For the past 10 years, fans of hops and stouts have found common ground in Avondale at the Beer Temple. Chris and Margaret Quinn started their business solely as a retail operation at Elston, California, and Belmont before moving next door and adding a tavern where customers could banter about the latest beer releases and taste some of the staff’s favorite pours.
Last month, the Quinns added another component, something they’ve thought about since the move. The Beer Temple now serves food, a tidy assortment of dishes like the Beefy Boy, a thin-sliced beef sandwich. Chris Quinn says they explored adding the food prior to March 2020, but the pandemic halted all their plans: “We were like ‘wow, I’m glad we didn’t just open a kitchen when all bars and restaurants are close,” he says.
But, as Chicago adjusted to the new normal, the Beer Temple revisited food, hiring Ryan McDonald as their chef to develop a menu that would go well with beer. They’ve worked with him before, and Quinn says his understanding of the Beer Temple’s customers and vibe was essential. The goal wasn’t to create a restaurant with beer pairings in the way Michelin-starred Moody Tongue Beer does in the South Side.
The Beer Temple is a laid-back and working-class environment. That won’t change.
“We’re not trying to reinvent or change who we are,” Quinn says. “We are trying to add and enhance what we already have.”
If customers are hungry and want a light meal or if they’ve had a few drinks and need a bite to end their night, the menu should be able to work. But even then, Quinn says the entire staff will be familiar with both the draft list and the menu. If a customer wants a pairing suggestion, they can make it happen.
There’s subtlety here in avoiding becoming a restaurant featuring a great beer list and the Beer Temple’s goal is a great bar with great food. The beer will always come first and Quinn didn’t want to risk alienating regulars.
The menu will continue to expand. The bottle shop already holds special events including beer release parties. The kitchen will be able to offer food specials to complement the events. Late-night hours are coming as Quinn wants to serve food anytime the bar’s open.
Reflecting on the shop and bar’s 10 years, Quinn says he’s proud of what the Beer Temple has become, but admits that he never expected it to grow in the ways he has seen: “It’s not like I mapped this out all along,” he says.