North Aurora's Hardware puts muscle behind DIY, sustainability

 
By Katherine Rodeghier
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/9/2016 11:51 AM
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  • Start with an appetizer like baked goat cheese and roasted vegetables at Hardware in North Aurora.

      Start with an appetizer like baked goat cheese and roasted vegetables at Hardware in North Aurora. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Look for the foie gras options on the charcuterie portion of the menu at North Aurora's Hardware. It's a favorite of chef Brent Fiedor, who says he has a foie gras tattoo.

      Look for the foie gras options on the charcuterie portion of the menu at North Aurora's Hardware. It's a favorite of chef Brent Fiedor, who says he has a foie gras tattoo. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Hardware's purpose-built structure is made from industrial salvage, with one wall of greenery to moderate temperatures inside and a greenhouse glowing in the dark on another.

      Hardware's purpose-built structure is made from industrial salvage, with one wall of greenery to moderate temperatures inside and a greenhouse glowing in the dark on another. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Brown liquors line the wall at Hardware in North Aurora.

      Brown liquors line the wall at Hardware in North Aurora. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Chef Brent Fiedor checks on bacon smoking outside at Hardware.

      Chef Brent Fiedor checks on bacon smoking outside at Hardware. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • North Aurora's Hardware grows lettuce, herbs and micro greens in a greenhouse attached to the restaurant.

      North Aurora's Hardware grows lettuce, herbs and micro greens in a greenhouse attached to the restaurant. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Enjoy lunch or dinner in the outdoor dining area at Hardware in North Aurora.

      Enjoy lunch or dinner in the outdoor dining area at Hardware in North Aurora. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Hardware brews six beers at the North Aurora gastropub.

      Hardware brews six beers at the North Aurora gastropub. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Barrel staves form chandeliers in one of the dining rooms at Hardware in North Aurora.

      Barrel staves form chandeliers in one of the dining rooms at Hardware in North Aurora. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • Check out the brewery at Hardware.

      Check out the brewery at Hardware. Rick West | Staff Photographer

Cruise down Orchard Road in North Aurora and you'll spot a building that might be a set from a "Mad Max" movie plopped among farms fields and subdivisions. If you're scouting a place to eat, you might pass on by. Don't.

This is Hardware, a gastropub that opened five months ago in a purpose-built structure made from industrial salvage with one wall of greenery to moderate temperatures inside and a greenhouse glowing in the dark on another. Inside, barrel staves form chandeliers, pocket doors salvaged from old homes line a wall and the foot rail on the bar comes from a section of railroad track. Your bill comes tucked inside a hole drilled in children's alphabet blocks.

Do-it-yourself homeowners might relate to Hardware's name, for it definitely does its own thing and in a sustainable way. It grows its own produce in the greenhouse as well as fruit and nuts in the tiny orchard and garden on its 5.6-acre property. It uses water reclaimed from its roof for irrigation. It makes its own sausage. It brews its own beer in an in-house BBGB Brewery, each beer named for a deceased relative and seasonal beers for pets that have passed. Bread served with meals uses spent grain from the brewing process as do doggy treats diners can take home for pets.

A 1.5-acre hop farm next to the parking lot will produce most of the hops for its beer after the first harvest next year. In addition to six of its own brews, Hardware stocks drafts and bottles from craft breweries in the metro area. Wines come from vineyards where grapes are grown sustainably.

Hardware in North Aurora grows its own hops on its 1.5-acre hop farm, which will produce most of the hops for its beer after the first harvest next year.
  Hardware in North Aurora grows its own hops on its 1.5-acre hop farm, which will produce most of the hops for its beer after the first harvest next year. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

But the standout libation is whiskey, nearly 400 varieties, more than any establishment outside Chicago. Amber bottles glow in the backlit wraparound bar, some from distillers' private selections, others custom-blended for Hardware during visits to the distilleries. Order a Prohibition-themed cocktail or a shot of bourbon served neat in a slim beaker that would be at home in a chemistry lab.

Executive chef and brew master Brent Fiedor has crafted an eclectic menu at Hardware.
  Executive chef and brew master Brent Fiedor has crafted an eclectic menu at Hardware. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

Brewmaster and executive chef Brent Fiedor has created an eclectic, if somewhat confusing, menu. After some study, our table of four started with three salads and an appetizer to share.

The hit of the night, Spanish sausage salad, featured house-made mildly spiced wood-grilled sausage, roasted red bell peppers, greens, almonds and sherry vinaigrette. We wished for more sausage, perhaps even refashioning the dish as an entree. The baked goat cheese and roasted vegetable app received our approval, too, the cheese on the mild side, not too salty, and surrounded by tasty roasted shallots, garlic, and red and yellow grape tomatoes.

In place of whole shrimp, our shrimp Caesar came with warm slices of succulent shrimp accompanied by shavings of Parmesan cheese on greens. One of our party ordered salmon salad. Our server explained that the chef does salmon rare, but she requested medium and was happy with the result, crispy on the outside, soft in the middle.

The selection of entrees is imaginative, if a bit gimmicky. The tender Wagyu steak, cooked medium-rare with crispy smashed Yukon potatoes, is the only entree that comes close to standard fare. We were surprised the menu listed a Chicago hot dog, but no burger, a staple at most gastropubs.

Hardware's Korean Pork features pan-seared pork belly, charred broccolini and Korean fried rice topped with a sunny side up duck egg.
  Hardware's Korean Pork features pan-seared pork belly, charred broccolini and Korean fried rice topped with a sunny side up duck egg. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

The mango Maker's Mark sticky sauce on the Parker's Sticky Chicken entree was too sweet for one of our party. The eye-catching Korean pork -- pan-seared pork belly with charred broccolini and pickled watermelon rind topped with a fried duck egg -- had just enough spice to make an impression without being overwhelming. We would have liked more pork and less of the fried rice that filled the bowl.

Whimsical desserts include ho ho's, an adult version of the snack cake filled with Maker's Mark whiskey cream, and bacon and eggs with ingredients that include blueberry pancakes, candied bacon, butternut squash scrambled ice cream and maple syrup glass. The strawberry shortcake is gluten-free.

Ho Ho's have an adult bent at Hardware. The rolled cake features a Maker's Mark whiskey cream filling and is served on a vanilla bean crème anglaise.
  Ho Ho's have an adult bent at Hardware. The rolled cake features a Maker's Mark whiskey cream filling and is served on a vanilla bean crème anglaise. - Rick West | Staff Photographer

Bottom line: Hardware hammers home the booze. Entrees, while satisfying, did not wow us. Go for a few drinks with friends, order some salads, appetizers or a charcuterie board to share, maybe split one entree, but save room for dessert.

Those ho ho's are darned cute.

Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

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