Hop To It
Culinary brewery Moody Tongue debuts its bar and dining room
Moody Tongue continues to disrupt the craft beer scene in Chicago, stretching the limits of what’s possible in combining food with brew. The brewery has a new home in the South Loop that includes two spaces, The Dining Room and The Bar, allowing guests to choose between two distinct culinary experiences.
“I’ve always based my food around the spirit or libations that are going to be served with it,” says Jared Wentworth, the executive chef behind the culinary program. “For this, I wanted to get back to my beer roots and really put together food I felt had influences of what I like to eat when I drink beer.”
The Dining Room is an intimate space for just 28 diners with two seatings each night (6:30 and 8:30 p.m., Tuesday–Saturday). It’s a minimalist environment with a concrete floor, floor-to-ceiling downtown view, and lights directed toward the table to spotlight the food. Guests enjoy 12-course tasting menus with dishes paired with Moody Tongue beer, including a few created specifically to match the food. The price is $155, with pairings covered. Beer also frequently finds its way into the food recipes. Wort, a liquid base used in brewing, is used as a consommé with Maine lobster, matsutake chawanmushi, apple, and squash. Barley wine is employed in a serving of scallop and foie gras with Tokyo turnip, leek, guanciale, and melon.
“My brewing philosophy is founded in the use of cooking techniques and the best quality ingredients, and my goal is always to showcase exciting flavors and aromatics. We recently created a Juiced Lychee IPA, for example, which we showcase in both The Bar and The Dining Room,” says Jared Rouben, who founded Moody Tongue with cousin and business partner Jeremy Cohn. “It’s a luxury to work with someone like chef Jared because he brings dishes to me that inspire me to create specifi c beers. But also, what has really been exciting, are the ingredients he has introduced to me.”
“I try to switch up things as they come into season and as we get bored of them,” says Wentworth, a nine-time Michelin starred chef. “I’m one of these people who’s very anti-’What’s your signature dish?’ I hate that. So we try to cook with the seasons and what gets us excited.”
The collaborative relationship between chef and brewmaster carries over from the creative side to the presentation side as well. A good example is the gose, a German-style beer with salt added in either the brewing process or after the beer is created. “Chef made a salt stone, which we actually incorporate tableside and stir (in the beer),” says Jared Rouben. “That’s something I never would have thought of without Chef’s guidance.”
The Bar is a great place to have a burger and a beer. It has its own à la carte menu with dishes added and removed every week. With mid-century modern furniture, bookshelves, and a fireplace, it’s a comfortable, stylized environment for a hearty selection of appetizers, entrées, and desserts.
Guests can feast on an earthy smoked beet tartare, a rich celery root rollatini or a crispy whole branzino. Longtime regulars from Moody Tongue’s old Pilsen location will be happy to see Pastry Chef Shannon Morrison’s German chocolate cake still available.
Wine and cocktails can even be matched up with the food but of course, most come for the brew. “We have 26 different taps for beers, and those taps are full at all times,” Rouben says. “And we’re going to continue to rotate as the seasons change.”
Guests can always take comfort in ordering familiar favorites such as the Shaved Black Truffle Pilsner and Toasted Rice Lager, which is sold exclusively in China with the Chicago taproom as the only exception. At almost 29,000 square feet, the Moody Tongue operation, which took over the shuttered Baderbrau space, is now large enough to more than double beer production.
The move from Pilsen was a long time coming, opening avenues for both Wentworth and Rouben to expand their focus. The duo met in 2010 when they created the Pork Soda Belgian IPA at the acclaimed Longman & Eagle, where Wentworth was chef. “We had a similar philosophy of using the best ingredients and not compromising, Rouben says. “It also helped that Chef Jared enjoyed beer.”
After a number of trips, events and collaborations, the two started talking in earnest a couple of years ago about the concept that would eventually become The Dining Room and The Bar. Chef Jared resolutely surrounded himself with a trusted back-ofthe-house team of experienced professionals who could embrace his vision, yet flex their own creativity at the same time. “I have five former executive chefs in my kitchen,” Wentworth said. “It’s the strongest kitchen I’ve ever had.”
So instead of standard wings and potato skins, beer lovers can enjoy their drinks without any culinary limits, whether it’s modern Chinese, rustic French, or anything else that suits the mood. “I wanted to showcase the extremes you can do with food and beer pairings,” Wentworth says. “And that’s where The Dining Room comes in. It’s really not about ego-driven food by any means. It’s trying to make a dining experience that’s unique.” At the same time, he believes it’s important to keep the food fun and free of pretentious “molecular nonsense.”
Just steps away from McCormick Place, Moody Tongue is destined to elevate its profile while cementing its reputation as an exceptional, inventive Chicago-born concept. “Beer and brewing is just an extension of the culinary arts,” Rouben says. “And we’re fortunate to have a community that really celebrates that.” moodytongue.com