Aaron Zacharias began his career in foodservice at the age of 15, working his way up from bus boy to bartender to wine seller, and ultimately, to restaurateur. At Fountainhead, his second venture since opening The Bar on Buena in 2003, Aaron teams up with certified Cicerone beer guide Phil Kuhl to curate a collection of delicious brews, whiskies, and wines. The duo constructs and reconstructs their menu around the beverages on hand, ensuring delicious pairings for small plates such as crab and polenta, which mingle flavors with 21 craft beers on tap and a wine list featuring varietals from all over the world. Scottish whiskies form their own course between appetizers and entrées such as the pork sausage ragout. Inside the dining room, gentle lighting illuminates handcrafted mahogany woodwork and an asymmetrical bar cuts the space into two intimate rooms, one of which features a crackling fireplace. When the weather warms, the restaurant's rooftop garden opens to reveal a landscaped terrace accompanied by a truncated menu of drinks available on the rooftop taps.
Mindy Segal, a five-time nominee for the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Pastry Chef award, crafts contemporary American cuisine at her combination restaurant, dessert bar, and pastry shop. The restaurant's foodsmiths aggressively pursue the best practices in cooking and plating, organizing ingredients in ways that accentuate texture, temperature, and taste. Fresh groceries sourced from farmers and Peter Rabbit's knapsack become salads, such as beets with mixed greens, or sandwiches, such as the cheddar melt on pumpernickel. Entrees for breakfast, lunch, and dinner incorporate French ingredients and preparations while maintaining New-World flair. The restaurant's namesake beverage—hot chocolate—comes in eight different styles, each crowned in housemade marshmallows and christened with steamed milk or coffee.
For the night owls of Chicago, just because it?s after midnight doesn?t mean that no one?s hungry. The folks at Jefferson Tap & Grille understand that, supplementing their bevy of beverages with an extensive menu available until the wee hours. Open for lunch and until at least 2 a.m. every night of the week?and until 4 a.m. Thursday?Friday and 5 a.m. on Saturday? they fuel after-hours revelry with hearty sandwiches and burgers, thin-crust pizzas with homemade sauce, and a respectable selection of gourmet appetizers. Classic brews stand ready to wash down each bite, the taps flowing with an ever-growing craft beer selection.
If you've ever raised a glass of Belgian-style Sofie or gotten lost in the oaky, chocolatey flavors of Bourbon County Stout, you may think that you know Goose Island's beers. But you haven't tasted the whole story unless you've visited one of Goose Island's two Chicago brewpubs.
That's because the brewpubs?both of which are independently owned by Goose Island founder John Hall, despite Anheuser-Busch's 2011 acquisition of the larger company?specialize in small-batch beers that showcase the creativity and prowess of its brewers. Most of these beers are produced only once and can't be found in any beer store, corner shop, or on your roommate's side of the refrigerator. When guests visit the pubs, they have the chance to sip artful ales, imperial stouts, and IPAs that might never again be tasted once the keg runs dry.
Brewmaster Nicholas Barron talked to us about the creative brews he's currently working on and what to expect during a tour of the brewpub.
On the Exclusive Brews You'll Taste:
"We?re able to create new batches very frequently?we have at least one new beer a week, if not two. We do a lot of small batches, one-off beers, exploring different flavors?99% of everything we make here is just for the pub [not the mass market]."
On His Summery Farmers' Market Beers:
"Once a week, we go to Green City Market, buy fresh local produce, and incorporate that into our new beers. . . you can follow how things ripen as the season goes on. We just did a strawberry imperial wheatwine. Next week, a hopfenweizen with sweet basil, mint and lemon balm."
On the Double Life of the Brewpub's Tour Guides
Typically, tour groups stand on the brewery platform so they can get a view of the brewpub's inner workings. The tour guides also provide a glimpse behind-the-scenes. "A lot of our tour guides are brewers and are excited about sharing. Bring questions.?
Scroll through the slideshow at the top of the page to watch a video interview with one of Goose Island's passionate tour guides.
Toeing the line between corner bar and gourmet grill, The Point serves old-fashioned comfort food alongside vegan and gluten-free fare. The eclectic menu matches the decor, which effortlessly blends exposed brick and timeworn racing photos with sleek chrome light fixtures and sentient bar stools. Diners can plumb new depths with intriguing menu items such as the crab cake with caper remoulade, the vegan mushroom broth risotto, and the tilapia ceviche with orange and lime. Or they can rely on old standards such as the Point burger with cheddar and bacon or the chicken wings, which come in chipotle barbecue or gorgonzola-bacon. It's not all rib-sticking entrees, either. In her glowing review, the Chicago Reader's Julia Thiel praised the lineup of libations as well, saying, "The drinks menu is just as impressive as the food, offering a dozen beers on tap... another 20-odd in bottles and cans, plus a dozen wines by the glass, the same number of cocktails, and a good selection of spirits, particularly whiskey and tequila."
Though it's mere steps from Millenium Park, The Gage is hardly a tourist trap. According to Forbes contributor John Guiffo, its out-of-towner crowd is tempered by a heavy contingent of locals, which Guiffo called "a testament to its appeal." And it's no wonder—the Zagat-rated restaurant flaunts not only a media-lauded sommelier and bartender, but an excellent menu devised by Executive Chef Dirk Flanigan. Though lunch is when the eatery is at its fullest, diners at any hour can dig into a signature Scotch egg or popular vindaloo mussels. At dinner, the air ignites with aromas of roasted duck breast and tender, braised lamb shank. Thanks to its rock-star libation experts, the selection of beers that Guiffo called "smart and varied" ranges from the delicate Belgian Affligem Blonde to Stone's bold and hoppy IPA.