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Restaurant Sun Apr 19 2009

Creamy, Spicy Crunch on a Warm Patio

There's that food that we love, without hesitation. It just completes us. It can differ from day to day. What defines it is that it tastes perfect. We don't have to know that we're going to love it. In fact, sometimes we hesitate to order it. But when we do, we have no regrets.

A friend of mine bought into Handlebar some time ago, but I held a love for the place well before then. I sat out on the patio Friday night, inspired by the newly warm air to sip Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout from a snifter. This ten-percenter holds a smooth but deep molasses flavor with perhaps a caramel-like finish. It lends a warming mouth feel, quite possibly from the high alcohol content, that goes brilliantly with the spiciness of the wing sauce in my Buffalo 'Chicken' Wrap. This soothing feeling lingers in the most comforting of ways.

Handlebar makes the vegan wing sauce and vegan ranch dressing. The sauces combine into a perfectly creamy, but not thick, a little runny, spicy and wet coating for crunchy lettuce, juicy tomato bits, and perhaps most importantly, squares of Upton's Naturals' chicken-style seitan. These squares taste meaty, soft and tender, with just a bit of a crunch on the outside, as if they'd been lightly fried. I hadn't much use for the wrap's accompanying limp pickle. I love, however, the crispy and salty French fries that have been perfect on almost every visit. This time I went for the greens, sautéed with a fair bit of garlic for a good, hearty feel.

Handlebar has an excellent beer selection with equally grand offerings of vegan, vegetarian and some fish options, including brunch at the appropriate times. 2311 W. North Ave., (773) 384-9546. El: Blue Line to Damen/Milwaukee. Bus: 49 Western, 50 Damen, 56 Milwaukee, 72 North.


Christy F. / April 19, 2009 11:37 AM

Beer from a snifter? Ooh la la.

robyn / April 19, 2009 6:42 PM

I love the Handlebar.

Zina Murray / April 20, 2009 5:33 PM

Handlebar is just a terrific, no-nonsense neighborhood place. It delivers a good value for the price in a warm, friendly way. Breakfast is underrated, I think.

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By Judy Wu

I was using Rick Bayless' restroom, I mused, staring up at the ceiling window that was projecting a heavenly beacon of light upon my less-than-angelic duties. I could barely distinguish Rick's faint murmurs through the orange walls, something about how...
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