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  Owen & Engine - Wish it were my neighborhood bar
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  • Owen & Engine - Wish it were my neighborhood bar

    Post #1 - March 6th, 2012, 12:31 am
    Post #1 - March 6th, 2012, 12:31 am Post #1 - March 6th, 2012, 12:31 am
    Image

    (Long-time contributor, but first time making a nomination.)

    I'd like to nominate British gastropub Owen & Engine as a Great Neighborhood Restaurant. The gastropub has been a popular dining concept in recent years. These casual restaurants are best known for thoughtful (often locally sourced) comfort food combined with a curated drink menu all served in a unpretentious setting.

    I first discovered Owen & Engine about a year ago when a friend & I dropped in for dinner before going to the movies at the City North Theaters. As soon as we started browsing the drinks and dinner menu, I suggested we chuck the movie entirely and instead eat and drink all night long. It's the kind of menu that appeals to all sorts of tastes. Unadventurous eaters will be thrilled by their burger (which other LTH posters have described as one of the best in Chicago). Those looking for something a bit different will be excited by things like the housemade charcuterie, roasted bone marrow and Slagel pork rillettes.

    (The menu is seasonal, and as I've mentioned in other threads, the only downside of this is that some of your favorite dishes may disappear after a few months.)

    At a recent dinner, our party of 8 was evenly split between burger eaters (medium rare, topped with bacon and a fried egg), the seafood chowder (served in a quart-sized dutch oven and chock full of in-shell cherrystone clams and PEI mussels as well as chunks of smoky bacon) and fish & chips. I was the only repeat diner & everyone made the same comment that I've made numerous times: If Owen & Engine were located down the street from my house, I'd be there every night.

    The drink list can't be overlooked, either. I've mainly tried their beers, so I can't comment on other aspects of the list, but the beer list...wow, just wow. I'd estimate they have about 25 beers on tap as well as another 25 in bottles. (Plus they have 4 or 5 cask-conditioned taps.) Geographically, it's a diverse list with some smaller breweries whose names you'll recognize and others that will be new favorites. The US is well-represented, but there are a number of choices from across Europe. I appreciate that the staff know their stuff: If you tell them what you like or what you're in the mood for, they're happy to make suggestions. And they're always willing to pour shot-sized samples of anything on tap.

    The atmosphere is comfortable and friendly. (For lunch or early evening, you'll see families with kids.) Downstairs features a single room with a bar and about 10 tables. Upstairs--which I just discovered--has another bar, more tables (including a semi-private room with a boardroom-style table that seats about a dozen) and a small area with couches and a low table. Reservations are accepted, but usually not required.

    Primary Owen & Engine thread
    Other mentions here and here and here and here.

    Owen & Engine
    2700 North Western Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60647
    773-235-2930

    Hours:
    Mon. – Fri. 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
    Sat. 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Pub Menu, 5:00 p.m. -2:00 a.m.
    Sun. 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Brunch, 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.

    Parking available in the theater garage for $2.
  • Post #2 - March 7th, 2012, 12:42 am
    Post #2 - March 7th, 2012, 12:42 am Post #2 - March 7th, 2012, 12:42 am
    With my first bite of an Owen & Engine burger, I'm already thinking, "When can I come back for another burger..." It is currently my favorite burger in the city. I also find myself craving the bubble & squeak. Their cocktails have been terrific (a grapefruit-powered cocktail I enjoyed in the heat of summer last year still makes me wistful) and the bartenders are knowledgeable, yet friendly and approachable. It's become one of my go-to places for a relaxing meal, a quick bite, or a few rounds of top-notch drinks. I fully support this nomination.
  • Post #3 - March 7th, 2012, 1:42 am
    Post #3 - March 7th, 2012, 1:42 am Post #3 - March 7th, 2012, 1:42 am
    I too think O&E's burgers are the best in the city. French fries and house-made pickles served with the burgers are stand-outs, too. I haven't explored the rest of the menu too much but I've enjoyed their puckering wings almost every time I've ordered them (there was a brief period during which they weren't as good). Their Fish & Chips are also some of the best I've had in town but I don't like that the SOP (in spite of requests) seems to be to plop a big dollup of tartar sauce directly on the fish before it's served, destroying a sizable portion the light and crispy exterior before it can be enjoyed. Still, it's a great rendition.

    I also love their beverage program, which is another element that sets the place apart from many other places in a substantial way. They have great brews, usually 4 on the engine, as well as a constantly-changing roster of interesting, tougher-to-find beers. For such a beer-focused establishment, cocktails and spirits are surprisingly good.

