One of Chicago’s most hotly anticipated restaurants of the season opens today, and its owners hope to break the mold of what beer-focused dining entails. Brewmaster Jared Rouben and business partner/cousin Jeremy Cohn of Moody Tongue Brewing Company launch the Bar and the Dining Room at Moody Tongue today in the company’s brand new brewery near McCormick Place. As the names indicate, it’s a two-fold venue with separate fine dining and casual drinking spaces, both helmed by executive chef Jared Wentworth (Longman & Eagle, Dusek’s, Mordecai).
Wentworth’s menu for the 28-seat Dining Room might startle those accustomed to standard brewpub fare — no jalapeno poppers or Buffalo wings here. Instead, he crafts a 12-course seasonal tasting menu with dishes including Maine lobster with matsutake chawanmushi, a delicate, savory Japanese egg custard, squash and wort consomme, and a course of scallop and foie gras with Tokyo turnip, leek, guanciale, and melon and barley wine. The chef does tip his hat to classic bar food with a house-made caraway pretzel with beer cheese. A full menu is available below.
“It’s really nice to step back and let the ingredients speak for themselves,” said Wentworth, who added that he likes to play with high-end ingredients like Hokkaido sea urchin and serve them in unusual ways.
In the Dining Room, Rouben tailors the beer pairings to a list of new offerings and popular Moody Tongue classics including the “Pressed Asian Pear Saison” and the “Unfiltered Mango Pineapple New Zealand Hazy IPA.” He also debuts his “Scotch Barrel Aged Peated Scotch Ale” aged in Laphroaig scotch whisky barrels.
The intimate space uses minimalism meant to draw patrons’ attention to their food and drink rather than the decor. Local designer Mo Fax Studio uses blackened oak tables, grey painted brick walls, and a dark concrete floor to place menu items center stage. There’s also a four-seat corner bar and kitchen window that lets chefs and diners peek at one another.
The Bar’s a la carte menu, on the other hand, takes a more casual approach but maintains attention to detail with options such as the “Moody Burger” (Slagel beef, pimento cheese, togarashi aioli) with beef fat fries and a skillet-fried chicken with black truffle cavatelli (braised kombu and kale, pickled mushrooms, foie gras butter, hot sauce emulsion).
Wentworth is especially excited about the chicken and thinks of it as a luxurious spin on a standard fried chicken with macaroni and cheese. Pastry chef Tucker Critchfield dreamed up some bar desserts such as a Midwestern “ambrosia salad” with charred pineapple, lime sherbet, coconut, and milk jam.
With 16 taps, the Bar features a wide-ranging selection of Moody Tongue’s “perennial” beers, such as the “Sliced Nectarine IPA,” as well as rotating specialty options. These include a new “Freeze Dried Black Lime Wit” and the company’s popular “Toasted Rice Lager Wit,” previously distributed only in China and poured exclusively at the company’s former Pilsen location.
The 85-seat bar space draws on a similarly dark-hued color palette with gray brick, exposed beams, and the room’s centerpiece, a 22-seat Nero Marquina black marble bar. Seating options include black U-shaped booths and boxy upholstered chairs that contrast against a rosy wood floor.
Rouben, who is a Culinary Institute of American alum, and Cohn first founded Moody Tongue in 2014 and opened a Pilsen tasting room that served only beer, oysters, and German chocolate cake two years later. They shuttered the Pilsen spot, which won the 2019 Jean Banchet award for “best bar,” and announced plans to relocate to the larger South Loop space in March. Now fans can flock to the new space for the latest phase of Moody Tongue.
Moody Tongue Bar and Dining Room, 2515 S. Wabash Avenue, Open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday; 4 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday; 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday.