Links Taproom: Go for the beer, stay for the beer

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Links Taproom is more bar than restaurant; the food seems to be there solely to line the stomachs of patrons, allowing them to absorb more of the 36 beers and three wines on tap. There's no table service, and the left side of the menu covers a somewhat alarming range, from shrimp cocktail to hummus to Caesar salad to empanadas to fried smelt.

The right side of the menu, devoted to house-made sausages served with myriad toppings, is more promising—but as it turned out, everything we tried was perfectly decent. The baked dough casing of the empanadas was a little dry, but a chile-mango dipping sauce and the rich filling of spiced duck leg and veggies helped make up for it. The Deer Creek sausage, a venison link with cherry cider compote, pickled vegetables, and arugula, was pleasantly gamy (though not quite good enough to justify the $11 price tag). A better bet is the bratwurst, made with veal and pork shoulder; we opted for the caramelized beer onions and stout mustard on top. Links boasts that its fries are hand cut, but the thin strips of potato that arrived could have used a harder fry, and once they got cold not even the dipping sauces—we chose goat cheese-garlic and bourbon barbecue—could make them appealing.

The bar at Links Taproom
Still, the bar shouldn't need to lure customers with its food—for that it's got a massive beer list. The tap system is hooked up to a digital display that shows the level of beer in each keg on monitors in the bar (you can also view it online). So if you see that levels of Against the Grain's Kentucky Ryed Chiquen, for example, are dangerously low, you can order that first, before the keg kicks. The system also displays useful information like the serving glass and size (you can order many of the beers in multiple sizes), alcohol percentage, and color of the beer. There's a well-curated list of beer from local breweries (including Half Acre, Penrose, Goose Island, Ale Syndicate) and national ones (Founders, Lagunitas, Surly, Left Hand), and there are two nitro taps and one cask in the mix as well. And about half the beers (most of the ones served in 16-ounce glasses) are also available in smaller pours.

Links Taproom, 1559 N. Milwaukee, 773-360-7692, linkstaproom.com

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