Wauconda's Side Lot serves up craft beer, creative bites

 
By Jacky Runice
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/2/2016 11:40 AM
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  • Smokin' Squirrel English Brown Ale is brewed at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda.

      Smokin' Squirrel English Brown Ale is brewed at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Jason Vucic pours a beer at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda.

      Jason Vucic pours a beer at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Phil Castello opened Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda with partners Jason Vucic and Brittany Barth.

      Phil Castello opened Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda with partners Jason Vucic and Brittany Barth. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Barb Benjamin, left, and Diane Siri of Wauconda enjoy wine at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda.

      Barb Benjamin, left, and Diane Siri of Wauconda enjoy wine at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda serves craft beer, cocktails and small plate menu options.

      Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda serves craft beer, cocktails and small plate menu options. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Another suburban craft brewery? Check your attitude at the door because Wauconda's Side Lot Brewery offers an ultra comfortable space with scenic views of Bangs Lake, trendy bites perfectly executed and sturdy, inventive craft beer, naturally.

Motif: So many new brew pubs resemble the basement from "Wayne's World," but Side Lot looks and feels like a living room -- rustic yet bright and cheery -- with comfortable sofas, inviting seating, handmade pillows and a conversation-conducive 10-seat bar. Brewmaster Phil Castello and his partners Jason Vucic and Brittany Barth are in tune with current Zeitgeist of using repurposed goods and local purveyors. At the bar, you're sitting on stools created by a Crystal Lake reclaimed furniture business, and the benches and tables were fashioned from crates that housed streetlights of old Wauconda. The brew pub, which opened on Jan. 22, features picture windows so the space is flooded in light during the day.

Food: There's not a lot of food options, but what is on the menu is flavorful and fashionable. Side Lot wows with snacks like Two Bucks O' Bacon, thick slices of candied bacon that are simultaneously salty and sweet plus smoky and spicy. Small plates include Cucumber Salmon, a hollowed cucumber jammed with smoked salmon and whipped cheese and capped with chives and tempura crunch. The charcuterie board showcases locally sourced meats and cheese and bread by the local Whisk Bakery. Duck prosciutto, speck Americano, salami Calabrese, cave-aged bleu cheese and six-year cheddar are among the rich slices and chunks on the board.

Side Lot's charcuterie board comes with a selection of meats and cheeses.
  Side Lot's charcuterie board comes with a selection of meats and cheeses. - Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Also on the menu: Yellow, red and jalapeño pepper jelly layered over whipped feta cheese for bakery bread dipping, a mélange of spiced nuts with honey mustard pretzels and more of that insanely good bacon, minced and paired with Brie to slather on fresh bread. If none of the half-dozen choices appeal to you, you can order a Neapolitan pizza from Slyce next door.

Liquid consumption: Costello brews beer in the back and you can count on 16 beers on tap, four of which are brewed on the premises: Loco Local Pale Ale, Smokin' Squirrel English Brown Ale, Jimmy the Weasel Belgian Triple and a rotating cider. Not a fan of the suds? Side Lot stocks wine from boutique vintners and small-batch local spirits that are award winners. The signature Bloody Mary -- complete with house-made pickles, candied bacon, a hunk of cheese, celery, olives and a shorty beer back -- is memorable. No one's leaving thirsty.

Jimmy the Weasel Belgian Triple is one of Side Lot Brewery's craft beers.
  Jimmy the Weasel Belgian Triple is one of Side Lot Brewery's craft beers. - Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Service: Order from the bar and carry your drink to the sofa and tables. Service is ultra casual and friendly as a neighborhood bar should be.

Crowd: Bacon, craft beer and the pricey-but-worth-it Bloody Mary attract millennials and craft beer fans of all ages.

Music: Pandora delivers classic rock, old school rap and an eclectic mix of tunes. Six televisions are available for sports fans.

Barb Benjamin, left, and Diane Siri of Wauconda enjoy wine at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda.
  Barb Benjamin, left, and Diane Siri of Wauconda enjoy wine at Side Lot Brewery in Wauconda. - Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Parking: There is street parking, plus space in the back and on the side.

Overall: The inviting Side Lot Brewery offers trendy downtown Chicago bites with small-town warmth.

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