The fare is typical brewpub grub, though Iron Horse Ale House absolutely does not brew its own beer (it's an ale house, mind you). The draft selection is relatively pedestrian, not for lack of solid options, just for lack of adventurous ones—Dogfish Head, Half Acre, Great Divide, and other trustworthy beers are all on tap, so you'll be pleased, but you'll probably have had it before. The food menu leans heavily on brick-oven pizzas and fancified bar cuisine. So, for example, there's the Bocconcini Fritto, which is a gussied-up way of saying fried cheese. And no two ways about it, fried cheese is fried cheese, and fried cheese is delicious, regardless of the shape into which it's molded and sauce it's paired with. This appetizer was followed by a promising bowl of spinach with goat cheese, beets, mandarin oranges . . . the works. But there was a catch: the shareable salad (which, for the love of God, needed serving tongs or something) was hosed down in a bland raspberry vinaigrette—there was a veritable pool of it sloshing around once we hit the bottom of the bowl. It was messy and oily and turned what had once seemed fresh, sharp spinach into a drowned mess.
The meal didn't leave me wanting more, or wanting leftovers. But Iron Horse Ale House is a perfectly fine, completely inoffensive addition to a far-northwest neighborhood that butts up against the burbs, with a robust if predictable beer selection, Blackhawks games on TV (sound on, of course), and enough wood and iron to build a Viking ship. The food's just a bonus, really.
Iron Horse Ale House, 6158 N. Northwest Hwy., 773-763-1800, ironhorsechicago.com