Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Goose Island Brewpub

1800 N Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(312) 915-0071

Prior to Time Out Chicago's list---hell, prior to Time Out Chicago---I'd become very familiar with their "legendary" Stilton and garlic burger, number five on the list of dressed-up burgers. The sandwich was introduced to me by surly commenter Eric a few years ago after an early morning autism-benefit walkathon with a great deal of fanfare. And, really, it was entirely appropriate: this a half-pound patty is coated with cracked peppercorns and grilled, then topped with Stilton, one of the stinkiest of the commonly available bleu cheeses, and cloves of roasted garlic, served on a pumpernickel bun with Dusseldorf mustard. As a matter of principle, I respected a brewpub that would serve, as their flagship burger, an amalgamation of such strongly flavorful ingredients. Subsequent Stilton burgers never had the same nap-necessitating effect, but were usually still pretty tasty.

In the last year or so, however, I've noticed a phenomenon of diminishing returns when I revisit this burger (which remains, along with the fish fry, one of two go-to items on Goose Island's menu). I'm sure some of this is the result of an increased tolerance, but I'm also sure the recipe has changed somewhat to tone this burger down for mass consumption, which just strikes me as silly, like cutting a durian fruit with Karo syrup so it can be served at Denny's. My general tactic for dealing with this has been to order it with extra garlic and extra Stilton and hope for the best.

Here's how it came, ordered as above, last week:

Notice the extra garlic on the side; good. Unfortunately, also notice the meager serving of cheese...sadly, this caused flavors to be off-balance.

There's a fundamental problem with the bun: it's too big, soft, and bready for all this stuff. At the very least, it should be grilled with some kind of fat before the burger's served to keep it from absorbing the meat, garlic, and cheese greases and disintegrating (and even as it does, there's so much bread that I ended up with small handful left over after everything else had been dispatched).

The fries, it should be apparent, are completely not-noteworthy.

The good news is that Goose Island is now offering a mini-Stilton that's about the size of a regular McDonald's hamburger and probably sufficient for most appetites, which also happens to compensate for the too-much-meat, too-much-bun paradox (Adam tried one as his first Stilton burger experience and didn't immediately pass out, so I can only assume the overall experience is significantly gentler).

In post-game discussion, Adam, a dyed-in-the-wool basic-hamburger man, admitted to some minor trepidation about trying the Stilton, but found it quite agreeable. For the hell of it, Adam also tried Goose Island's regular burger, an offering so emenently forgettable that you might as well be eating it for $1.95 at McCormick & Schmick's. Adam gave it a 70% for effort, but, really, that's no longer a passing grade in our books.

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