Friday, December 8, 2017

Pub Royale

While I have been told that I am a pretty adventurous water, I am a little intimidated when I don't really know what the food will be like.  Indian food uses so many unusual spices that are not used in other cuisines, that I have been a little intimidated to dive in.  There are things that fall within the realm of Indian cuisine that I really like, but my knowledge base of Indian Cuisine is small so it is generally not a go to for me.  India, however, was a colony of the British Empire and Anglo-inflected Indian cuisine is popular in England, so if Indian Cuisine is put through an English lens, this makes it easier for me to try.  If a restaurant putting out Anglo-Indian pub fare hores a chef that I know and like, that makes it easier for me to try.  Pub Royale, a gastropub with a really good beer list serving Anglo-Indian cuisine recently hired Chef Joanna Stachon, formerly of Ada Street, a restaurant I have come to love, so I decided that it was time for a visit.  The sign over the door looks really weathered with the lettering giving an exotic Indian feel and green neon signs above the name announcing food, beer, and brunch.  Inside, the space is narrow with the bar running along one side.  The walls are brick with Indian masks hanging on the brick walls and hanging globe lighting.  There is a large mirror behind the bar framed by a couple of stuffed white peacocks.  The glassware is kept hanging or sitting under the shelf holding the liquor and there is an old BMW motorcycle hanging on the wall behind and beside the bar.
While there is a printed beer list, the most up to date list is on a digital screen at the back of the restaurant.  I didn't actually notice the list until I had already ordered and received my beers off of the cardboard menu.  I ordered Odell Pyrus and Prunus American Wild Ale and Prairie Twist Farmhouse Ale.  The Odell was very tart.  While I liked it, it was a sipper as opposed to something you might put down quickly.  The Prairie was a hoppy and funky saison.  It had a pronounced flavor, but I had never had a high alcohol sour before (the Odell was 9% ABV), and I liked that more.  Having said that, while I did like the Odell better, the Prairie was better with my food.  
As for my food, I started with something I will almost always start with when I eat Indian food, Samosas.  They had a crispy outer shell as a good samosa is supposed to and was filled with Potatoes, Peas, and Onions, and was served with Cilantro and Tamarind Chutneys.  The samosas were good without chutney.  The crust was like a fried wonton with steamed potatoes, peas, and onions and the flavors that they provide.  While they were good without the chutney, they were better with, thiough I will admit that I did prefer the tart and bitter flavor of the tamarind to the green flavor of the cilantro chutney.
When I looked over the food menu, I saw something else that there also was no question about ordering.  At Ada Street, Lamb Ribs had made a showing on the menu and they were a big favorite among my friends and I.  They were also on the menu at Pub Royale with an Indian twist, adding Pomegranate Seeds, Cilantro, Pistachios, and Crispy Rice.  The ribs themselves were tender and flavorful, but required a little pull to remove from the bone.  The pomegranate seeds provided a bitter sweetness, and the crispy rice had a light fried flavor and added some crunch.  While it was a little different from that that was served at Ada Street, it was still very good.
My next course, while vegetarian, could very well be considered a main course.  It was Butternut Squash Dal with Red Lentils (the dal), Broccolini, Saffron, Pumpkin Seeds, Lasanachi Chutney (Garlic Chutney), and Crispy Kale.  This was very rich, flavorful, and spicy, and the Kale was very light and crispy with the lentils and squash being very creamy textured.  While I expected that I would like this, I was surprised at how much that I did like it.
While I was enjoying the dal, Chef Joanna came out to greet me (I asked if she was in and when told who was asking, she said that she would come out and say hi).  We exchanged pleasantries and caught up a little and shortly after she returned to the kitchen, I received a bonus course that was not yet on the menu:  Charred Rainbow Carrots with Lemon and Honey Greek Yogurt, Smoked Pistachios, and Sherry Golden Raisins.  I really like carrots and these were cooked to a perfect tenderness.  They were lightly sweet which the raisins paired well with.  The pistachios added a crunchy textural variety and a nutty flavor and the yogurt provided a tart counterpoint.  It was simple and complex at the same time and I really enjoyed it.

There is one thing on the menu that could qualify as dessert and that was the Naan Doughnut with Chai Dulce de Leche Sauce.  While most doughnuts are finger food, this, because of the Dulce de Leche Sauce needed a knife and fork.  The doughnut itself was pretty dense and powdered with sugar, making it lightly sweet.  The Sauce provided the sweetness that you would expect of a doughnut and the chai spices added a sweet spiciness to the whole thing.  It provided for a very nice finish to a good meal.

