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.
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