    O&E is what every burger and beer joint wants to be when it grows up. I heartily support this nomination.

    =R=
    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #4 - March 9th, 2012, 9:24 am
    Post #4 - March 9th, 2012, 9:24 am Post #4 - March 9th, 2012, 9:24 am
    For their amazing burger and solid beer list, I support O&E for a GNR.

    Goodness, I'm a fan of the burger. Always ordered rare, I've not once been disappointed in at least half a dozen visits. I like the burger so much that I haven't considered even trying another main course. Maybe the fish and chips are worthy - - I don't care. The burger is on a very short list of Chicago foods that I regularly crave.

    When I want a burger, there's O&E and then there's everyone else. When deciding where to go for dinner in the neighborhood, O&E is often on the list. And, I like that I can take family and less adventurous eaters there without worrying about whether they'll be able to find something to eat. Everyone's happy.

    Before I forget, the service at O&E is consistently great. I remember my initial visit, when the restaurant first opened. The server was impressively familiar with the menu and beer list, and the service level hasn't dropped a bit since. The servers are excited about the menu, and always happy to make recommendations and provide beer samples.

    I don't love that the decor feels a bit too thought out, like they were trying to create the look of a pub that has existed for a hundred years. But, as the restaurant ages and gets a bit of a patina, the decor has been bothering me less, and I'm growing to like it. The upstairs room is cozy, the woodwork is well done throughout, and even the washrooms were finished with great care.

    Ronna
  • Post #5 - March 9th, 2012, 11:13 am
    Post #5 - March 9th, 2012, 11:13 am Post #5 - March 9th, 2012, 11:13 am
    Can't really add much to what's been said. This is an easy one IMO.
  • Post #6 - March 9th, 2012, 11:22 am
    Post #6 - March 9th, 2012, 11:22 am Post #6 - March 9th, 2012, 11:22 am
    I've only been here once, but the memories are quite lasting. Everything about the place was great. The burger was out of this world good, the cask beer properly handled and the service knowledgeable and friendly.

    I definitely agreed that Owen & Engine is a GNR.
  • Post #7 - March 9th, 2012, 11:32 am
    Post #7 - March 9th, 2012, 11:32 am Post #7 - March 9th, 2012, 11:32 am
    I have little to add. I love the food (especially the burger, though everything is good) and the atmosphere is cozy and elegant. Recently I tried their dry-aged steak. It was cooked a perfect medium-rare and delivered a satisfying steak for under $20. That's a bargain in my book.

    I would like to give a mention to their impressive rotating cask selection. They're proud of their cask beer offerings that are unrivaled in the city. Many rare casks including some hard to find imports like the Abbott Ale from Greene King. They're quick to give you a taste and serve impeccable cask pours every time. Lines are always clean and the beer is always creamy and fresh. It'd be noteworthy in London, I feel lucky to have it so close to home.

    Also there has been some talk this nomination round about accessibility. I love that Owen and Engine is always busy, yet I never have trouble getting a seat or a reservation. It's a place I can confidently recommend to a friend knowing that they can get in without any trouble.
  • Post #8 - March 9th, 2012, 12:20 pm
    Post #8 - March 9th, 2012, 12:20 pm Post #8 - March 9th, 2012, 12:20 pm
    O&E is one of my favorite destinations. As great as the burger is (and it really IS great) I've made a concerted effort to sample more of their menu options and have always been happy I did (looking forward to their next anniversary and a possible temporary return of the butter chicken). Staples like the Scotch Egg and Cornish Pasty are always a hit as are the great house made pickles. Mrs. Kman is a big fan of their fish & chips (me, too) - very lightly battered fresh haddock cooked just through and killer fries, er, chips with a malt vinegar aioli for dipping. Their beer selection - both the normal taps and the casks - spans a wide range and always has something new and unique and they mix up some pretty darn good cocktails as well. The staff couldn't be friendlier or more helpful. IMO O&E is definitely all things a GNR should be.
    Objects in mirror appear to be losing.
  • Post #9 - March 13th, 2012, 12:18 am
    Post #9 - March 13th, 2012, 12:18 am Post #9 - March 13th, 2012, 12:18 am
    I do like O&E. The beer list is good, the casks are great. I loved the fish and chips, and just about everything else I've tried there. I once posted on the LTH burgers thread that the only burger I may like more than Bad Apple is the O&E burger. Unfortunately on my last visit, a few weeks ago, the burger was clearly different, less flavorful, and less juicy. I am not the only one who had this reaction; there was something clearly different about the burger, we all agreed. After that visit, I heard that they recently changed their beef supplier. Although this is perhaps noteworthy so that nobody is mislead, I still support the nomination. I love the place, and the cask offerings are worth supporting alone, and the other food is still great. As long as they don't start using tilapia in their fish and chips, it's a GNR to me.
    Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.