 I really enjoyed my meal here.  The food was really good, and while a little exotic, not inaccessible.  The staff is very friendly and helpful and the place has a nice design.  I will definitely return and will probably bring friends.    

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Hopewell Beer Dinner at Bite Cafe

The Empty Bottle has been around since I've been in Chicago (longer actually, opening in 1992).  It looks like a dive bar, but it is also a very good music venue that is able to draw bigger bands than you might guess from the size of the bar.  It is also the first venue in the 16" on Center empire which also includes Longman and Eagle, Dusek's, and Revival Food Hall.  Attached to The Empty Bottle, although a separate venue, is Bite Cafe.  When I was going to The Empty Bottle more often, I noticed it and thought it looked interesting.  The menu looked very veggie-friendly if not strictly vegetarian and I thought that I might want to try it out sometime, but until recently, it hadn't happened.  Although Bite Cafe is BYOB, about once a month, they have started doing a very casual beer dinner.  I went last month when they were hosting a neighborhood favorite of mine, Hopewell Brewing Company.  For the dinner, you had a choice of one of two appetizers and entrees, each paired with a different beer.  The dessert was set, but the last beer was a surprise.  Going there, I knew where The Empty Bottle was and I knew that Bite Cafe was right next to it, so I thought that it would be easy to get there.  Unfortunately there are several doors and I was confused as to which door was the correct entrance, so I ended up walking through The Empty Bottle to get there.  The sign for the cafe is over where the cafe is located, but it isn't specifically located over a door.  Once I was actually in the homey dining room though, I saw that there was an exterior entrance.  The space is small and bright, with a simple look.  It has hardwood floors, brick walls, wood chairs painted light blue, which is about the same color as the sign out front, and local art.  There is a small counter/coffee bar at the back of the room which is also used for dining and was where the owner/brewers of Hopewell Brewing were sitting, though I didn't notice that until I sat down at a table behind them.
For my appetizer, I had a choice of a Cured Salmon Latke served with First Lager or Beer Battered Cheese Curds served with Endgrain Lager.  While Cheese Curds are always a win, I was more interested in the Cured Salmon Latkes which were served with Dill Creme Fraiche and an Herb Salad.  For beers, while First Lager is eminently drinkable, I think Endgrain Lager (a Marzen-style) is more interesting.  I wish that I could have had the Endgrain with the Latkes, but First Lager would go better with the dish.  As far as the latkes were concerned, the salmon was very fresh and flavorful, the latke (potato pancake)  was lightly fried and pretty tender.  The dill, craime fraiche, and herbs, added a lot of good flavor and I really enjoyed it.
For my entree I had a choice of the Pan Seared Bass served with the 24:37 Red IPA or the Pork Schnitzel served with the Family Saison.  I went with the Pork Schnitzel which was served with Pickled Cabbage, Warm German Potato Salad with Apples, and Gravy and the Family Saison.  With this one, I again wished that I could have switched beers.  The saison is good, and has a nice flavor with a dry finish, but I like the IPA better.  I suppose though, that the botanical flavor of the IPA goes better with the bass than does the dry flavor of the saison.  The schnitzel was classic and very good.  The pork was pounded flat, well breaded, and fried, giving a nice crispy exterior and tender interior.  The red Cabbage was sweet and tart and the German Potato Salad also very good.  The apples in the salad added some sweetness to the tartness of the potato and vinegar salad.
There was only one dessert being served, so it was easy to make a decision.  We were served Ginger Lemon Bars with a Lavender Caramel Drizzle.  With this, the Hopewell team broke out their Squad Quadrupel.  I love lemon bars on there own, but the lavender caramel added a floral sweetness that contrasted with the sharp tartness of the lemon bar.  The Squad was Hopewell's 1st Anniversary beer.  At 10.4% ABV, it isn't light, but it is pretty good.  It's sweet, boozy, and tastes of raisins, and it has a nice head.  It was a great finish to a very good dinner.  I like Hopewell and their beer worked well with the food served.  I will continue to enjoy Hopewell, but I will have to return to Bite Cafe to try more of their regular menu (possibly with some other beer).          

