Trying a new restaurant is a little like a first date. You hope the online profile hype matches reality and you really hope that you won’t have to work too hard to feign enthusiasm through the end of the meal.
With all the digital eyes documenting each bite and swallow, it’s pretty hard to cover up a bad restaurant these days. (It’s equally hard to establish a classic or to ride out the trends to establish a unique vibe, but that’s an entry for another day.) The faults of Dry Hop were noted: long wait times, crowded tables, loud atmosphere; as were the pluses: varied house brews, great food, fast service. How would it do?
With online reviews fresh in mind, I walked into Dry Hop and thought, “I want love at first bite. And first sip. I want love at first sip, too.” I’ve eaten out enough in Chicago to realize that this seldom happens, and when it does, love frequently happens for a lot more ka-ching than can be found walking into a brewpub in Lakeview. Still, the profile had a lot going for it and I was hopeful.
We arrived fairly early on a Saturday and our party got seated at a tiny two-top right away. Dry Hop was already crowded and a line had formed around the entrance, so I didn’t doubt the wait times has been exaggerated. The loud buzz of conversation drowned out the waiter’s name and we did our best to bring down the overall noise level as we examined the food and drink menus.
I chose the only vegetarian sandwich on the menu, a Skinny Mrs. Rueben and the beer flight, which featured six brews in respectable 4 oz pours. My friend ordered the Lamb Pastrami and a White Rabbit, counting on me not liking half the beer. She’s kinda wise. The beer arrived almost immediately and with a substitution for the Angry Samoan, a coconut milk stout. While I didn’t mind, my friend did since she enjoys fruity, less hoppy beers than I.
I tasted half the pours before settling in with Aces High, a single hop IPA. The White Rabbit was too sweet, the touted Shark Meets Hipster couldn’t live up to the name, and the Batch 001 tasted like flat Pabst Blue Ribbon. Obviously my love affair with IPA shall prevail despite flirtations with other styles. Unfortunately, I had ample time to try the overly sweet Head Full of Zombies before our sandwiches finally arrived to bring balance to the meal.
You would think that including the word “skinny” in the name of a sandwich would imply that it cared about your health. Just a little. Sadly, this was not the case. The multi-grain bread was saturated with oil and griddled into an brittle caricature of sandwich conveyance. The guts of the sandwich were pretty tasty for fake meat, with the tomato jam adding a single note of joy. However, my definition of sandwich requires the action of biting into and through the bread, and in this, the reuben failed completely. Same with the Lamb Pastrami. I don’t know what the kitchen is doing in the back, but they need to dial the grill down from 11.
The only truly enjoyable bite came during dessert via Hoosier Mama Pie, who supplies Dry Hop with sweets. Love, love, love Hoosier Mama!
Dry Hop actually matched its middlin’ rating, in my opinion. The restaurant has a decent price for the neighborhood, a really cute space, and the wait times seem manageable if you don’t go during prime time. However, Dry Hop needs to shine harder to make me believe it wants to be compete in the Chicago beer scene. The food also needs work compared to similar restaurant/brewery concepts.
I guess I’ll continue to play the field and watch to see if this little brewpub improves enough to warrant a return. Have you been to Dry Hop and gone back for a second visit? Let me know what drew you back. Thanks!
3155 N Broadway
Chicago, IL 60657