I finally made it to Revolution Brewing last night, so I thought I’d share my opinions. Short version: it did not live up to the hype.
Before I get into the food and (more importantly) the beer, let’s talk about the ambiance. The space is nicely designed from a visual standpoint – wide open with a large bar in the middle – but the first thing you notice is the noise level. The wide open design, with large, flat brick walls, causes table conversation to be amplified to an annoying level. So much so that it’s difficult to actually carry on a conversation in the place. Something needs to be done about that – it’s the single worst aspect of the place.
I was impressed, however, by the fact that there weren’t TVs showing sports everywhere you looked. There was a single TV over the bar, which wasn’t even turned on. That makes it clear Revolution is trying to be more of a restaurant than a bar.
Apart from that, the service was a little slow. While I was waiting for a table (I was the first of my party to arrive and had put my name on the waiting list) it took a while to find a free space at the bar to sit down and order a drink. Once I did however, I sat there waiting for one of the bartenders to acknowledge my presence, even though they had each walked past where I was sitting several times. One even filled a growler for someone who came up to the bar right next to me (apparently a “regular” who, obviously, deserved more attention than me) before asking me for my order.
Also, I thought it was odd that they held my credit card to run a tab. For a place that’s striving to feel more like a restaurant than a bar, I thought that was odd. It’s something dive bars, college bars and obnoxious trendy “clubs” do. Restaurants keep track of your drink orders then transfer your tab to your table when you’re finally seated, or until you’re ready to pay at the bar. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a place that held your credit card to run a tab.
On to the beer. Overall, I was not impressed. The beers I had were good, but not great. I started with the Workingman Mild. I wanted to start with a lower alcohol brew, and I was curious if theirs suffered from the lack of flavor that affects many lower alcohol beers. I have to say that it had more flavor than expected, but still it was pretty average.
The next beer was the Working Woman Brown. I was very disappointed in this one. It didn’t taste much like a brown at all. Browns should be malty, with maybe a little bit of a biscuit flavor, and maybe a little bit of sweetness. This one was hoppy. The hoppiness masked any malt/biscuit/sweet that you would expect in a brown.
After dinner I had the Eugene porter. This was easily the best of the three beers that I tried. Where the Workingman had more flavor than you would expect from a 3.5% ABV brew, the Eugene didn’t taste like a 7% ABV brew (which I think is a good thing in this instance). It just tasted like a full, robust porter. Though, I would have liked a little more of that roasted flavor that some porters have.
The food was probably the best part. I had the Forest Burger (with Gorgonzola cheese, cremini mushrooms, and crispy shallots) and it was delicious. My dining companions each had a different burger, one the Workingman Burger (aged cheddar, beer onion and bacon) and the other a mushroom-swiss (which wasn’t on the menu, but they made for him anyway). They both agreed that the burgers were excellent.
My only complaint with the food was that the fries were those skinny “shoe-string” style fries (the menu calls them “hand-cut frites”), which I absolutely hate (besides the fact that these were over-cooked). I honestly don’t know anyone who prefers shoe-string fries. I think some restaurants use them because they mistakenly think they are somehow “classier” than regular fries or steak-house style fries. They’re not, and you’re a brewpub, so get over yourself. Goose Island (Clybourn) served the shoe-string fries for a while right after they changed their menu, but thankfully they switched back (we actually complained about it). I think Revolution is trying to project the image of a being more of a classy restaurant than a brewpub, which is ironic given the their name, and the names of their beers and some menu items – not to mention their location.
All in all, I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there again. Maybe if I happened to be in the area, and I happened to be hungry, I would stop in. If I do go back, I’ll definitely explore the menu beyond the burgers (but I certainly won’t try the fish and chips, knowing that it’ll come with those abysmal, over cooked shoe-string fries).
To sum up:
Over-hyped, by far.
Pros: Good (but not great) beer. Really good food. Not being bombarded by sports on the TV.
Cons: Noisy acoustics. Slow service. Shoe-string fries. Disappointing beer (the biggest flaw for a place with “Brewing” in their name).