Northdown Cafe and Taproom – Recently Opened

July 21 2011 - 1:48 PM

North siders who like good beer and pub food have new reason to get excited as the Northdown Cafe and Taproom is now open on Lincoln Avenue in West Lakeview.  Northdown just opened three months ago in the space formerly occupied by Bourbon Restaurant.  This area of West Lakeview is dominated by more sports-oriented bars such as The Pony and Beckett's and was begging for a quality beer bar. The Three Floyds neon sign in the window which replicates the Alpha King logo is, as I'm informed by the cafe's owner, a special design by the mad geniuses at Three Floyds themselves, and is said to be the only one of its kind.  More importantly, like a barber's pole, it signifies that there is some serious action going on in there; it's beer, that is, not blood, although some serious beer lovers equate the two.

It appears as if Northdown plans to offer one or more Three Floyds limited releases on tap and other craft and small production brews from both sides of the Atlantic.  From Three Floyds camp, they have recently had the brilliant Dreadnaught, the Arctic Panzer Wolf, and an unusual one called the Eban-Emael.  They have also tapped Port Brewing's Wipe Out, and offerings from Stiegl, Boulevard, Anchor and Unibroue.  This is clearly not an establishment whose taps will remind you of bars within a block of Wrigley, so don't expect the bikini-clad Miller Liteguards to march in handing out cozies.  So far, Northdown appears to keep their online draft list updated daily, so you serious beer hounds who base your bar visits based on the draft list can know what treats are on tap ahead of time and plan accordingly.

Northdown is also serious about their food.  They do not plan on offering standard pub grub, but offer brunch, and appetizers such as lamb on a stick.  Homemade ciabatta provides the foundation for the bread and cheese appetizer, with one of the cheese options being Greenfields raw cows milk.  They make their soups from scratch daily.  Main courses include mac and cheese with a from-scratch sauce, chicken and biscuit pie, and an open-faced meatloaf sandwich.   The unusual food lineup raises my curiosity as to the Bloody Mary's potential, and I'm not a Bloody Mary fan in general apart from Twisted Spoke's pick-me-ups.

What I love most about the bar is the low key industrial look about the front bar with metal on the bar counter and the stools, recalling the Avenue Pub on Broadway in East Lakeview.  Labeled tap handles protrude from the wall in a triangular pattern as if your beer is going to be poured from there.  The real tap handles are actually underneath but it's a cool effect.  Northdown's back area is deceptively big, and contains a slew of wood tables and carpeting that reminds me of a Wisconsin supper club. 

It's great to have a beer bar and food destination of this quality that keeps late night hours on the weekend. 

Northdown Cafe and Taproom
3244 N. Lincoln Ave

–Mark Sheppard