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Mini-review: The Radler

Is The Radler a beer hall cool enough for Logan Square?

  • The Haus Radler at The Radler
The Haus Radler at The Radler (Kaitlyn McQuaid / For RedEye )
January 08, 2014|By Kate Bernot, @redeyeeatdrink | RedEye

Mini-review: The Radler
2375 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-276-0270
Rating: !!! (out of 4) Heating up

Even as a person of German descent who grew up in a kitchen filled with the spiced aromas of Oma's knockwurst, stollen and roladin, I can still admit that there are reasons Chicago doesn't have a Bavarian restaurant on every corner. The food is heavy, rustic and generally doesn't lend itself to the sort of modern presentation that French, Italian or Japanese cuisine does. So when I heard that Nathan Sears (formerly chef de cuisine at the much-lauded Vie in suburban Western Springs) and Adam Hebert (also formerly of Vie) had teamed up to open a hip, contemporary spin on a German beer hall in Logan Square, I raised an eyebrow. Could spaetzle be sexy? When The Radler opened mid-December, I had my chance to find out.

Don't expect the Hofbrauhaus: This is not your Lincoln Square beer hall, guys. My friends and I almost walked past The Radler, mistaking its exposed brick walls and graffiti-inspired art for some other bar. In fact, except for a few steins, three massive wood clocks and some long, communal tables, not much about the interior says "beer hall" at all. I wasn't complaining, though—I'd choose the classic hip-hop soundtrack I heard at The Radler over polka music any day.

Drink by the liter: This bar is all about the beer—and lots of it. Yes, you could order locally made craft ales from Ale Syndicate or Atlas Brewing Company, but it's the Haus Helles (brewed by Lombard, Ill.'s Flesk Brewing) or the Stiegl Pils that are truer to the German preference for lagers. It's worth the $11-$13 to order those by the liter and hoist the oversize glass mug for a toast with your friends. Drinkers who prefer a lighter option should try the Haus Radler—a mix of the Haus Helles and lemon soda—whose citrusy flavor will be even more appropriate come warmer weather. The beer-averse aren't out of luck; four signature cocktails, a half-dozen wines and a spicy gluhwein ($6, served warm in a red boot-shaped mug) round out the menu.

Eat heartily: The Radler's menu of seasonal German dishes ("The Best") and housemade sausages ("The Wurst") is well suited to this freezing Chicago weather. A classic beer hall snack, the Haus Pretzel ($6), justifies its price tag with an addictive barley-malt butter that lends a sweet counterweight to the salty, yeasty dough—just one bite had me forsaking mustard for the foreseeable future. Dishes such as the deep-fried ham hock ($14) and fried bread dumpling ($13) sounded absurdly heavy, but were reasonably portioned and, while filling, didn't immediately induce cardiac arrest. I loved the seasonings and the smooth texture of the weisswurst ($9 per half-pound), but I would have preferred the pork belly sausage grilled rather than poached to add some snap or char to the casing.

Bottom line: Laid-back enough for a meet-up with friends and slick enough for a casual date, The Radler nails what beer halls are supposed to: a place to socialize and drink. The food is tasty and definitely German, but thankfully there's nary a lederhosen in sight.

Reporters visit bars unannounced and meals and drinks are paid for by RedEye. kbernot@tribune.com | @redeyeeatdrink

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