Gastro pubs are all the rage now, but when Weather Mark Tavern opened in 2006 it was one of the earliest to offer elevated food and drink in a casual bar environment. They've now been open for seven years and, while the trend has caught up with them, they still stand out.
The South Loop bar features a vast list of house and premium rums, boasting over 50 of the storied spirit. I attended a rum school at the bar that covered the variety and the history of rum. While the cocktails were delicious, I was so impressed by the bites that were served alongside them that I practically begged them to host one of our signature Chef's Table events. Fortunately, they said yes.
Owner Mark Stern and Chef Jake Lickteig selected some of their favorites from the extensive menu and paired them with craft beers. The evening began with pigs in a blanket. These weren't your typical hot dogs in crescent rolls. These were wild boar and venison sausages wrapped in puff pastry and served with whole grain mustard and onion jam. The beer pairing was Founder's All Day IPA, a refreshing take on the normally hoppy beer style.
Potato skins are an appetizer you'll see on most bar menus, and they do have them at Weather Mark Tavern. In addition to that traditional item, they also have applewood smoked bacon wrapped Yukon gold potatoes served with sour cream and chives. I could eat 37 of these without feeling one bit of guilt. The accompanying Three Floyds Zombie Dust is also delicious enough to on my guilt-free list.
Our next course was perfectly prepared blackened ahi tuna served on chipotle toast with lime cream. This flavor bomb was paired with Bell's Oberon, one of craft beer's classics.
Ribs are a summer, and a Chicago, standard. Good ribs are a bit harder to come by. It's a worth a visit to Weather Mark Tavern for their ribs alone. The meat falls off the bone, but it doesn't have that mealy mouthfeel you sometimes get when ribs are tender because they're overdone. These ribs are meaty and have the texture that ribs should have. Plus the housemade sauce is complex and sweet and spicy and delicious and worth staining your favorite shirt. The beer they paired with these gems was Goose Island Matilda, because with ribs like those you should have a beer like that.
Our final course took the cake - and put it on apple crumble! This dessert is definitely on my guilty-but-worth-it list. It's homemade apple crumble topped with yellow cake, no ice cream necessary. Rum may not have been necessary, but the Zacapa 23 they paired with this delightful dish was a perfect accompaniment.
In addition to these great menu items, you can also get a variety of burgers and sandwiches, but you may be more tempted by filet mignon with a port wine reduction, potato spring roll, and asparagus. Maybe you'll want to try the tilapia "En Papillote" or the chicken and feta roulade. Whatever you try, you'll see why Weather Mark Tavern has been a popular place for the last seven years. Here's to several more!