Stout Barrel House & Galley
642 N. Clark St. 312-475-1390
Rating: 3 (out of four) Off to a good start
The scene: If the atmosphere at Stout seems at once familiar, it's probably because you've been to Public House, Bull & Bear or Hubbard Inn lately. With oversized chalkboard menus, big tufted leather booths and just enough TVs not to overwhelm, this new tavern shares a lot of characteristics with these other popular after-work spots. Thanks to its slightly-less-trafficked location on Clark, Stout has had plenty of seats available in the early evening hours, gradually filling with 20- and 30-something office workers as the hours wear on. This space used to be home to late-night club Manor, and while the traces of its bottle-service past are gone, the late-night license remains and doors stay open until 4 a.m. (or 5 a.m. on Saturdays).
The food: Stout aims to draw both a dinner crowed and late-night-bite seekers with a lengthy bar and shared-plates menu, with a few entrees (fried chicken, steak frites, fish and chips) for bigger appetites. The bar bites section features a little bit of everything, including a hummus plate with fried pita chips ($8) and a heaping pile of can't-stop-eating-them Animal Fries featuring two kinds of cheddar cheese, bacon and shredded oxtail meat ($8). Chicken wings ($7) come grilled with three dipping sauces: yellow curry, hot sauce and Korean barbecue. If you're into super-spicy wings, ask for extra hot sauce, as the tang of the curry and barbecue skews mild. From 11 p.m.- 3 a.m., a shorter food menu is available, including sliders ($4 each) available in to-go packs of five, ten, 15 or 30, because, well, isn't the reason obvious?
The drinks: Beer is the clear centerpiece here, with more than a dozen rotating craft options on draft from well-loved breweries such as Left Hand, Half Acre, North Coast, Three Floyds, Six Point, Goose Island and Lagunitas. The beer menu also includes a few beer flight options (four 4-ounce samples for $12) and a lengthy bottle list. Wines and a few house cocktails are also available, with the Conquistador earning a place as my stand-out favorite thanks to its crisp-tasting green pepper-and jalapeno-infused tequila.
Bottom line: Stout fits the River North mold through and through, but thanks to its location, you can still squeeze in a post-work drink before it becomes run over with late-night partyers. Be on the lookout for the second floor—formerly called Stay—to open in the next few weeks as an expansion of the downstairs bar.Reviews are unannounced and meals are paid for by RedEye. firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyedrinks