The nearly concurrent openings of Revolution Brewing and Longman & Eagle, along with a handful of other new ventures in the neighborhood, have inspired more than a few predictions that Logan Square is in the looming shadow of a development and gentrification tsunami. As if to prove the point, both places have been mobbed since day one by disposable-income-dropping hipsters.
Legions of beer geeks waited longingly through the well-chronicled epic struggle by Handlebar principal Josh Deth to open Revolution Brewing, and now that the taps are flowing they're draining the house brews faster than brewer Jim Cibak can produce them. Lines of stoic bearded dudes stream in and back out again with biceps curled around growlers of hoppy IPAs, roasty stouts, and spicy Belgian-style brews, barely glancing at the beautifully designed room, with its barrel-stave fixtures and full view of the brewery's raw industrial operations.
Meanwhile chef Jason Petrie does battle in a half-concealed kitchen, struggling to feed the masses inspired yet beer-friendly food and striving to appease both carnivores and the vegetarians migrating from the more plant-eater-friendly Handlebar. So far the results are mixed.
House-made charcuterie is becoming the chicken breast of new restaurants. But cured meats actually make a lot of sense in a brewpub—just not Revolution's mushy sausages, pale fatty hams, and cured pork belly inexplicably drizzled with truffle oil, or for that matter the hilarious vegan rye bread they're served with. On paper a bowl of bacon-fat popcorn sounds like a perfect beer companion, but in practice it's a top-heavy mass with chunks of bacon and clods of shredded Parmesan—the antithesis of finger food. Petrie has a tendency to gild the lily like this: see also his 16-ounce cold-smoked-and-grilled rib eye, slathered in a thick oxtail "sauce" that contains a nearly comparable portion of braised oxtails.
The simplest efforts—tangy, plump smoked buffalo wings, crispy ale-battered scrod—come off the best. Pizzas are offered in a few interesting variants, like duck confit or a corned beef special, but though the outer edges are respectably crispy, the centers tend to get overwhelmed by toppings. Beef patties are served on large misshapen buns, accessorized with toppings like pepper jack and pulled pork or Gorgonzola with cremini mushrooms and crispy shallots; a corned beef Reuben special (not to be confused with the regularly offered tempeh Reuben) made better use of that vegan rye. And the kitchen has a way with spuds, offering them three equally successful ways: long crispy fries, blue cheese potato salad, and fluffy garlic-cream cheese mashed. The last comes in a deep bowl of Flemish stew with an ale and balsamic gravy. Just give me some of that—but hold the tough, gnarly slabs of brisket—and I'll be happy.
At Longman & Eagle, a tavern fronted by Empty Bottle pooh-bahs Bruce Finkleman and Peter Toalson, the throngs so far have been as apt to tie up the tables early Monday evening as they are late Friday night. I hope designer-partner Robert McAdams (whose work here is reminiscent of what he did at Branch 27) has soundproofed against the din that will otherwise bleed into the rooms of the B and B planned for upstairs. The food is executed by Jared Wentworth, who after decamping for Seattle from Andersonville's fish-centric Atlantique a few years back became yet another proponent of snout-to-tail eating. He seems as determined to ward off vegetarians and those of timid taste as he is to draw in fearless fellow chefs, who've taken advantage of the late hours to gather round the plates of onion-jelly-topped tall roasted marrow bones that fly out of the open galley.
Wentworth's meat challenge goes on and on: Kobe meatballs, duck rillettes, fat slabs of salty bacon-armored paté—squab one night, rabbit another, woodcock on a third—and a recent special of tete de cochon, not a whole pig's head but a crispy headcheese croquette atop a bed of stinging nettles (which don't sting once braised). Even the fish dishes can't escape mammalian adornments: catfish is topped with ham-hock relish, and seared tuna swims in foie jus.
Whether all of these ought to be braved regardless of your disposition toward adventure is another matter. The brat-size house-made sausage on a bun is dry and underseasoned, but the wild boar sloppy joe is a scarfable Tuscan ragu sandwich topped with crunchy frazzled onions and, more questionably, a whole fat fuck-you of a pickled jalapeño. A sunny-side up duck egg layered on a beef tongue hash is a satisfying late-night breakfast, and might even inoculate you against the dozens of whiskeys behind the bar. The sprinkling of perfect crispy-fried Ipswich clams on an oversize block of toasted brioche, though, is sure to provoke frustration in anyone who's ever dropped a few bucks at an actual clam shack. Even on a single plate execution can diverge to extremes—beautiful braised rolled veal breast is a meaty paragon, but its partner, a short rib stuffed in undercooked manicotti, just looks embarrassed for itself. That and a huge undercooked candied apple in a pool of bourbon anglaise with a squibble of pureed butternut squash say to me that sometimes things are coming out of the weeds before they're ready.