I think I can speak for Evanston in general when I say how nice it is to have Bangers & Lace take over the space once occupied by The Keg, which had a long and notorious history in our fair city.
Gone are the days of sticky floors, underage drinking and the smell of old cigarette smoke. The space is now light and bright during the day, thanks to the lace-covered picture window in front and the large skylight toward the back. At night, there’s an urban gastro-pub feel, the comfy couches in the front seating area and the restaurant’s big booths and communal table filled with bearded hipsters and people who work nearby.
Standout Beer Menu
They aren’t threatened by the World of Beers bar a few blocks away, having won a spot each year in Draft Magazine’s “America’s 100 Best Beer Bars” at the original Chicago outpost for the past three years. And with 34 craft beers on tap at the Evanston location (including intriguing outliers like a milk stout from 51st Ward in Westmont or Cleveland’s Great Lakes “Rye of the Tiger”), and a small but well-curated list of specialty cocktails (I love the Bee’s Knees made with Finn’s Gin, honey syrup and fresh lemon juice, a study in balance), why should they be?
If bar food is your thing, you will be one happy camper chowing down on the Tempura Pickles ($5), tart dills served with a super-tasty Spanish chorizo aioli. The Cheese Curds ($7), a whole crispy pile of which we devoured with chipotle-ranch dip, are tremendously addictive (and fattening, but whatevs). And I love that they take a seasonal approach to their Deviled Eggs ($6), which during the winter were stuffed with chorizo and sported a Scotch egg-like coating; the spring version features avocado and pinenut purée. As a bit of a deviled egg fanatic, I can’t help but wonder, what will the summer hold?
Given the name (“bangers” is British slang for sausage, “lace” the term for the pattern of beer foam left on the inside of an emptied glass), it’s not surprising that the menu is so encased-meat heavy. All specialty sausages are made in-house, ranging from a pork-curry sausage to venison to veal. You can choose from the “Plates,” “Sandwiches” or “Dogs” categories, and the depth is impressive. I’d gladly eat the Duck BLT ($9) on every visit: duck and bacon sausage with aged Gouda cheese, oven-roasted tomato, leaf lettuce and garlicky aioli sandwiched between slices of toasted flatbread.
Don’t be a-feared of the Goat Sausage ($10), paired with caramelized pear, grilled endive and whipped feta, even though the combination may be out of your comfort zone; it’s worth a try. We found The Greek ($11), a grilled lamb and beef sausage served with tomato-cucumber relish, creamy tzatziki sauce and grilled naan bread, to be a tad dry, but flavorful.
Not into the fancy dogs? Go for one of the classic Vienna Beef iterations, like a Chicago Dog ($5) topped with the requisite sport peppers, relish, onions, tomato (but never—shudder!—ketchup), mustard and celery salt. I’d recommend the Char Dog ($5) with spicy pimento cheese, bacon and pickled jalapeno. There’s even a vegetarian version.
Non-Meat Eaters Get Love, Too
No need to despair if you’re not a sausage fan; B & L makes a mean Truffled Grilled Cheese ($10), just the right amount of buttery and oozy with three types of cheese (Irish cheddar, taleggio and raclette). I wasn’t a big fan of the accompanying tomato soup, which was too much like tomato sauce and not enough like soup. Or try the Po’Boy ($11), which sported a tempura soft shell crab on one visit, and cod brandade on the next.
Desserts include The Beard Wrecker ($5), perhaps the best and most apt dessert title ever. It’s their homage to S’Mores, with bourbon-vanilla marshmallows, salted chocolate and graham cracker shards fighting for your love (and, apparently, our facial hair). Citrus Fool ($7) was the consummate British “pudding,” with Mandarin curd, lemon mascarpone, lime sauce anglaise, blueberry jam and crunchy pie crumble. It arrives in a tall glass mug, layered trifle-style, barely contained.
This is just the right kind of place to meet after work, or to hang out and let a little cool rub off on you. If you’re a sausage fan, add it to your bucket list; likewise for the beer lover. Bonus points for the good vibes.
3.5 out of 5 stars (B+)
Bangers & Lace
810 Grove St.
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