Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, April 24

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« Friday Foodpic: Strawberries, End of Season Be Leaf, new salad concept, opens in the Loop »

Bar Mon Jul 13 2015

Farm-Fresh Food & '80s Fun at HQ Beercade

On a quiet street in River North, not too far from the bustle of Michigan Ave, emerges another sound--this one, nostalgic. The chime of pinball machines, the thumping of control panels, snippets from Back to the Future. Compared to its neighbors in River North, HQ Beercade is an eccentric bar, but a good one, with a lively atmosphere and fantastic drinks. This adult arcade is the perfect retro escape for '80s children wanting to relive their Reebok Pump and Paula Abdul childhoods.

While the games and drinks are obviously the main attractions, the food deserves equal merit. I'm not talking about overpriced hot dogs or crappy nachos that only begin to taste good after your third IPA. The menu is simple--appetizers, burgers, entrees, no sides nor dessert. The plates are generously portioned, well-priced, and actually utilizes fresh ingredients. The menu contains a surprising amount of greenage and house-made ingredients, a philosophy which I suppose Executive Chef Jordan Kezon brought with him from Farmhouse.

For the appetizers, the mozzarella in crispy filo, topped with truffled honey, was delicate and not overwhelming savory. The fingerling potato salad (made with potatoes buried in salt for 24 hours, then smashed and fried until crispy), topped with dill salad and giardiniera, was a pleasantly light twist on a traditionally heavier recipe. The three burgers options are all solid, though the accompanying fries--crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside--were the true heroes. The smoked salmon tartine (or open-faced sandwich) consisted of mostly salad sitting on three toasted pieces of bread. I wouldn't call it a sandwich, but the briny dressing and lightly smoked salmon created a lovely dish that was simple and refreshing.

Similar to the food, the craft cocktails were also well-executed and balanced. The Assault & Pepper (housemade strawberry and jalapeno infused tequila with citrus-chili salt) is the bar's flagship cocktail and rightly so. However, I suggest getting the seasonal cocktails, as they're equally creative and just as tasty. Try the Rhu Berrymore (gin, blackberry and bombpop reduction) and Arm Candy (watermelon shrub with prosecco) or Rosé All Day (vodka, raspberry and rose reduction). None will disappoint.

HQ Beercade doesn't rely on its free games to attract crowds, which I wholly respect. You can go for the drinks and food alone, and enjoy your experience just the same. However, don't do that. The arcade and pinball games are fun, and after three cocktails, the experience will only become more entertaining.

Headquarters Beercade - River North
213 W. Institute Pl.
Chicago, IL 60610

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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