Sunday, November 19, 2017


I have really liked Osteria Langhe, the Piedmontese (Northern Italian) restaurant in Logan Square, so I was excited to read that they would be opening a fast casual place also in Logan Square focusing on a few pastas and sauces.  Called Animale, its tag line is One that Feeds Itself to Survive and its location is under the Western Blue Line Station.  With a very elaborate mural on the outside, it's difficult to miss.  Inside it's kind of small and kind of reminds me of a cross between a diner and a ramen place.  There is a narrow dining area between the front window and the (windowed) kitchen.  There are several 4 tops beside the front windows and a counter looking through a window to the kitchen.  There is a wider area to the right of the kitchen with more tables and muraled walls.  The entrance is where the two pieces of the dining room meet.  The tables and chairs are kind of cheap and dineresque and the counter overlooking the kitchen has padded stools.  This is where I sat because it gave me something to watch and I thought it would be more comfortable.  There was a box at each table and several on the counter, containing menus, napkins, and silverware, with salt and pepper beside it. 
Looking at the menu, I saw that they serve beer, wine, and cocktails.  Their beer selection is mostly local with craft beer prices and the wine was relatively inexpensive with glasses for $9 and bottles for $35.  I was very surprised to see how inexpensive their cocktails were.  All were $10 or less and most were $9.  Because of this, I decided to go with one of their signature cocktails, the Italian Mulo, a spin on a Moscow Mule, using Modest Vodka, Cocchi Americano, Ginger Beer, Lime, and Prosecco.  A Moscow Mule has quite a bit of carbonation, is pretty tart, and a spicy finish from the Ginger Beer.  This had the carbonation and some tartness, but it was surprisingly bitter, approaching Negroni bitterness.  It wasn't bad, but I don't know if I would order it again.
For my appetizer, I picked a classic of Sicilian cuisine, Arancini, which literally means Little Orange.  What they actually are are deep fried risotto balls with cheese.  This version used Saffron and Gorgonzola and was served over Pink Peppercorn Basil Cream.  The balls were crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside with an herbal and slightly bitter flavor provided by the saffron and gorgonzola.  The dipping cream melded well with the internal flavors with a nice herbal flavor from the basil and a spicy and floral flavor from the pink peppercorn.
With as much starch as I was getting from the arancini and what I would be getting from the pasta, I thought that I should at least pretend to eat a little healthy and order some vegetables.  I ordered something very seasonal, Zucca, which contained Summer Squash, Zucchini, Goat Cheese, Roasted Shallots, Toasted Almonds, and Curried Olive Oil.  I love pan fried squash and this reminded me of a vegetarian version of a dish that my Mexican grandmother used to make.  The squash was perfectly cooked, the almonds added texture, and the curried olive oil and goat cheese added flavor.  It was very good and almost big enough to be counted as a main course.  I could have stopped here, but there was still the pasta and the dessert to be had.
With the pasta, you build what you want in three steps, first you choose the weight of pasta that you want, either 4 oz or 8 oz.  Next you choose your pasta.  Plin, a small hand pinched ravioli that is a specialty of the house is only served in the 4 oz size.  Other pastas offered are Gnocchi, Pappardelle, and Cavatappi.  I went with the Gnocchi.  Finally, you choose the sauce with which you want your pasta served.  The sauces do change somewhat with the seasons.  So for my final dish, I chose a 4 oz portion of Gnocchi with a Pesto Alfredo Sauce (Diced Chicken Breast, Basil Hazelnut Pesto, Cherry Tomato Medley, and Parmesan Cream).  I went with the 4 oz size, because of everything else that I ordered.  The Gnocchi was very tender and the pesto sauce was very flavorful and the tomatoes added a light acid bite.  The chicken did add a little texture, but it wasn't critical and would have been fine without it.
With all of this good food, I had to at least try dessert.  I was pretty full when I got to dessert, so I was looking for something light and i went for their Panna Cotta.  This Panna Cotta was Vanilla and was served with Chocolate, Hazelnuts, and Raspberries.  Admittedly, it might partially be due to the fact that I was fairly full by the time I got to dessert, but I have to say that it fact kind of obligatory and an afterthought.  It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't stellar as was the pasta and the arancini.  It felt as if they felt that they needed something on the menu for dessert, so they might as well do vanilla pudding.  I will definitely have the pasta again, but I may very well waive the dessert next time.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Split Rail

