Glen Ellyn's Two Hound Red serves up craft beer and classic fare
Wait, is that it?
Searching for Two Hound Red was a bit of a challenge, and I passed the Glen Ellyn brewpub before circling back. But once I found the spot and pulled open the heavy front doors, I stepped into a hidden gem.
This rustic-themed, log cabin-cavernous brewpub and restaurant opened last August. Locals may remember this same space as Schmid's Pharmacy, which stood for 44 years.
Two Hound Red specializes in a variety of homemade craft brews along with food selections designed to complement your beverage. Its website describes a focus on "classic, innovative beers paired with classic, inventive American dishes." And this bar/eatery lives up to the promise.
After quickly being seated in a booth large enough for comfortable napping, I scanned the brewery list for something different, and the Repeal #86 -- Dunkelweisse caught my eye. Two Hound Red's dark German-style Dunkel beer features flavor hints of banana, slight chocolate roast and orange zest. It sounds like it should be on the dessert menu, but the flavor elements combine very nicely in this cold-weather beer that really hit the spot and set the tone for dinner. Repeal #86, by the way, marks the 86th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition.
Other custom craft beers include the Stoaty-Oaty-Licious -- American Oatmeal Stout, also from the malty dark brew category -- along with the Little Brown Paws, an American brown ale. And no worries if you're not into beer: Two Hound Red also offers a full selection of wines, whiskeys, bourbons, scotches and signature cocktails.
Checking out the starters, the Brussels Sprout Chips jumped off the page, and they made as big a culinary splash as any appetizer I can remember. Thin, flaky veggie chips are served up in a skillet with lemon, honey, sea salt and yuzu -- a tart-citrusy sauce. This dish registered a "wow," and my dining wingman and I could have nibbled on it all night. Other starters include fried green tomatoes, roasted sweet potato hummus with chick peas (which also made it to our table and tasted great), crabcakes and pulled-pork poutine with hand-cut fries and white cheddar curds.
Main courses range from entree salads, all with optional chicken or salmon add-ons, to burgers and sandwiches with varying degrees of heat. In fact, when I bit into Two Hound Red's Cowboy Burger, the first two words that came to mind were kick and crunch. This generous 8-ounce patty -- a blend of short rib, brisket and chuck -- comes with jalapeño pepper slices on top for heat, along with crispy onions stacked on the bottom. You'll need two hands around the brioche bun to lift this up -- with or without the smoked cheddar -- and it's worth every bite. Not only was this juicy burger cooked to perfection, but the barbecue sauce helps pull all of the Cowboy Burger's flavors and textures together in a nice savory, spicy, juicy package.
Two Hound Red specializes in wood-fire pizzas, so we gave the Ratatouille Pizza a shot. It's a thin-crust pie featuring zucchini, yellow squash and wild mushrooms along with San Marzano pizza sauce and a thin layer of cheese. What's nice about the pizza is that it's flavorful and filling without being too "bready" or heavy.
Other specialty pizzas include the Piggy Penn, with smoked Gouda cheese, bacon jam pepperoni and smoked pulled pork, and the Buffalo Chicken pizza with ranch dressing, blue cheese, red onion and micro celery. And if you just can't decide on a particular pizza, you can always create your own. Also, pizzas can sometimes take a while to prepare, but ours came out not long after we ordered.
If you still have room after drinks, appetizers and dinner, Two Hound Red's dessert selections are hard to pass up. The Schmid's Fudge Cake, a deep, rich chocolate wedge with a scoop of praline ice cream and a butterscotch drizzle, may be a good reason to leave your diet at the door for just one night. For a dense slice of fudge cake, it tasted surprisingly light to me -- falling somewhere between a moist brownie and a chocolate wafer. It's also the kind of satisfying chocolate treat you can taste on your tongue long after you've eaten the last crumb.
In a sea of new craft breweries dotting the suburban landscape, Two Hound Red puts just as much emphasis on its food as it does on its craft beers. So if you are in the mood for quality comfort food and a specialty craft brew, Two Hound Red is definitely worth a try.
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.
486 Pennsylvania Ave., Glen Ellyn, (630) 547-2912, www.2houndred.com
Cuisine: Brewpub with craft beer and classic American fare
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday