By MYSTERY DINER - msleditorial@shawmedia.com comp:000049183ad5:000000023d:5016 new
Wild Monk offers upscale pub food in a relaxed setting in downtown La Grange. (Suburban Life Media photo)

Wild Monk

WHERE: 88 S. La Grange Road, La Grange

HOURS: 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday

DRESS CODE: Casual

INFO: www.wildmonkbar.com, 708-255-2337

When eating out, it is a rare find that strikes the perfect balance between upscale cuisine and casual comfort, but downtown La Grange gastropub Wild Monk does just that.

I recently ventured to the restaurant and bar for dinner on a Friday evening. The dining room, which remained full throughout the night, is minimalist, yet cozy, with a wood floor and booths, metal stools and exposed-bulb light fixtures. Televisions lined the walls, playing baseball and basketball, so no one was missing the game.

We took our time placing our drink orders, perusing the expansive menu, which includes over 30 draft beers and even more bottled brews, as well as an array of signature cocktails and select wines, whiskeys, bourbons and Scotches.

Among the featured breweries are west suburban favorites BuckleDown Brewing of Lyons, Pollyanna Brewing Company of Lemont, and Two Brothers Brewing Company of Warrenville.

I opted for a seasonal beer with the Ten Ninety Brewing Company's De Ogen pumpkin ale, which was robust, spicy and aromatic. My companion went with BuckleDown's Amarillo Clencher, which he found to be appealingly hoppy, citrusy and sweet.

We began the meal by sharing one of several available small plates. Wild Monk offers a range of interesting options, including several types of sliders. But from the moment my companion spotted them on the menu, it had to be Brussels sprouts.

Now, Brussels sprouts long have been a source of contention for the two of us – he loves them, I hate them. But at Wild Monk, we shared a rare moment of consensus on the controversial veggie.

They were delicious. Tossed in bacon jam, lemon and sea salt, they were savory, sweet and just sprouty enough.

To continue the meal, I bypassed my standard go-to order – a burger, of which Wild Monk has many – and chose the braised brisket sandwich with a fried egg and orange shallot marmalade on a grilled ciabatta-style roll. It was creamy and hearty – the kind of sandwich you could happily eat as a late-night snack or for breakfast the next morning. A side of Cajun fries added a seasoned kick to the plate.

For his entree, my dining companion selected the fried chicken tacos with spicy slaw, micro cilantro and chipotle aioli, which he described as light, moist and flavorful. As his side order, the plantain chips were fresh and hot, with a satisfying crunch.

Before we departed, he tried one more enticing draft beer – Pollyanna's Dr. Pangloss, which somehow pulls off the delightfully bizarre combination of being both hoppy and malty.

If you are a beer snob, Wild Monk will no doubt rise to your standards. If you aren't a beer snob, fear not – Wild Monk may know beer, but it also knows how to create an environment everyone can enjoy.

The Mystery Diner is a newsroom employee at Suburban Life Media. The diner's identity is not revealed to the restaurant staff before or during the meal. Only positive dining experiences will result in published reviews.

(To view the Mystery Diner's photos taken at Wild Monk, go to http://shawurl.com/1j8l; visit www.wildmonkbar.com.)

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