Elgin's Prairie Rock features good food, rotating brews
Three years after the Prairie Rock Brewing Company closed, new owners took over the venue and opened Prairie Rock Bar & Grill in March. While the bar doesn't brew its own beer anymore, you'll find plenty of craft brews and good food to keep you satisfied.
Motif: The warm space features brick walls and decorative wooden barrels. The TVs are tuned to sports, with customers requesting which games they'd like to see. The decor has a roadhouse feel, with wood booths, tables and stools and neon beer signs positioned on wood planks.
Prairie Rock Bar & Grill127 S. Grove St., Elgin, (630) 883-8799, prairierockgrill.com
Hours:5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday
When the weather is nice, the huge patio is the place to be, equipped with its own bar complete with 10 taps and a TV. It also hosts weekly bags tournaments during the summer.
Crowd: The bar brings in an eclectic crowd with local construction workers coming for lunch, families taking advantage of the kids menu for dinner and local bikers and dog walkers stopping in frequently during the summer. When a game is on, sports fans sometimes hang out at the bar for hours.
Service: Run by a husband and wife team, the bar employs a small welcoming staff that is very attentive. Our server checked in regularly to see how we were liking things, and actually seemed interested in hearing our opinions and sharing her own.
Food: Barbecue is the star of Prairie Rock's small menu, with regulars packing in on Thursdays for $5 pulled pork sandwiches served with house-made chips. Value-conscious diners also enjoy $5 burgers Wednesdays. If you're really hungry, you can take the Prairie Rock Burger Challenge, where $17.95 gets you two half-pound beef patties topped with four slices of bacon, cheddar, pulled pork, onion rings and coleslaw on a toasted pretzel bun. If you finish it in 30 minutes, it's free.
The bar's French onion soup and chili are very popular for good reason. The meaty chili has plenty of kick, and the soup is served topped with a huge amount of cheese and croutons that really soak up the flavor. The firecracker shrimp is nicely presented in a cone-shaped basket with dipping sauce on the side, with the fried seafood absorbing the spice from the jalapeños they're cooked with. The pulled pork potato skins are awesome, so covered with the tender meat and barbecue sauce that you might want to scoop some off and eat it on the side so you can taste the good, crisp bacon underneath. The only disappointing dish was the smoked beef brisket. While it was highly recommended, it was too fatty and well-done to eat in sandwich form and didn't improve much with a fork and knife. The cilantro garlic truffle fries it's served with were much better, a really delicious and decadent take on the standard side.
Liquid consumption: The bar specializes in craft beers on draft and by the bottle, always working with local breweries to get new options. The menu changes every week to offer seasonal selections, appealing to regulars who like stopping in to see what's new whether it's New Belgium Hoptober or Dark Horse Raspberry Ale. If you're not a suds fan, Prairie Rock also sells plenty of types of cider and a menu of classic cocktails given custom names like the Prairie Rise or Sex on a Prairie.
Music: Prairie Rock hosts live music on the patio Saturdays during the summer. Every other Thursday is open mic night.
Parking: There's plenty of easy street parking nearby.
Overall: While summer might be Prairie Rock's best season, the great beer selection, solid food and friendly service make it worth checking out any time.
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