Sustainable Sustenance—Hardware Gastro Pub and Brewery

January 2017 View more

nmag0117_tablefortwo_hardware-interior2_800pxAs more chefs set out to seemingly demonstrate not only their culinary prowess but also their sense of DIY inventiveness and environmental responsibility in equal measure, sustainability has developed into one of the hottest concepts in the restaurant industry. Meanwhile, the farm-to-table movement has likewise seen a symbiotic and similarly meteoric rise (all but eclipsing “bacon-wrapped” as the most popular hyphenate in the business) as restaurateurs embrace a hyperlocal approach to filling out their menus with ingredients sourced from the producer next door.

In the unprecedented scramble to capitalize on these parallel concepts, then, it might seem a tall task for a new entrant subscribing to this one-two punch to somehow distinguish itself amid the rush to responsibility. But standing out from the crowd doesn’t figure to be a major concern at Hardware, the wildly ambitious and determinedly sustainable gastro pub and brewery from the team behind the nearby Turf Room in North Aurora.


nmag0117_tablefortwo_hardware-040_800pxOn first impression, for example, Hardware immediately distinguishes itself as an imposing physical specimen along its nondescript stretch of Orchard Road. This is not some little eatery tucked into the corner of a strip mall, trying to rise above its pedestrian exurban milieu; rather, in its bold design aesthetic, Hardware appears to be going for nothing less than the architectural embodiment of the very concept of sustainability, with a combination of wood, stone and weathered steel, and a wall of vegetation that suggests the building simply rose wholly formed from the patch of flat Kane County earth upon which it sits. Despite the incessant hum of passing traffic, the handsome outdoor patio figures to be a popular spot in warmer months, if for no other reason than to sit and marvel at this structure.

Inside, meanwhile, the extensive use of locally-harvested wood throughout continues the theme of sustainability, as do the various in-house production facilities, including a large greenhouse featuring freshly grown herbs and lettuces, a craft brewery working with hops from the field just beyond the parking lot and a charcuterie cranking out many of the house-made sausages featured on the menu’s popular meat and cheese boards. Near the bar is a wall featuring many of the more than 350 whiskey selections available—a bid for sustaining one’s sanity amid a brutal midwestern winter, perhaps.

Brass Tacks

nmag0117_tablefortwo_hardware-107_800pxOf course, design flourishes and high-minded ideals can only carry a restaurant so far—if the kitchen can’t follow through on the promise of the surroundings, the concept simply won’t be able to sustain itself for long (so to speak). Fortunately, the team at Hardware has put as much thought and care into how its ingredients are put together as from where they come. The result is a menu of shareable surprises like the Chicago poutine, a wholly local and nontraditional take on the Canadian cholesterol bomb, here featuring potato wedges as a base for cheese curds, house-smoked bacon, a fried egg and spicy Chicago-style giardeniera. A glorious mess.

Entrees tend to be similarly familiar and just slightly off-center all at once, as in the case of the hearty mock risotto, featuring red lentils, fried okra and roasted red bell peppers, or the fish and chips, which makes use of yet another piece of reclaimed wood to serve up three expertly beer-fried, sushi-grade swordfish chunks on a bed of shredded apples and radishes with taro chips. Dessert, on the other hand, is far more traditional—if you consider an adult
ho-ho with a Maker’s Mark whiskey cream filling honing to tradition, that is.

In truth, this sweet treat proved to be just one more piece of expert construction from a place that appears intent on building something truly special—and sustainable—for the long haul.

nmag0117_tablefortwo_hardware-008_800pxHardware Gastro Pub and Brewery
2000 West Orchard Road
North Aurora