One of my favorite restaurants in town is Ada Street and one of the reasons was the food that the opening chef, Zoe Schor, put out and the vibe that she established in the restaurant.  I quickly became a fan and was excited to hear that she would be opening a new restaurant, Split Rail.  I went to a couple of Pop Ups for the restaurant before it was opened and really liked what she was serving, so I excitedly waited for the opening date.  Located in West Town in a former donut factory, it is much easier to find than Ada Street is.  The exterior is black with white stylized lettering for the sign and the door is on the corner.  Walking in, the first things that I noticed were that it is much bigger than Ada Street and that there are windows on two sides, so it is brighter inside.  The long bar is also black and is located along the left side as you walk in.  There is a nice selection of liquors, but it is not encyclopedic.  It does have those liquors that are necessary to make most cocktails.  The front design has a classic look and the bar stools in front of the bar are padded.  The tables in the dining room are wood topped and the chairs are black painted with a curved back.  There is a banquette opposite the wall with a print of cowboys.  The wall behind the banquette is painted brick red and there are old pictures in classic frames at the front of the restaurant.  The kitchen is elevated and is behind the wall used by the banquette.  There is an opening at the top of the wall looking into the kitchen and would make the wall a half-wall in the kitchen.  There is a Persian Rug on the floor beyond the bar in front of a shelf holding books and records.  The soundtrack for Split Rail is also vinyl, although it does not presently have the collection that Ada Street has.  Despite the large amount of black used in the dining room, it does have a friendly, homey, supper club feel to it.  As I was by myself when I came, I sat at the bar.
The cocktail list is pretty good, divided between originals and classics, low proof/no proof, and a couple of high brow (presently a cocktail consisting of Green Chartreuse, Japanese Whisky, and Salers Gentian Liqueur) and low brow selections (there take on a shot and a beer).  I decided to start with one of their originals, Stay Out of the Forest with Vikre Spruce Gin, Zirbenz Alpine Liqueur, Grapefruit, and Lime.  As one might expect with the Grapefruit and Lime, it was tart, but it also had a pronounced pine flavor to it.  I really liked it and thought it was a good start.
The food menu is largely there take on Midwestern classics.  There are always two toasts on the menu with changing toppings based on the seasons, meatballs, skewers, and a tartare.  I started things with Toast #2, which was topped with Country Ham Salad, Mizuna Greens, Green Tomatoes, and Marinated Anchovies.  Between the ham and the anchovies, I expected that this was going to be pretty salty.  While there was obviously salt in the dish, it was not overwhelmingly salty (nor was it fishy).  It had a nice variety of flavors and textures and while the ham salad was very definitely a spin on 1950s Midwestern fare, it went well beyond that.
For my side dish (which I received before my main), I had Fried Fingerling Potatoes with Carrots, Charred Scallion Aioli, Pepitas, and Pickled Mustard Seed.  You can make anything taste good if you fry it and if you start with something that already tastes good, you get a winner.  The potatoes were similar texturally to Frites, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  The carrots added sweetness to it and the pepitas added some nuttiness.  
Before my main course arrived, I ordered a second cocktail.  Called The Breakers, It had a very Scandinavian bent to it with Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit (the Scandinavian version of Vodka, although this one with a decidedly dill flavor), Apricot Shrub, Black Pepper, Mace, and Basil.  It was tart and had a lot of herbal flavor to it.  It actually kind of reminded me of drinking sweet pickle juice which tastes better than it sounds.
I was actually a little unsure about my main course.  It was Linguine and Clams with Egg Yolk Linguine, Clams, Charred Leeks, and Uni (Sea Urchin) Butter.  I have had pasta and clams before and really liked it, but I did wonder if the uni butter might put the flavor too much on the seafood side.  It did not, and in fact was very good.  With the seafood flavors, it did extend the Scandinavian feel which does fit because there is a significant Scandinavian population in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the UP of Michigan.  The Scandinavian vibe ads to the Midwestern vibe.
Looking at the dessert menu, I saw something very familiar: the Maple Bacon Bread pudding that I knew from Ada Street.  I really liked the bread pudding, but I already knew that I liked it, so I went with something different.  I went with the Chocolate Chess Pie with Buttermilk Ice Cream, Graham Cracker Crumbs, and Orange Zest.  Served in a cast iron pan that was hot as it arrived, texturally, it reminded me of a brownie.  The pie had a rich chocolate flavor and the ice cream was sweet and creamy with a buttermilk bite.  Whether the texture was correct for a chess pie or not was immaterial to me because it was really good.  The best way to eat it was to dig in towards the center, get some of the crumble and the ice cream and enjoy it all together.  After the center was destroyed and the ice cream was gone, it was fun to pick the sides of the pan for the crispy chocolate that baked on to the side.  It was a very homey and great way to end a very good dinner.  

