Dusek’s / Chicago
It’s one thing for a chef to plate remarkable food night after night, or a beverage director to consistently orchestrate a draft list that makes even a big-city beer nerd do a double-take. But it’s quite another thing for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing.
Dusek’s Chef Jared Wentworth and beverage director/Cicerone Will Duncan (plus a few other players) found citywide success at Logan Square’s cool, crafty Longman & Eagle eatery, while bar manager Daniel Ohly put in time at Chicago’s other beloved two-name gastropub, Owen & Engine. Both spots are synonymous with beverage pairing, but it’s done anew at Dusek’s.
The restaurant anchors Thalia Hall, which occupies a corner of the up-and-coming, Eastern European-founded Pilsen neighborhood. The building, a truly enormous public hall built by Bohemian immigrant John Dusek in 1892, hosts a theater modeled after a Prague opera house and the bar that’s now the restaurant’s linchpin.
The Old World heritage pops up on what has quickly become one of Chicago’s best beer lists, 24 handles that rotate but always host a Czech pils and dark lager. The rest is Ohly’s love letter to Chicago beer, a collection of Solemn Oath, Local Option, Off Color and others hand-picked for range and drinkability to optimize food pairing.
There’s a beer for every item on the global menu, which touts regulars like lobster rolls and choucroute, and features like an old-school Scotch woodcock with new-school lingonberry barbecue sauce. Dusek’s skews seafood, its prowess exemplified in scallops with oxtail ragout and sturgeon out of the wood oven. An oyster program gives even casual visitors a reason to sit and sip—though with collaboration beers in the works, a basement cocktail bar below, and the theater upstairs transforming into a music venue, there’s really no reason to leave. ORDER: The Tuesday Flight Night menu: Three improvisational small bites, each with a craft beer to match.
Ben’s Tune Up / Asheville, N.C.
A massive, open-aired beer garden separates two semi-enclosed bars in this garage turned gastropub serving Polynesian fare with a Southern twist; think pupu platters with bacon dumplings. Look for impromptu late-night dance parties and the occasional barrel fire in the beer garden on chilly nights. ORDER: The rich and slightly spicy Ramen No. 2 Bowl with chopped pork and the crisp, supremely drinkable Ben’s All American Kölsch, brewed by Pisgah Brewing.
Luck / Dallas
When Trinity Groves’ beer darling, LUCK, first opened, it instantly became the first hyperlocal craft beer restaurant in town. All 40 taps come from breweries located within a 75-mile radius of West Dallas, and everything is delivered fresh from North Texas. There isn’t a single bottle or can inside its blue jean-friendly, wooden digs (well, besides the cans used as plant containers). Drafts include newcomer Rabbit Hole Brewing’s Mike Modano’s 561 to a German-style Franconia Dunkel, which both require an order of beer cheese fondue soft pretzels and fried green tomatoes. It’s all American regional comfort food with a special Texas twist. ORDER: Cheesy, stone-ground shrimp and grits and the bitter yet citrusy Deep Ellum IPA.