After years of designing, mashing and brewing, Band of Bohemia's time has finally come. Ravenswood's culinary brewhouse opened this morning, offering patrons free coffee to go until 2 p.m., with dinner starting at 5 p.m. But the real treat is the unique dinner menus that take inspiration from many places, much like any good, wayward Bohemian.
The small plate format may throw a curveball at diners, some who will spend serious time thumbing through the 10 pages while figuring out how the beer and food pairings work. It's not that the menu's dense and full of text, but it's an unorthodox format that may call for some assistance from waitstaff until comfort levels grow.
The restaurant features four beers, and each page lists one beer followed by three to four items that pair with the drink. Diners are free to scamper throughout the menu and order a la carte or create a tasting menu and pick an item per beer. Staff will then course dinner out, serving each item along with the paired beer. Lastly, five desserts are listed on a single page, each accompanied by a suggested beer pairing. Yes, there's a fifth beer for dessert not listed with dinner items: The basmati maitake nutty. The beer uses basmati rice, drawing on South Asian influence.
Many other dishes draw from influences around the world, such as a walleye crudo inspired by Spain and Italy and paired with a grilled apple tarragon beer. Then there's prawns, served head-on with a carrot kimchi, inspired by Korea, that pairs with the orange hickory rye. The crusted foie gras is recommended to go with a red roasted beet thyme beer. Heartier items are accompanied by the Culinary Noble, another low-alcohol beer from brewer Michael Carroll, who worked at Half Acre Brewery. Wine, cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks are available.
Carroll and co-founder Craig Sindelar met while at Alinea, and like their acclaimed former workplace, Band of Bohemia isn't a conventional restaurant. They describe Band of Bohemia as a "culinary brewhouse," even emblazoning the phrase on the exterior. However, they've struggled in describing their menu, speeding through labels like globally influenced and modernist. But they hope that as customers grow accustomed to how beer and other beverages dictate the menu (in full below), they'll figure it out for themselves.
Band of Bohemia, 4710 N. Ravenswood Ave., coffee service from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; bar open from 4:30 p.m. to midnight on Monday through Saturday. Dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Monday evenings and Sunday. Sunday brunch upcoming.