Pleasure Craft

June 2021 View more

Perhaps one of the unexpected boons of two decades of the craft beer explosion has been the corresponding arrival of so many brew-adjacent pubs and restaurants. Whether having outgrown the humble origins of their bare-bones, beer-only taprooms, or having ramped up their culinary aspirations as quickly as they have their brewing capacities, many craft beer brands have taken their knack for sourcing quality ingredients and building complex flavor profiles from the brew kettles to the kitchen—much to the benefit of the local dining scene.

One of the newer entrants to this still-burgeoning arena is Lock & Mule (1025 S. State St., Lockport, 815.526.0825,, the latest offshoot of the Ottawa, Illinois-based Tangled Roots Brewing Company that opened in January. Situated in a refurbished iteration of the historic Makin Building near the south end of downtown Lockport’s charming State Street, Lock & Mule stands as the third entry in Tangled Roots’ ambitious dining portfolio, joining outlets in Ottawa (the Lone Buffalo) and Glenview (Hangar Two).

“The Lock & Mule continues Tangled Roots’ commitment to fresh and innovative craft beer offerings, impressive culinary diversity and connections to the local community,” says general manager Dennis Bresingham. “While all of our locations offer fresh and innovative farm-to-table culinary options, each has a somewhat different style of service and a distinct aesthetic connection to its community. At Lock & Mule, it’s our wood-fire grill that inspires the recipes and menu choices.”

Cooking on the Canal
That wood-fire grill is the centerpiece of the partially open kitchen that runs along the back of the main dining area, an airy, exposed-beam space that feels both historic and modern all at once. Decorative flourishes include large murals and a variety of ropes, cables, and locks in a nod to Lockport’s canal shipping past. While the back patio and a handful of tables on the front sidewalk constitute the true alfresco options at Lock & Mule, the restaurant has also preserved two of the Makin’s large garage doors to serve as the façade, allowing the entire front of the building to let the outdoors in as warm summer nights warrant.

The long copper-top bar running down the right side of the dining room was a lively option on the night of our visit, with patrons sampling from the craft cocktail slate and enjoying everything from golden IPAs to husky porters from more than a dozen tap handles spanning the Tangled Roots brewing spectrum. On the other side of the glass, meanwhile, those beers were slowly coming to life in the gleaming tanks of the production brewery.

Beyond the Beer
Like the best of its brewpub brethren, Lock & Mule gives its food the attention it deserves, with a menu from chef Manuel Briseno and his team that ventures far beyond standard bar grub to include a full selection of steak and fresh seafood options. Even so, we decided to start our evening with a couple of more traditional beer hall favorites—a warm and chewy Bavarian pretzel served with spicy German mustard and beer cheese for dipping and a trio of just-tangy-enough Buffalo chicken sliders from the handhelds section.
For the main course, we chose a perfectly cooked petite fillet—topped with a bleu cheese crust and a pile of crispy onion straws—from an entrée list that included other steaks, baby back ribs, beer can chicken, and a half-dozen fish selections. Noticing that Lock & Mule had jumped on the Detroit-style bandwagon for its three pizza options, we also shared one of these crusty-edged rectangular wonders—our margherita version boasting pesto, tomato, roasted garlic, mozzarella, and Pecorino Romano atop its thick, chewy crust.
But the real revelation came at the end of the evening as we sampled dessert. The Death by Chocolate Cake—while truly massive, insanely rich and, thankfully, non-lethal—was certainly tasty, but the clear showstopper was the éclair cake, a monthly rotating option that, on this night, employed peanut butter and chocolate in its creamy composition. Not only did it provide the perfect punctuation for the meal, it proved yet again that you don’t necessarily have to be a beer lover to love the fringe benefits of the craft beer movement.

Photos courtesy Tangled Roots Brewing Co.