As I expected, I really liked this place.  The food, service, and space, were all very good and it was good to see the chef in her new digs.  This may also become one of my favorites as well.        

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Centennial Crafted Beer + Eatery

While I will admit to liking beer, most of the time when I go out for a beer, I prefer going to a place that also serves good food.  I kept seeing Centennial Crafted Beer + Eatery popping up as a good place to eat  and drink, so I decided to try it out. Located in River North, next to Tapas joint, Cafe, Iberico, it's pretty narrow with a small sign, so you kind of have to know where it is.  Inside, it is very rustic with the walls showing horizontal 2x4s.  The bar is long, with a very long tap line and the present beer list behind that.  The beer menu is divided into several categories that are more than simply the style of the beer.  They are listed as Hoppy, Roasty, Refreshing, Wet Hopped, Session, Malty, and Belgian and Wild, with a list of upcoming drafts.  I started things out with a beer from a new brewery that is actually a collaboration.  Warpigs Brewery is a collaboration between Danish Gypsy Brewer Mikkeller and local heroes, Three Floyds.  The beer that I had was called Foggy Geezer Hazy DIPA.  DIPA seems to mean different things depending on the brewery, for some, it's a more bitter and higher alcohol beer akin to an Imperial IPA for others, it seems to be a combination of a Belgian Dubbel and an IPA.  This seems to fall in the latter category.  It is fairly bitter, but it has a slight sweetness, and a dry earthy finish.  I like hoppy beers, but I could do without hop bombs, and this one seems to avoid going simply for bitter.
The menu is divided into Snacks, Small Plates, Charcuterie and Cheese, Mains, Greens, and Sandwiches.  It also gave an indication as to the style you might want to pair each dish with.  There were a lot of things on the menu that looked really good, but I wasn't starving, so I decided to take it easy and order a snack and a sandwich.  For my snack, I ordered Lamb Meatballs with Curried Lamb, Beer Jus, Mustard Greens, and Golden Raisins.  I was actually surprised at the size of this item which was listed as a snack and when I finished, I was almost finished.  It was very flavorful with the curry, and the mustard greens providing an herbal spiciness, and the golden raisins adding a sweet finish.  I didn't precisely plan to pair my dishes with my beer, but it was recommended to pair an IPA with this.  As that is what I started with, I can say that their pairing recommendation was on point.
My second beer was Greenbush's Distorter Porter, which was very rich and creamy, and had a nice bitter roasted malt flavor.  This inadvertently paired perfectly with the KBS Barrel Wood Smoked Pork Sandwich with Dry Rubbed Pork Shoulder, Slow Smoked, Cilantro Lime Slaw, Avocado Crema, on a Toasted Baguette with Frites on the side.  This was a very good sandwich with a meaty and smoky flavor.  The Avocado Crema and the Cilantro-Lime Slaw almost gave it a Mexican flavor without the heat.  The frites were double fried and had a crispy outside and a soft inside, were nicely salted, and tasted very good.  This was also more than I could handle after the lamb meatballs.  I really enjoyed it, but it didn't get finished.  While I was there I didn't see a dessert list, but even if I had, I'm not sure that I would have been able to dive in.  Everything was very good and I will have to come back, but I will definitely have to come hungry next time and better plan my eating.        