    -Mark Twain
  • Post #10 - March 13th, 2012, 9:36 am
    Post #10 - March 13th, 2012, 9:36 am Post #10 - March 13th, 2012, 9:36 am
    Ronna and I had brunch at O&E on Sunday. We split a burger, which is still described on the menu as Slagel Farms beef. If they switched their beef supplier, they seem to have switched back to Slagel. If anything, the burger was juicier than ever. Maybe even a little too juicy, if that is possible, as the bottom bun was soaked. Anyway, we ordered it the way Ronna likes it: cooked rare and served straight up; no cheese, no bacon, no egg. It had that delicious, straightforward beefiness that makes it hard to order anything else at O&E. Fries and malt vinegar aioli were top notch as always.

    We also split the Full Fry-Up: One Egg, toast, banger, blood sausage, bacon, grilled tomato, and "tinned beans." This was nice (especially the blood sausage, banger, and housemade "tinned beans"), but I think we both wished that we each had another half of a burger.

    The beer list was as great as ever. I always get to try something new at O&E. This time, I went with a Prophet's Gravy from Against the Grain Brewery. Good stuff.

    Definite GNR in my book.

    --Rich
    I don't know what you think about dinner, but there must be a relation between the breakfast and the happiness. --Cemal Süreyya
  • Post #11 - March 13th, 2012, 9:38 am
    Post #11 - March 13th, 2012, 9:38 am Post #11 - March 13th, 2012, 9:38 am
    I'm hoping you're right about them switching back. The menu on the website still says Meyer Ranch for the meat supplier on the burger. It's still a great burger, but a small step down from the Slagel Farm burger that first attracted all the attention on the board.
  • Post #12 - March 13th, 2012, 9:42 am
    Post #12 - March 13th, 2012, 9:42 am Post #12 - March 13th, 2012, 9:42 am
    turkob wrote:I'm hoping you're right about them switching back. The menu on the website still says Meyer Ranch for the meat supplier on the burger. It's still a great burger, but a small step down from the Slagel Farm burger that first attracted all the attention on the board.

    Count me as someone who's enjoyed both the Meyer Ranch and the Slagel Farms beef. They're both great products and in my experience the minor variations with their burgers have more to do with other factors.

    =R=
    I am not interested in how I would evaluate the Springbank in a blind tasting. Every spirit has its story, and I include it in my evaluation, just as I do with human beings. --Thad Vogler

    I'll be the tastiest pork cutlet bowl ever --Yuri Katsuki

    That don't impress me much --Shania Twain
  • Post #13 - March 13th, 2012, 12:27 pm
    Post #13 - March 13th, 2012, 12:27 pm Post #13 - March 13th, 2012, 12:27 pm
    Ive went to O & E twice this past fall(went 2 x just in case I was missing something), not sure I get the love. Decent food(really liked the irish bacon & egg sandwich they had and the bone marrow), burger didnt do it for me either time, decent burger, not life changing.

    Good place, but there is nothing that has me rushing back for another visit or that distinguishes O & E from other similar spots in the city.

    GNR = Nope
    R.I.P. jimswside - 5/2/16



    @GrubSeeker
  • Post #14 - March 13th, 2012, 1:07 pm
    Post #14 - March 13th, 2012, 1:07 pm Post #14 - March 13th, 2012, 1:07 pm
    Best "upscale bar burger" I've had to date, great beer selection, ambitious & satisfying cocktail list, cozy ambience, and fantastic staff - Owen & Engine is most definitely GNR material in my book.
  • Post #15 - March 29th, 2012, 5:27 pm
    Post #15 - March 29th, 2012, 5:27 pm Post #15 - March 29th, 2012, 5:27 pm
    I agree with Jim. We tried O&E last Friday. Didn't have the burger (maybe we mis-ordered), but the marrow was good, pork rinds were okay, and bangers and mash was adequate, but nothing special. I've never had a Scotch egg with so little sausage and such a runny yolk - maybe it's a legitimate style, but it was a bit hard to eat, and not especially pleasant. Beer list wasn't bad, but when I compare the beer list, and the menu in general, to my local beer bar (Prairie Moon, 1502 Sherman, Evanston — which doesn't get much LTH love), Owen & Engine comes up a bit short for me. I can't see it being GNR-worthy.

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