Venerable Half Acre Beer is turning to one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants to steer the food operations inside its Balmoral taproom. Big Star, the honky-tonk taco bar that just celebrated a decade in Wicker Park, will take over Half Acre’s kitchen. In short, one of Chicago’s top brewers is partnering with One Off Hospitality, Big Star’s parent and one of the top restaurant companies in the city.
The brewery, 2050 W. Balmoral Avenue on Chicago’s North Side, should begin serving tacos and more in March, according to the Tribune. One Off partner Terry Alexander told the paper that the kitchen will serve Big Star’s classic food menu, which includes an array of tacos, salads, and sides, while adding four to six new items. Big Star and Half Acre will also offer catering services for private events inside the taproom, according to a news release.
Big Star has been in expansion mode in recent years, also adding a Wrigleyville location inside the Hotel Zachary across from the home of the Chicago Cubs. But this year, One Off exited the United Center as star chef Stephanie Izard’s (Girl & the Goat) taqueria replaced Big Star on the arena’s atrium.
For Half Acre, Big Star gives its taproom kitchen a direction. While Half Acre’s Lincoln Avenue dining room had stellar burritos, including a killer pad Thai version, the Balmoral facility lacked an identity. Chicago restaurant industry veteran Nick LaCasse left the brewery earlier this year to take a job at Aba, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’s Fulton Market restaurant. That left a void at Half Acre. But even before the departure, there also seemed to be a conflict between brewery expectations, the chef’s aspirations, and what craft beer lovers wanted.
Taco trucks are popular outside of breweries; food that doesn’t need utensils goes well with beer. Expect more information early next year.