Since opening in January, Warren's Ale House has been bringing in big crowds of people looking for a place to watch sports with a craft beer and a good meal. With the opening of their patio and more beer-focused events in the works, the bar -- located at 51 Town Square in Wheaton -- is poised to become a real destination this summer.
Motif: A Red Robin formerly occupied this space, but the interior has been totally remodeled, leaving no trace of the former tenant. Instead you'll find a very modern look with granite floors, shiny back tiles on the back wall and more than 20 TVs.
Warren's Ale House51 Town Square, Wheaton, (630) 462-5126, warrensalehouse.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday
The bar area offers a mix of booths and tables with tall-back chairs that can be combined for big groups and orange lights resembling candles set in the walls. The dining area has plenty of tables, TVs and a projector screen, and the fenced-off patio features umbrella-topped metal tables.
Crowd: Local business people flock in for lunch and again after work, bringing a well-dressed mix of diners and drinkers ranging from their late 20s through 60s. Dinner is popular with families, and Blackhawks games have been packing the place. You'll want to make a reservation on the weekends, when waits can get to 30 or 40 minutes.
Food: Warren's recently revised its menu, tweaking many dishes based on customer suggestions and to make them a bit lighter for spring and summer. They spiced up their popular mussels with chorizo, changed from tomato to apricot jam for the grilled ham and cheese sandwich, swapped out a pork loin for pork chop and added a grilled chicken club and shrimp po' boy sandwich. Bar food traditionalists had requested chicken quesadillas, but Warren's chef put his own twist on the dish by adding cucumber salsa. The fish tacos are deservedly one of the most popular entrees, with big pieces of blackened tilapia served with perfectly ripe avocado and a delicious if messy slaw of shaved cabbage and carrots.
Liquid consumption: Beer is the focus here, with 24 brews on draft and more than 100 available in bottles or cans. The selection changes on a daily basis but focuses on local breweries such as Naperville's Solemn Oath, Warrenville's Two Brothers and Chicago's Lake Effect. The bar is also looking to appeal to beer lovers by hosting events such as a release party for Sam Adams West Coast IPA on June 19 and a five-course Dogfish Head beer dinner July 24.
Not a beer fan? The bar also features plenty of wines by the glass and an excellent selection of whiskey. While you can order anything served inside on the patio, the bar is working on a separate drink menu focused on canned beer and cocktails perfect for drinking outdoors.
Service: I was quickly greeted when I grabbed a seat at the bar and offered both a food menu and the much-longer beer list. The bartender was happy to make recommendations based on his favorites and what's popular and help me decide between options. Food came out quickly and he checked in regularly. Another bartender, recognizing me as a first-time guest, offered her own favorites that I should try on my next visit.
Parking: There are plenty of spots in the mall's free lot.
Overall: The beer selection at Warren's Ale House is a draw by itself, but the food and friendly service really make it a great place to visit.