Northdown Cafe and Taproom
Taps: 12 / Bottles: 100
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 27 | Reviews: 13 | Display Reviews Only:
4.45/5 rDev +1.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5 | $$
Northdown is the brainchild of Tom Lee (of Map Room fame), and the owners of Comet Cafe and Honeypie in Milwaukee.
It's sort of a hybrid place, neither simply a bar or restaurant, more a fusion of various elements. Yes there's a bar that seats about 15, plus a few booths and tables in the front room, with a few more intimate tables in the back past the pair of pinball machines. The space itself is fairly open and airy once you walk in (if it's not crowded). The ceiling is high, with modern ceiling fans, and front windows that open onto the street. Grey and steel blue walls, with a row of rust-belt americana photos along the side wall, framed in barnwood that matches the lower paneling along the booths (and the front door). Moose antlers are mounted on either side of a back pillar near the bar. From the outside, there's a FFF neon in the center window, and a new sign painted on the front facade.
Above the bar is a partial billboard with the slogan "If Attack Comes" from the civil defense era of the 1960's. Lining the top of the bar are a series of eclectic figurines, a Chinese waving cat, vinyl art toys, and a glowing glass squirrel lamp. Taps are behind the bar, no handles visible. (July '11: They've mounted the tap handles vertically on wood panels behind the bar.)
Once, "Billy the Exterminator" rolled in with his team of reality show cohorts, oddly enough. Walkie talkies, black sedans, the whole bit.
The draft list rotates frequently, and taking a cue from the Map Room, includes a healthy mix of styles both import and US craft. Kölsch, Rauchbier, Helles, DIPA, Saison, Wit, Quad, Porter, and those are just a few from the current lineup. Phase II of the bottle list rolled out recently, with expanded cooler space, now they have roughly 60 when they started out with 20. Highlights from FFF, Jolly Pumpkin, Founders, Girardin, Boulevard, Flossmoor, Bellegems, Mikkeller, Hitachino, Lambrucha, and many more. Again, emphasis is on a broad variety of styles from quality brewers, and not necessarily just rare/exclusive bullshit. Prices are very affordable on the beer, food prices are reasonable too, considering the high quality, locally sourced ingredients.
Semi-upscale American comfort food seems to be the menu theme, with plenty of vegetarian/vegan options. The stout-braised short rib sandwich was excellent, also the meatloaf "tower", mac & cheese, and roast beef were all tasty too. Check out the locally-made Fiery Alyce hot sauce they put out on the tables, if you enjoy smoky sweet heat. Great casual spot for lunch, brunch, or dinner... or just for a couple of beers.
Conveniently located near the Paulina brown line stop and 77 Belmont bus. Also nearby are Fizz, Beckett's, Village Tap, Beat Kitchen, Hungry Brain, Four Moon, Underbar, and Coopers, but Northdown has them beat beer-wise. 9/11: A new contender appears... Green Lady is a block or two up the street, 30 taps. Good 1-2 stop with Northdown, different taps and crowd.
06-22-2011 00:52:25 | More by emerge077
4.05/5 rDev -7.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4 | $$
a couple blocks north of lincoln & belmont, accessible by the Paulina brown line stop.
interesting comments from emerge077 - hard to go wrong with creative influence coming from the map room and comet cafe/honeypie (milwaukee must-visits)
huge "if attack comes" billboard above the bar, lots of bizarre swag, some pinball machines, cozy and hip, with a bonus view into a popular gym across the street.
dinner was the focus here - lots of homestyle stuff - went for a short rib sandwich and fries - solid for $12. Pies appear to be a big deal here, but we were pretty stuffed.
nice blackboard taplist - went for a great lakes blackout stout and a goose island christmas ale. 10-15 taps and a decent bottle list that i didnt peruse.
12-20-2011 17:38:21 | More by dirtylou
3.95/5 rDev -10%
vibe: 3.75 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 4.25 | food: 3.75 | $$
I've been to the Northdown a few times in my travels through Chicago, and every time I have walked away pleased.
Their beer selection is quite impressive, with a good number of rotating drafts that are fairly hard to get elsewhere, and I've noticed quite a few that are not available elsewhere in the city. Their bottle list is every changing and also quite impressive.
The food is pretty good, and honestly one of the few places in Chicago that has a killer beer selection and actually vegan menu options, not just pickled veggies or the likes. They put some good thought into their food. Its not on the level of HopLeaf or Publican or even Revolution, but just slightly elevated, good quality pub food.
The atmosphere is nice. It's upbeat, with some good natural lighting if you sit near the front door, loud music, but you are still able to have a conversation with someone across the table from you.
Would definitely recommend to anyone travelling through and in the area. It's a nice stop, probably just outside my top ten in Chicago tho.
12-12-2013 15:10:39 | More by MarcatGSB
3.34/5 rDev -23.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3.75 | food: 1.5 | $$$
This place looks and feels like a west coast bar. There's pinball machines and tap handles all over the wall. But it’s just not....right. I want to like it so badly.
Their draft list is super cool, short, and quality over quantity.
As for the food, well, I was embarrassed for them. They charged $22 for a charcuterie plate. There were three meats on the plate. Two of the meats were literally 2 circular slices each of poor quality salami. The cheese was sliced insanely small. I get charcuterie at nearly every place I go. I f***ing love cured meats and cheeses. Not only was this about $8 overpriced, but it SUCKED. The rest of the food we had was pretty sub par. I know this is a beer website, but I was so floored at how bad it was, it had to be included.
I don’t know what to think. It is honestly awkward for me not to like a bar with this good of beer. I’ll probably give it another chance, but it won’t be my only planned destination of the night. **edit - I met several people in Amsterdam who had been to and like Northdown. I’m definitely going to give them another chance.
08-05-2013 01:51:53 | More by Fluffheady
4.63/5 rDev +5.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5 | $$$
I picked a great time to stop in for my first official visit to Northdown Cafe. Last night was Zombie Dust tap night, served in an authentic 3 Floyds branded pint glass; couldn't ask for more. Northdown has an extensive selection of micro brewed beers from around the globe, coupled with taps hanging off the wall and a chalkboard filled from top to bottom with an eclectic blend of tapped beers. The atmosphere is cozy and perfect for any beer crowd, wide open spaces in the front of the bar for room to move; plenty of seating for a parties of 2 or 9 (like last night). The decor reminding me a bit of a lot of the micro beer/burger bars in Chicago, with cement floors, modern style tables and chairs and typical wooden bar counter. Maybe during the next renovation, they'll think outside the box a bit.
Food was delicious and they have a vegan option for anyone not interested in the carnivore focused menu. Service is very knowledgeable, appropriately paring beers with foods. Spoke with an air of confidence only a beer snob would appreciate. One of my new favorite Chicago-based destinations.
02-04-2012 22:26:01 | More by ferrari29
Northdown Cafe and Taproom in Chicago, IL
96 out of 100 based on 27 ratings.