A good friend of mine has been aching to try out Half Acre’s food option since it was announced that they were opening a kitchen back in January. I have a strict policy of never trying a restaurant until they’ve been open for over two weeks. This policy is more of a best practice, as the kitchen and staff are still getting out the kinks in their own flow. If you need to see this theory in action, I would simply guide you to watch the first two or three episodes of any season of Hell’s Kitchen, and you’ll see how well a bunch of strangers perform in a pressure cooker. I like to eat two hours after I order my food. We went there the first week of March, so I figured it’s a well-oiled machine now and it should be safe to give it a fair review.
I’ve been to Half Acre Tap Room – located at the brewery 4257 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago more times than I can count. I very much like their beer. It’s open 11 AM to 11 PM but closed on Mondays. I have discovered that Monday a lot of breweries and taprooms are closed, much to the chagrin of my liver.
We were there for the food, but were also delightfully surprised that Double Daisy Cutter was currently on tap. Double Daisy cutter is brewed quarterly and has an ABV of 8%. Suddenly I wondered if I’d have to Uber-it home knowing how much I enjoy this beverage.
Seating in the Tap Room has always been a great mystery. There are a few chairs along one of the walls. The tables are picnic table style , but it’s more of a European style of seating. Meaning you have to politely ask someone to ‘slide over, I want a piece of chair.’ And this not being Europe, that is quite a foreign concept to this Chicago crowd. Now, there are a few staff members assisting in this task, and it really is a fantastic idea… in theory. Meet some new people while enjoying a great brew! However, I do have to say that it’s quite comical to watch it in practice. We bounced around a bit after ordering until landing next to a fine young couple in their late 20’s lamenting the horrors of Disneyland commercialism and the existential nightmare of living in then far Northwest Side. Which is fairly hilarious to this slightly older version of that young hipster sitting right beside him. He’ll figure it out.
The menu by Nick LaCasse is much more than a typical bar-room stereotype. Quite the opposite actually. To my surprise, a majority of the menu consisted of burritos. Before you shrug that off and discount it, these are kind of fancy burritos. There’s a chicken noodle with a Southeast Asian crisping the wide noodles you’d find in pad see ew with some spice, garlic – and I don’t know because I didn’t order that. I’m just remembering that was my second choice. I ordered the Pineapple Pork – which was braised pork shoulder with pineapple chunks, rice, cheese and jalapeno. It was quite awesome in the burrito wrapper. My friend had the goat picadillo. Avocado, refried white beans, cucumber, cheddar and radish were in with his goat burrito. My side dish was an olive oil and garlic infused smashed red potato button with a pile of parsley that gave it a Lebanese flavor. I was a big fan. My buddy got the beets. He enjoyed them quite a bit. Unless a beet is in potato chip form, I believe they taste like dirt. Out of fairness, I didn’t try them.
Other menu offerings include Nachos Pamplona – with Spanish chorizo, smoky tomato sauce, science cheese, piperade, carrots, red onions. Not a typical bar nacho. Oh, and also Duck Meatballs.
Overall the adventurousness of the menu was less pretentious and was more accessible than the preconceptions I had coming into it. Sure there’s a cured meat and cheese plate – but it’s an appetizer, and rather than calling it an appetizer, it’s on the ‘to be shared’ portion of the menu. That’s not pretension, it’s a calling out to enjoy a good food with a good be- no – a fantastic beer, and have a good time. There’s not even the dictate of which menu items need to be paired with their specific beer offerings. What seems like an afterthought is actually quite freeing. Especially while I’m on my second pint of pallet wrecking Double Daisy Cutter.
I’m excited to return, and to try the duck meatballs and the Chicken Noodle burrito. I hope to get there before May when the Galactic Double Daisy Cutter is expected to be released. I suppose I could be talked into a pint of Vallejo or Akari Shogun. I’m a big fan of their Vallejo.