The Spoke & Bird is a beer garden for the South Loop | Bleader

The Spoke & Bird is a beer garden for the South Loop


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The patio
By far the best reason to go to the Spoke & Bird is the patio. The inside of the cafe, which replaced Cafe Society in March, is cute and modern, full of reclaimed wood and flooded with natural light. But it's the 2,500-square-foot space outside, partially shaded by trees and equipped with enough seating for 100 people, that makes the place stand out. In fact, even calling it a patio—which in Chicago is often applied to a few tiny tables shoehorned in between a sidewalk and a busy street—feels like an understatement. In light of the fact that the new owners, Scott Golas and Alicia Bird, have managed to obtain a liquor license and now offer 20-odd mostly local brews (six of them on tap), the term "beer garden" seems more appropriate.

Bavarian pretzel with spreads
There's a fairly brief menu of food to go with your beer: salads, sandwiches, sides, and a couple pasta dishes in addition to pastries and several breakfast classics (beer for breakfast was popular in 18th-century England, and I don't see why we shouldn't revive the tradition). The best of the accompaniments, though, was a special: a crispy-on-the-outside Bavarian pretzel dwarfed by the spoonfuls of honey and mustard-seed butter, red onion jam, and double cream Brie it was served with. Actually, the pretzel was fairly tiny to begin with; I would've appreciated more pretzel and less spread.

Chicken sandwich with home fries, kale salad
  • Julia Thiel
  • Chicken sandwich with home fries, kale salad
But I put the extra jam to work on my honey and tea chicken sandwich, which was fine but unremarkable (though the jam improved it quite a bit). I couldn't detect any honey or tea flavor in the chunks of chicken, which kept falling out of the sandwich—as did the crumbly cheddar and bits of pickled vegetables. My friend's grilled cheese, with Swiss, red onion jam, and apple, suffered from a similar problem, the cheese not being melted enough or plentiful enough to hold everything together (though he used some of the extra Brie to make it cheesier). A kale and roasted vegetable salad was better, though slightly overdressed—but granola clusters made a good substitute for the traditional nuts. I could find no fault at all, though, with a side of crispy, nicely seasoned home fries. And conveniently, those go just as well with beer as a pretzel does. Unfortunately, having an evening drink on the patio isn't an option for now; the cafe closes at 6 PM. The owners plan to open for dinner eventually, though.

The Spoke & Bird, 205 E. 18th, 929-263-2473,

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