Cattleman's Burger and Brew makes a triumphant return to Algonquin
The fact that a few blocks of Main Street in Algonquin's historic district is closed to cars hasn't stopped the foot traffic to the new Cattleman's Burger and Brew. The original location, at Algonquin Road and Route 25, was opened in 1973 by Tony Bellino. That building sold in 1989. Bellino decided it was time to resurrect the meat-centric eatery when a building recently became available on Main Street. Cattleman's Burger and Brew 2.0 opened Feb. 9, with a hearty pub grub menu and even one of the hostesses from the original place.
It seems odd that a restaurant with "brew" in its name would not have one beer on tap. However, there are about 70 in bottles and cans from which to choose. The venue previously was a breakfast spot, and although it has been remodeled, installing taps proved too difficult. You won't be disappointed in the range of suds, from Hamm's, Schlitz and PBR to Crystal Lake Brewing and Revolution Cross of Gold.
Cattleman's offers booths and tables, and on our Friday night visit, we witnessed families, couples and friends filling practically every seat with uniformed baseball fans noshing at the bar. The space is long and relatively narrow, so a quiet night of dining is not on the menu. Walls feature reclaimed 110-year-old barn wood and some antique pieces from the old Cattleman's ranch.
The drinks menu touts that the restaurant serves Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium 100 proof whiskey but thinking that might be a tad strong, I inquired about wine. The house wine list simply says chardonnay, Cabernet or riesling. The waitress didn't know the winery of origin, so I opted for a Southern Greyhound cocktail instead. It's made with Eddy's Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka and club soda -- a refreshing little number at a comfortable cost of $7.50. My dining companion's beer, an intense Double IPA called Hop Slayer out of Barrington ($4.50), was a bracing brew that paired nicely with the free basket of salted popcorn that arrived tableside. Come in on Sunday for a $15 Bloody Mary that could be a meal -- it's loaded with a small burger, shrimp, bacon, celery, cheese and more.
Appealing starters include an Algonquin version of the Quebecois dish poutine. These are beer-battered french fries topped with cheese curds, fresh brown gravy and Gouda cheese sauce ($11). For an extra $5, you can have Italian beef scattered on top. Our empty stomachs wanted these, but our brains knew it would take up too much valuable real estate. Green bean fries, Maryland crabcakes, "Michigan's Finest Cheese curds," a bevy of wings, pretzel sticks with cheese sauce and chili nachos are other options. We wrongly chose calamari ($11), a large but flavorless rendition that suffered from inconsistent cooking (rings were virtual rubber bands and there was more breading in the basket than on the squid).
After tasting a cup of the savory bean and brisket chili, we knew what we would start with next time. The kitchen redeemed itself with the diminutive cup of chili that's thick with a variety of beans and shredded, smoked brisket. A cup is tiny. For a dollar more, opt for the bowl. It's a winner.
We could envision the Spinach Cali Salad being a big hit in the summer: It's a mélange of berries, oranges, grilled chicken, candied pecans and fresh spinach tossed in a raspberry vinaigrette ($13).
Take a look around and see a rush of burgers. The 100-percent Angus beef burgers are hand-packed every morning and weigh a half-pound. One of the top sellers is the Fernandez burger, which is crowned with carne asada (skirt steak), housemade pico de gallo and guacamole, pepper jack cheese and crispy tortilla strips all wedged on a brioche roll ($13).
We opted for the Main St. Cheeseburger ($10), a perfectly charbroiled patty that arrived medium-rare as ordered piled with lettuce, tomato, onions and cheddar. Toasting the delicate brioche bun would have helped it stand up to the heap of goods. Burgers and sandwiches come with a good homemade slaw and a choice of fries or tots (sweet potato fries for an upcharge) that are served in a decorative can keeping them warm and crisp.
Other burgers include a mac 'n' cheese version, plus a bacon burger, a Swiss mushroom, a blue cheese and spinach and a couple of vegetarian options.
In addition to two chicken sandwiches, chef Steve Loftis offers eight entrees ranging from steaks and salmon to lobster mac 'n' cheese, ribs and roasted Amish chicken.
Nightly specials are especially appealing: On Monday enjoy 50-cent boneless wings with a choice of seven sauces tossed in or on the side (the garlic Parm is popular). Wings are seasoned before heading to the oven and fryer so they're extra flavorful. You have to dine-in to take advantage of Taco Tuesday's two-buck skirt steak or chicken tinga tacos. Lots of folks dine in and carry out Wednesday's homemade meatloaf ($11) that comes with garlic mashed spuds. Thursday it's popcorn shrimp and Friday brings beer-battered or grilled cod for $14.50. You can't beat the value of Saturday's Prime rib for two at $38, and Sunday's special is comforting pot roast for $12.
Dessert is either chocolate layer cake or cheesecake made by local bakeries.
Bring the kids: Their grub costs $5 for a burger, quesadilla, chicken nuggets or buttered noodles with a side and drink. And on Mondays, kids' meals are just $3.
Even though several blocks on Main Street in Algonquin are currently closed to traffic, there are plenty of parking options nearby and this lively place is just a few steps away.
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Cattleman's Burger and Brew
205 S. Main St., Algonquin, (224) 678-9444, cattlemansburgerandbrew.com/
Cuisine: Casual, comfort food in substantial portions, plus impressive daily specials
Setting: Quaint, narrow space in a building in Algonquin's downtown historic district
Prices: Appetizers: $3.75-$14; salads: $8-$13; burgers and sandwiches: $8.75-$14; entrees: $13-$28; desserts: $4.75-$6.50
Hours: Opens at 11 a.m. daily; the kitchen closes at 10 p.m.; the bar closes around midnight
• Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.