By: Tedward Bouillon On: June 26th, 2012
One of Ravenswood’s best bars, the Fountainhead has been serving Chicago with good eats and great beer since the doors opened in 2010. Thanks to the wisdom of beer director Phil Kuhl and Chef Sarah McDonnell, as well as a team of talented and friendly staff, this neighborhood bar has become a local favorite and a destination for craft beer lovers. Boasting an ever-evolving menu and an impressive selection of draught and bottled beer, it’s always worth another visit. It’s the events and themed nights however, that really help to make it a big part of the city’s emerging craft beer scene.
Until this summer though, the story’s only been half told. The question since very early on has been “So, when’s the rooftop opening?” It remained a mystery. Finally the day came when the answer was something other than “Soon, hopefully!”
Make no mistake, the ground floor of the Fountainhead is still a force to be reckoned with. It continues to function as the excellent beer bar it’s been since its doors first opened. What the rooftop adds is more variety, more space and most of all, more of a good thing.
The atmosphere upstairs is relaxed, still retaining the cozy ambiance of the bar below, while taking full advantage of the sunny space. A large part of it covered and most tables have umbrellas, so you’re unlikely to get a tan while you dine; even with the blazing evening sun overhead, shade was not hard to find. I sat at the beautifully crafted new bar, watching the bartenders tirelessly assemble cocktails as I sipped on a glass of the Artillery Punch – a new kid on the beverage block.
While the downstairs is all you want in a neighborhood pub, the upstairs almost left me feeling like I was on vacation. No lie. Sitting up there, it’s easy to forget the streets below; the buses stopping on the corner, the non-stop flow of traffic and the train just a few blocks away. It’s a great place to get away from all that and it’s hard to believe I live down the street from all this! For anyone in the area, the rooftop is a gem, but don’t think it’s any great secret. As more and more Chicagoans get out and enjoy summer in the city, thirsty for a the perfect spot to grab a cool drink, the more coveted those seats will be. Regardless, whether it’s a busy Saturday or a chill weeknight, the Fountainhead always has something great going on, so it’s never a bad time.
Looking around, it’s impossible to miss the fireplace in the corner and think of what’s to come as the colder weather sets in. I picture a fire, a few plates of comfort food and something to sip on to warm the soul. It would appear they’ve thought of everything here, but only time will tell. For now, there’s nothing on my mind but the summer ahead. Where the rooftop experience really differs appears to be in the beers on tap. The menu listed a number of lighter, lower alcohol beers. This may not make for such a diverse experience as the beers on offer downstairs, but I can’t imagine there’s a big demand for stouts and big beers from those sitting out in the heat.
As the sun starts to sink, the lights come up, street lamps dotting the rooftop, with ample lighting at the bar. Food continues to flow from the open kitchen to nearby tables and we get a taste of the new rooftop menu. Both the food and drink menus offer a number of new items, showcasing fresh, seasonally-appropriate summer-friendly fare. In the drink department, there’s plenty of refreshing cocktails and craft beer on tap – especially local brews – but the name of the game here is cans. I was surprised to see how many canned beers were on the menu. Just in case you’re living under a rock, there’s a lot of good stuff coming in cans now and not one of them will be referred to as a silver bullet, my friend. Sorry.
I decided to get a few items off the menu – a snack to start, a salad and a sandwich – all to share. First up was the charcuterie plate. While I could have used a little more variety with the crackers, the meats did not disappoint. Included was a Catalonian pork sausage, a chorizo (my favorite of the three) and a bresaola bernina. I enjoyed a refreshing Vander Mill Michigan Wit cider as I ate. The snack did not last long but certainly didn’t fill me up.
Next up: the smoked duck salad. It was a good size, especially for sharing. Great, fresh ingredients and some damn good duck made this a great choice for sitting out in the evening sun. Spinach with shaved fennel, cara cara orange and a pecan sherry vinaigrette? Don’t tell me that doesn’t sound good. Add slices of tender, smoked duck to that? Even better. The orange paired well with the duck and the vinaigrette was subtle; a good balance.
Vegetarian? Fear not, there’s plenty of veggie options. In fact, the last dish we picked out was meatless (as if I hadn’t had enough meat already?). We picked the pesto panini. It was light, but full of flavor with roasted peppers, squash, portobello mushroom and homemade mozzarella with a basil-hazelnut pesto. We were actually given the wrong side at first, but when the correct one came, we had two to enjoy at no extra charge. Particularly tasty was the fingerling potato salad, with plenty of kick from the whole-grain mustard used in the light coating of mayonnaise.
One interesting item on the menu to save for next time was the curries. There were two listed – green and red – available with chicken or tofu. Maybe not my top choice for a 90-degree day, but they’re definitely on the to-do list. The dessert options are limited, but a manhattan hit the spot. When in doubt, choose bourbon.
Good beer is here atop the Fountainhead. Whether you’re familiar with the Fountainhead or not, the rooftop is a solid summer spot and while there may be a few kinks to work out as everyone gets used to the new space, it’s gonna be fun watching it evolve all year. Check it out now and forget about those rooftop spots with the plastic cups.
|Fountainhead Rooftop||The Stockyard 10|
|Vibe||Casual, relaxed – just hope the rain stays away.|
|Crowd||Fairly mixed. People come for good beer. Hire a sitter… please.|
|Soundtrack||If it’s anything like downstairs, mostly rock. Good punk. Ramones!|
|Drinks||Good craft beer. No bud lite here, bro. Good cocktails. Whiskey!!|
|Cost/person||Depends. Stop in for a pint or get your grub on. It adds up fast.. average plate cost $8-12.|
|Revisitability||A- Good – always new beers, seasonal menu changes and awesome events.|
|Service||B No pressure, easy to flag a server down. Bar’s good for solo/pairs.|
|Food||B Good options and portions, small plates, big plates. Veggie-friendly. Some healthier, some to soak up all that booze…|
|Highlights||If you don’t know what’s good on tap, ask! Knowledgeable staff. Cask beers. Canned beers. Cocktails. Punch! Drink up!|