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Review Sat Feb 13 2010
The longstanding hype over Revolution Brewing, Chicago's newest locally-centered brewpub from the folks behind Handlebar, may have you, like me, clamoring to experience their selection of hand-crafted, clenched-fisted beers and upscale eats. In fact, this effect seems to be widespread enough among Logan Squarians, foodies and beeries that the place has been jam-packed since they opened a week or so ago, and February is no month for waiting 90-plus minutes outside until a table opens. So after shuffling around on the sidewalk with your shoulders drawn up to your ears for warmth and your stomach making unconscionable threats for everyone around you to hear, perhaps an alternative is in order.
I'd suggest squinting into the wind and wandering two blocks up Milwaukee to the Rocking Horse, a slightly-less-upscale, slightly-less-local bar that opened this past summer to little fanfare and has grown an increasingly vocal fan base. A darker, cozier bar from the people behind the Ukrainian Village's High Dive, Rocking Horse features a pool table and photo booth in addition to a wide selection of beers (heavy on the IPAs, on tap at any rate) and a menu of thoughtful but not overly complicated bar staples. Appetizers run from the expected (wings, guacamole and chips) to the inventive (fried wonton with a UN panel of possible fillings, from Asian-inflected apple with chili sauce to Mexican chorizo and cheese fundido) to the just-plain-welcome: platters of tater tots are available with various seasonings and toppings, and start at just $3.50. PLATTERS. $3.50. Yes.
Entrees are a step above as well, and big enough to turn into two meals, or nibble all night long as your bar tab steadily grows. The pulled pork sandwich is a serious take on what could easily become sloppy joe territory. Rocking Horses's pulled pork, however, tastes like PORK, with big, slow-cooked toothsome pieces of meat flavored by a sticky, spicy bbq sauce that supports the meatiness without overwhelming it. (I never use the word "toothsome" but I honestly can't think of a more appropriate descriptor in this case.) Vegetarian options are plentiful without wimping out next to the meatier menu items. Portobello "fries" add a new dimension to the appetizers, and the loaded veggie burger is about as big as your head, featuring provolone, red onion and avocado in addition to the usual lettuce and tomato toppings. I haven't been by for brunch, but hear it's just as good as anything else on the menu, and the fundido omelette is already calling my name.
Great daily specials make for an even more affordable experience, if you choose your night out wisely -- Thursdays, for example, all draft beers under $5 go down to $3, a great way to sample some of those mid-price brews you've heard so much about (Half Acre Daisycutter, Two Brothers' Domaine DuPage) but eschewed in favor of a cheaper but less-exciting alternative (Miller Lite). Service is attentive while still laid-back, and two TVs above the bar are unobtrusive enough to easily ignore, though were also both tuned in last night to the Olympic Opening Ceremonies, which I deeply appreciated. I wouldn't even trade that consideration for some bacon fat popcorn. At least, not after a two-hour wait in the cold.