Chicago is known for its rich beer culture in the form of diehard corner bars to upscale restaurants from the north side to the south side. Breweries have been popping up all over The Windy City for the last few years and the Pilsen brewpubs, in particular, have caught my attention. There is also a fantastic new Vietnamese restaurant in the Pilsen neighborhood that is my new favorite among Chicago’s Asian Restaurants. Ditch the car and follow me on Chicago’s ‘L’ and buses to the following Pilsen brewpubs and Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen.
What: Alulu Brewpub is a split-level, relaxing, rustic space with creative craft beer made on site. The suds here are constantly changing to keep things fresh and interesting. I loved the cark Baltic Porter which had 8% alcohol and creamy, chocolate flavor. The food options here are all made to order and fresh. I enjoyed the hot, crispy veggie lumpia made with chickpeas, potatoes, water chestnuts, onions, garlic, spinach, and carrots. Don’t forget to splash some of Alulu’s tangy hot vinegar sauce on top! The kale and couscous salad with sheep’s milk croquettes is also a great complement to any dish on Alulu’s menu. I am excited to check out their new brunch menu.
Where: 2011 S. Laflin St. Take the #21 Cermak bus (connect at the Cermak ‘L’ stops on the Green or Red Lines) to Laflin St. and walk 1 1/2 blocks north.
Moody Tongue Brewing Company
What: This clandestine brewery/tasting room is one of the special Pilsen brewpubs that
has a clubby yet sexy vibe. The craft brews here will knock your socks off. Growlers are available.
If you are hungry, there are only a few options – oysters, an outrageously decadent 12-layer chocolate cake, as well as cheese and charcuterie platters. The food is meant to be shared so bring some friends or, at least, be prepared to take most of the cake home. Bonus! A fireplace and a bookcase set the mood in the cold months. If those don’t get your juices flowing, you may be dead! Tours of the brewery are available on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Of course, I had to try the 12-layer chocolate cake which has so many different fillings. It is a real show stopper.
I also tried one tasting pour (3oz.) of the Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter and one tasting pour of the Blueberry Pilsner. The latter was the Farmers Market Beer which gets changed every week or so depending on what the folks at Moody Tongue find at the market. Both of these beers were phenomenal with smooth finishes.
PRO TIP: Visit Moody Tongue on Sunday afternoon or Monday evening in order to avoid crowds.
Where: 2136 S. Peoria St. Take the #21 Cermak bus (connect at Cermak ‘L’ stops on the Red or Green lines) to Peoria St. and walk 1/2 block north and enter through the discreet black door set in a bit from the sidewalk. Or, take the #8 Halsted bus (connect at the Halsted ‘L’ stop on the Orange line) to 21st Street and walk two blocks west to Peoria St.
Lo-Rez Brewery & Taproom
What: Lo-Rez is a brewery in a large warehouse with a taproom that displays the works of local artists. As far as breweries go, this is one of the best in Chicago. I stopped by one night last week during a heatwave, and I enjoyed a stellar Saison with 5.4% alcohol and a smooth, floral finish. There is no food served here, but you can bring food in to enjoy with your brews. The beers and artwork rotate regularly.
The bonus for me is that Lo-Rez does not have a TV so you can enjoy a communal tasting room experience without the loud, obnoxious douchey sports fans. I hope the owners keep this vibe. Lo-Rez gives a tour of the brewery on Thursday evening.
Where: 2101 S. Carpenter St. Take the #21 Cermak bus (connect at the Cermak ‘L’ stops on the Red or Green lines and walk one block north.
HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen
What: Whether you begin or end your evening out among the fabulous Pilsen brewpubs, I highly recommend you swing by HaiSous Vietnamese Kitchen. The owners of HaiSous were involved with the fantastic but now defunct Embeya in Chicago’s West Loop. Choose from starters, shared plates and larger entrees at this beautiful addition to Pilsen.
Vietnamese food is my favorite Asian cuisine, and Haisous is mastering the fresh, light flavors associated with Vietnam. I ordered the perfectly balanced papaya salad with beef jerky which is not the typical tough version. I could eat this salad every day.
The betel leaves stuffed with beef, five spices, toasted sesame seeds and crunchy peanuts are accompanied by a lovely dipping sauce.
Fire roasted eggplant with caramelized pork belly is a flavorful side dish.
HaiSous has a very well curated wine list. The sparkling rosé is one of the best I ever had.
The space at HaiSous is beautiful. The front room is spacious with a long bar and ample seating. The back room is larger and it has more light. I love the mix of brick walls, wood, and bamboo. The simple aesthetic of the restaurant matches the simple, clean flavors of the Vietnamese food at HaiSous.
I cannot wait to return to HaiSous for their ribeye, pork chop, seafood, and brunch.
Where: 1800 S. Carpenter St. Take the #18 CTA bus (connect at the Roosevelt ‘L’ stop on the Red, Orange or Green line) to Carpenter St.
In keeping with the spirit of Feeding Off The Rails, I encourage you to leave your car at home and take the CTA trains and buses to these 3 Pilsen brewpubs and Haisous Vietnamese Kitchen. Save on gas. Avoid traffic, road rage and parking. Reduce pollution. Don’t drink and drive!