Tanks, and Good Night

May 2019 View more

Ike & Oak’s 10 BBL brewing system

Ike & Oak Brewing Co. hops into Woodridge

Just as it may be difficult to recall a time when the majority of a restaurant’s patrons weren’t fiddling with their phones—whether to share a picturesque entrée on social media, or perhaps just to shoot a quick text to someone at the opposite end of the table—it is likewise hard to remember when the beer selection at most places was something of an afterthought. It’s true, kids: Once upon a time, unless you were at one of the very few odd beer-focused eateries, there were probably only two or three tap handles behind the bar, and maybe half a dozen domestic and imported bottles from which to choose.

These days, of course, the script has been flipped entirely, and a restaurant without a lengthy and well-curated craft beer list is either doing most of its business hosting kids’ parties or likely not doing much business at all. In fact, keeping up with the Joneses in the beer battle today means not only offering a wide array of interesting options but, in many cases, brewing some of those choices right on site as well.

Draft cocktails

Seven Bridges Brews

To that end, the tall, gleaming brew tanks are the striking visual focal point of the room at Ike & Oak Brewing Co. (6315 Main Street) at the Seven Bridges complex, a relatively new entrant to the burgeoning west suburban craft beer scene. Inside those tanks are the creations of head brewer Nathan Tertell, who arrived in Woodridge by way of notable stops at Two Brothers, Lagunitas, and Baderbrau, and is now churning out the small-batch hazy IPAs, fruit-forward hefeweizens, and sour ales (best sampled in a flight) upon which Ike & Oak is hoping to stake its claim in a crowded market.

But this isn’t just a taproom. With a menu focused largely on creative takes on Neapolitan- and Roman-style pizzas, executive chef Michael Reid is clearly looking to not only complement the beer selection, but to let even nonbeerheads know that Ike & Oak is a great place for a meal—with or without an accompanying brew.

Scotch deviled eggs

Pies Plus

Those pizzas can and should wait just a bit, however, because passing on the starters would be a serious miscalculation. One of the most welcome developments on the local dining scene in recent years has been the cheese curd renaissance, wherein a fair number of new arrivals have been frying up some of the most commendable versions of these irresistible dairy bombs to be found south of the Wisconsin border. Ike & Oak’s gloriously salty and greasy take can most certainly claim a spot of honor in this growing movement. Another standout from the pregame slate is the rich and creamy crab and artichoke dip, served warm in a Mason jar alongside toasted focaccia wedges.

When it comes to main dishes, pizza is clearly the star of the show here, but whether you’re opting for the ultrathin and blistered crust of a Neapolitan, or the thicker, heartier Roman, the 16 possibilities are anything but straightforward. While traditionalists can certainly find a simple and well-executed four-cheese or pepperoni pie to get the job done, it’s curve balls like the shepherd’s pie, apple-and-squash, or wild boar sloppy joe options that turn pizza at Ike & Oak into something of an adventure. Among the handful of nonpizza options, meanwhile, the spicy chicken-fried chicken sandwich is a deliciously hard-to-handle, four-napkin mess.

And while it’s likely to be those bold pizzas and craft beers that draw the masses to Woodridge, do not pass on dessert (your chocolate-accented stout doesn’t count). Ike & Oak could swap out any one of those brew tanks in the window for a showcase slice of the decadent Mississippi mud pie and draw in just as many customers. They may even want to whip out their phones and share that pie with the world.

Photos courtesy Ike & Oak