We’ve got apps: Here are a few brewery appetizers from around the state that have caught our eye — and made our stomachs growl
Sweet sriracha cauliflower at Arrowhead Ales Brewing Company
2101 Calistoga Dr., New Lenox, IL
The burgers come highly recommended at this family-friendly spot in the far southwest burbs, but the way to start things off is an order of their crispy fried cauliflower for the table. This new menu item features fried cauliflower drizzled in a delectable honey sriracha glaze and then are topped with scallions and toasted sesame.
What we’re drinking with it: Gearing up for a big meal? Try the light, crisp and easy-drinking New Lenox Pilsner.
Smoked brew house wings at Half Day Brewing
200 Village Green, Lincolnshire, IL
These gems are one of the more popular items on what is an excellent menu at this north suburban brewery. Buttermilk-brined and hickory smoked for four hours, then flash fried and served up with ranch, carrots and celery. Pictured are Half Day’s sweet & spicy variety — a must try.
What we’re drinking with it: Half Day’s Iron Horse porter that’s infused with fresh-roasted coffee beans and has a toasted caramel sweetness to it.
Old Irving Brewing’s cheese curds
4419 W. Montrose Ave. in Chicago
The standout kitchen at Old Irving, on Chicago’s northwest side, has plenty of appetizers that would qualify for this feature, but we usually find it very difficult to stray from their beer-battered cheese curds. They use their very own Della kölsch and Red Barn Family Farms white cheddar cheese, then add some serious flavor with togarashi spice, scallions and a kimchi aioli.
What we’re drinking with it: Always love Old Irving’s Beezer, a flagship hazy IPA, but don’t sleep on the Cushy Mango Peach, a kettle-soured ale with mango and peach and hopped with Hallertau Blanc.
MyGrain Brewing’s specialty fries
50 E. Jefferson Street, Suite 106, Joliet, IL
OK, so technically MyGrain’s specialty fries — an upgrade from their normal French fries — are really more of a “side” and not an appetizer, but they just looked too enticing not to include here. Get them in one of three varieties: cheese, garlic parmesan or animal style (translation: topped with a homemade burger sauce that is similar to thousand island).
What we’re drinking with it: Their Pilcher’s Pale Ale is an American pale ale that includes Dutch, German and Belgian malts and is rounded out by plenty of citrusy hops.
Lil Beaver Brewing’s beer cheese jumbo pretzel
5 Finance Dr., Bloomington, IL
With all due respect to Lil Beaver’s luau nachos (pulled pork, creamy white queso, grilled pineapple and pico de gallo served over a bed of fried wonton chips), sometimes you just want a giant pretzel, and they kept this item on the menu following a successful run during Oktoberfest celebrations. The giant pretzel is friend to perfection, salted and served with house-made beer cheese sauce. And really, is there anything that goes better with beer?
What we’re drinking with it: Their PDC is a crisp Mexican-style lager brewed with lime zest, or if you’re looking for something with more character to it, the Silky Smooth imperial stout is flavor rich with toasted hazelnut, chocolate and vanilla.
Cruz Blanca’s steak quesadillas
904 W. Randolph, Chicago, IL
Start things off at this hotspot in Chicago’s bustling West Loop neighborhood — and celebrity chef Rick Bayless’ former taqueria and brewery venture — with some chips and a bowl of Cruz Blanca’s stellar fresh guacamole or the ceviche with Hawaiian albacore tuna. And then move on to the wood-grilled steak quesadillas with melted Chihuahua cheese. Equal parts tender and flavorful, and ideal for sharing before a meal.
What we’re drinking with it: Palm Shade is their popular hazy IPA with subtle bitterness and some vibrant notes of mandarin orange, mango and pineapple. Also, Jollification is a full-bodied Belgian-style tripel worth checking out.