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ella Elli - Brunch

With three posts in a row about brunch, it could be implied that I have switched simply to doing brunch.  That is not the case.  It is simply that the places that I have gone to recently for dinner I have to been to before.  With that said, there are a lot of places for brunch and I rarely repeat.  I recently chose Ella Elli, a restaurant just off the Southport Corridor, that has a classic look and specializes in globally inspired cuisine (focusing on France and Italy).  It has an older brick exterior with large windows trimmed in black.  There is also a nice sidewalk patio surrounded by a trellis with the same black accent.  The interior dining area looks both classic and comfortable with comfortable furniture with a classic look by a fireplace used for waiting.  The bar in the back of the room has has a hardwood top and a light base and a tall shelf for their liquor selection behind the bar.  Besides the windows, lighting is provided by large white hanging globes and a few smaller globes on stands by the lounge area.  Photo credits for the restaurant go to Rich Frachey.
In addition to coffee (La Colombe) and juice, there is a pretty good brunch cocktail selection that goes beyond Bloody Marys and Mimosas.  While I did have some coffee , I also had a coffee based cocktail called Cold Buzz.  Served in a Coupe Glass, it started with Old Forester Bourbon, a liquor I will generally pass on, but with the addition of Amaro, La Colombe Cold Brew Coffee, and Demerara (raw sugar) Syrup.  It made for a very good cocktail.  It was bitter, sweet, with flavors of oak from the bourbon, and a good coffee flavor.  The bourbon and coffee paired very well and the amaro and demerara syrup tied it together well.  It was actually kind of a spin on an Old Fashioned with coffee added and I really liked it.
While there is a Bakery Board on the menu which provides a variety of pastries for sharing, I was already going to be getting a lot of bread with my main course so I went with a simple Fruit Salad for the sweet side of my brunch.  Admittedly, when I order fruit salad, I get a little worried because it will frequently have canteloupe, a fruit that I really don't care for.  I was very happy to see that this fruit salad had a wide variety of fruit:  Grapes, Plums, Blueberries, and Golden Raspberries.  It also did not contain any canteloupe which made me very happy.  It was one of the best fruit salds I have had in a while.
My main course was essentially a breakfast pizza.  It was served on a board and they called it a Prosciutto Flatbread, but aside from the shape (rectangular), it was essentially the same as a pizza.  In addition to the Crispy Crust and the Prosciutto, it also had Arugula, Crispy Potatoes, a Farm Egg, and Parmagiano-Reggiano Cheese.  It was pretty big and could have been shared fairly easily, but I enjoyed it by myself.

I really enjoyed brunch here.  The place has a classic look and is very comfortable, the staff is friendly, and the food is very good.  I will have to return for dinner sometime. 



Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alulu Brew Pub - Brunch

As people who know me and/or read this blog, I like beer and I like visiting breweries.  While I had visited many of the breweries, taprooms, and brewpubs on the north side of Chicago, I knew that there were a few new places on the south side that I needed to visit (or revisit).  I started out on a recent trip in Pilsen with a place that I had read about and had encountered at a beer festival in the spring, Alulu Brewpub.  While I had the address, I didn't really know the area and I didn't know what to expect.  Located near a really odd intersection east of Ashland Ave, it doesn't look like much more than a neighborhood bar.  This is not a criticism, there are some really good corner bars that feel like home and put out some really good stuff.  It is simply an observation that it's pretty small and unassuming.  While there is a small patio in front and a nice roll-up window at the front of the bar, the sign is actually a little hard to find, located over the alley next to the bar where the entrance is located.  The first thing that I actually noticed was the stand up sign on the sidewalk with the brunch specials.  As there would be drinking involved, I figured that I should start off things with a good meal and between the specials listing and the menu, this looked like it would be an easy thing to do.  The bar is pretty narrow with a long bar to one side with the taps, the tap list, and assorted glassware behind it.  The walls are brick, though there is a live wall with moss to one side of the taps.  Lighting was from roll up window in front and hanging lights.  While the tables looked comfortable enough, and it was a sunny day out and the patio would have been nice, I decided to be more social and sat at the bar.
The brunch menu did look small, but really good.  The thing that caught my eye was the Brunch Poutine.  In addition to the standard (required) French Fries and Cheese Curds, it had Lamb Merguez Sausage Gravy, Pickled Peppers, 2 Fried Eggs, and an Aurum Defender Biere De Garde on the side.  Poutine is both good bar food and comfort food and this was a good poutine.  It hit the right notes of being salty, savory, and cheesy, adding spicy, and putting an egg on top.  The Aurum Defender on the side was very good and also a very good brewery introduction.  It was rich, malty, and boozy with an 9% ABV.  It almost reminded me of a Belgian Dubbel.
As I was at a brewery that doesn't distribute and makes a wide variety of beers, I thought it would be a shame not to have a flight, though after starting with the Aurum Defender, and knowing that I would be continuing to another brewery, I decided to try to stay on the lighter side of things.  A flight consisted of 5 - 5 oz pours.  I went with Ghostly Liso Mexican Lager (4.5% ABV), Sys Crisp Hoppy Red Rye Pilsner (5.0% ABV), Unison Toasted Rye Pilsner (5.4% ABV), Shad the Calmer APA (5.5% ABV), and Java Waves Coffee Blonde Ale (5.8% ABV).  They were all very good, though standouts were the Ghostly Liso, which was a good, drink anytime beer, and Shad the Calmer, which was nice and hoppy, but not incredibly sharp.  I wanted to like Java Waves more, but the coffee flavor wasn't strong enough.  Alulu is a good friendly place with good food and beer.  I will have to return to try more of the same.