with bourbon ice cream is probably one of the better bargains on the menu at $5.

Tasting flight

But the food is only half the point (if that) of a brewpub. Brewer Brant Dubovick has a very respectable and reasonably priced lineup of beers; ten-ounce pours are $3-$4, and larger pours range in size from 13 to 21 ounces and in price from $5 to $7. Or you can get four-ounce tasting glasses of all six house beers currently on tap for $12, which we did. I wasn't a fan of all of them: Batch 001, a pre-Prohibition-style cream ale/steam beer hybrid, was easy to drink but also fairly bland; Don't Poke the Bear, an oatmeal brown ale, tasted more like a dry stout, with roasty coffee notes and not much else going on. I preferred Mr. Banana Grabber, a hefeweizen with strong banana, clove, and lemon flavors, and the Devil Jumped Up, a floral, hoppy Belgian IPA. The best of the bunch were the very drinkable Shark Meets Hipster, a wheat IPA that was surprisingly light and fruity, and the Seven Flowers double IPA. Brewed with seven types of hops, the latter isn't a DryHop beer but a collaboration between Ale Syndicate, Atlas Brewing, and Celt Experience that was replacing a house-brewed beer they'd run out of. It's an extremely well-rounded beer, surprisingly smooth, fruity and floral, with strong hops that don't really kick in until the finish. (There's a tasting of Ale Syndicate beers tonight at the Garage Bar & Sandwiches (6154 N. Milwaukee) that will feature Seven Flowers; the event information says it's one of the last kegs of the double IPA.)

DryHop Brewers, 3155 N. Broadway, 773-857-3155, dryhopchicago.com

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