The pandemic kept Bitter Pops bustling with craft beer fans buying beverages for consumption in the safety of their homes with bars shut down for on-premise service. But that didn’t stop ownership from proceeding with plans to open a restaurant with fun pub food and a stellar beer list.
Though the retail side had been open since February, Bitter Pops’ restaurant opened in May and with Chicago’s COVID-19 restrictions only recently lifted, customers can now fully enjoy the experience. Bitter Pops has been a fixture in Chicago’s beer world since 2016 when it opened at 3345 N. Lincoln Avenue. In its pervious incarnation, Bitter Pops was a small retail operation with a back bar. Customers would tell ownership they wished food was available so they could hang out and linger. That motivated the move to a larger space vacated by New York chain Bareburger.
Owner Michael Jorndt says Bitter Pops won’t lose its identity has a bar, but they’ve enlisted an experienced chef who’s already cranking out some creative food. Bitter Pops is all counter service. Jordnt says he sees that as the future of the restaurant industry. Customers receive texts when their orders are ready for pickup: “The last thing we want to be is a traditional restaurant that just has a bunch of [draft] lines,” Jorndt says.
Chef Kevin McCormick worked in kitchens like Balena, the pasta palace in Lincoln Park; Bar Takito in West Loop; Bristol in Bucktown; and Swift & Sons Tavern in Wrigleyville. Chefs have tried to reinvent pub grub for what seems to be an eternity. McCormick calls his approach “technique driven” and he’s taken suggestions from ownership. For example, he’s adapted an Irish favorite, the spice bag, an item that’s utilizes Asian flavors like Sichuan pepper. It’s fresh steak fries seasoned with Chinese five spice and garnished with onions, pickled Fresno peppers, with Aleppo pepper flakes and garlic aioli. This fried snack pairs well with a cold beer poured from one of the 18 draft lines.
There’s also a burger, fried chicken sandwich, and vegan Buffalo-style fried cauliflower. The menu will expand, and McCormick teased beer dinners featuring guest breweries. Beyond beer, there’s coffee and kombucha. Cocktails, included drinks with coffee, are also available.
Take a look at the space below. Bitter Pops, which borders Roscoe Village in Lakeview, is open.
Bitter Pops, 3357 N. Lincoln Avenue, kitchen open 2:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Saturday; taproom’s alcohol sales from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday through Thursday; closes at midnight on Friday and Saturday.