Irving Park’s Eris is a space of supermortal dimensions | Restaurant Review | Chicago Reader

Irving Park’s Eris is a space of supermortal dimensions 

The food, on the other hand, is Brewpub 101.

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click to enlarge Eris Brewery and Cider House

Eris Brewery and Cider House

Alan Shortall

Nobody liked Eris, the Greek goddess of strife. That's why, when her invitation to Peleus and Thetis's wedding on Mount Olympus got lost in the mail, she crashed it and threw the Golden Apple of Discord into the mix, a present for the hottest goddess at the party. This led to a contest, judged by Paris, to determine the fairest of them all, resulting in—long story short—Aphrodite bribing the lad with the gift of the mortal Helen, queen of Sparta, which of course was the infamous case of human trafficking that started the Trojan War. Worst wedding ever. Thanks, Eris.

Many ages later, Eris is back. She's taken the form of a brewery and cidery in the 108-year-old Myrtle Masonic Temple, designed by architect Clarence Hatzfeld, who was something of a specialist at building for the Masonry.

But the Masons eventually left. Korean Bethel Presbyterian Church took over. That's in Palatine now, and it looks like the ancient Greeks have regained a toehold just west of Pulaski, the Kennedy, and the Blue Line, across from the Irving Park YMCA.

This has been good news for Irving Parkers, who evidently had been dreaming of worshiping in this space for quite some time. They started getting excited about it almost four years ago when word snuck out that Michelle Foik, who's worked at Goose Island and Revolution Brewing, and her business partner, Katy Pizza, were making moves to acquire the building to make and pour ciders and beer—and to open a kitchen.

It's a magnificent space, consummate for Olympian-style feasting: a cavernous brick-and-steel gilded chamber with tall windows, a mezzanine, a second-floor Masonic ceremony room for private parties and sacrifices to the gods, and an as-yet unfinished and unused third floor.

At the moment there are a half-dozen ciders and seven beers made on the premises under the guidance of Hayley Shine, a former brewer for Rock Bottom Brewery, all varied and interesting enough to warrant keeping an eye on the place to see what she comes up with next. In addition to the effervescent dry cider positioned as a crowd-pleaser and called, appropriately enough, Pedestrian, there's the sweeter, stickier semidry It's Tricky and the dark-cherry fruit bomb called Blush. And then there are three dry-hopped ciders. Those are made employing the still somewhat suspicious American practice of adding bittering hops to the mix, but there's nothing aggressive or even untoward about them. On the contrary, they present as the most austere and enjoyable of the lot—even the blueberry Van Van Mojo.

The bridge between the cider and the beer is the Original Snub, a light ale fermented with apple juice that seems the analog to the Pedestrian as a gateway to the heavier, more complex brews, among them two IPAs, a wheat beer, and an ESB (Extra Special Bitter). With nearly two dozen guest taps, cans, and bottles, there's enough variety to keep even the most obsessive zymurgy nerds absorbed.

But what to feed them? The kitchen is led by chef Jonathan Trubow, a veteran of Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro and Chief O'Neill's, which on its face doesn't portend a decisive takedown of the cliche that most brewpub food is an afterthought to the liquids.

Indeed, there's a lot of what you'd expect at a place that needs to traffic in moderately fancy pub food. Snacks: popcorn, nuts, olives, a cheese board, and some bacon, of course. Then you have your burger, steak frites, mussels (here in cider), and a smattering of global nods like duck tacos, banh mi, and posole.

Come again? Let me say right up front that the posole rojo is the best thing I ate at Eris. I'm sure it would offend some purists, but its broth is at once bright and deeply meaty, loaded with chewy hominy, crunchy cabbage and radishes, and a mound of the cider-braised pork that in two other dishes on the menu presents as dry and stringy but is right at home in this brick-red pool of ancho-powered broth.

The pork is less agreeable on the banh mi, with a roll that while robust provides too little textural contrast and stands up better to packaging a bacon-wrapped Polish sausage with caramelized onions, brown mustard, and pickled vegetables. The burger, too, is one of Eris's standouts: blanketed in cheddar and bacon jam, it's simple and substantial even down to its elastic gluten-free bun.

Naturally, many dishes are cooked or sauced in some way that incorporates Eris's liquid products, not that you'd necessarily notice. Larger plates include a slab of fork-tender porter-braised short rib with a thin white-bean-and-sausage soup identified as cassoulet and a roasted half chicken with cauliflower puree draped in a jellylike wheat-beer gravy, while a salad of shaved brussels sprouts with cranberries, walnuts, and goat cheese is drizzled with a maple-stout vinaigrette.

That's one of a number of dishes that are gluten free, as befits a place that largely traffics in cider, and there are concessions to the vegans as well, including a nominal Cobb salad with squash, kale, chickpeas, and lemon-tahini dressing.

On the other hand, sometimes you can't get enough gluten, which is why the brewery's Moral Warpitude stout is the appropriate pairing for a heavy lump of chocolate-stout bread pudding drizzled with white- and milk-chocolate ganache and stabbed with a shard of almond bark. An equally dense personal peanut butter pie with a sugary chocolate-cookie crust and caramel sauce is available for supermortal metabolisms, and a lighter apple-cinnamon creme brulee is there for the rest of us.

While the surroundings at Eris are certainly supermortal themselves, the food at present isn't quite their equal in either ambition or scale. It's fine, probably just as good as it needs to be to feed a crowd more interested in the drink than in what it goes down with, but food of the gods it's not.  v

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