I was trying to come up with ideas for a happy hour and a friend clued me in on this relatively new place (just opened up about a month ago). Didn’t take long to read through the article to make this our destination. The Lowry and Longfellow Grill are both great places, so a new Blue Plate restaurant sounded good to me. The concept of The Freehouse is a brewpub that also serves other beer. Seemed like a novel idea and timely with the growth in popularity of microbreweries, especially now that they are selling their own beer on premises thanks to the passing of the Surly Bill.
Freehouse had the casual effect of servers in blue shirts, suspenders, and jeans but classy enough that it could probably be casual date worthy. Typical of brewpubs, the beautiful brewing production visible through large glass windows. It got packed there by 5:30, likely with lots of people trying to take advantage of happy hour at the end of the week. I think that the biggest seller for me is that the parking lot for the building this restaurant is in has free visitor parking. That sort of deal in North Loop is pretty much nonexistent as far as I know. The bartender was very friendly and helpful with the menu, too. I will mention that they did make a mistake on one of my drink orders, but were very apologetic and helpful in correcting it, so I would give their overall service a thumbs up – I had a lovely time there overall.
Since the Freehouse concept is centered around their drink, I’ll start there. I tried the cask aged stout Freehouse brew. It didn’t have any particular name as one of their featured brews, but was pretty solid. I tasted it side by side with their standard No. 4 Stout, and could definitely tell the difference. I thought the aged version calmed down and was more “Guinness-y” as I put it. I also tasted the Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel with Cherry (not what I was in the mood for but good) and the Paulaner Salvator Doppelock, which was tasty. They had Old Rasputin on the menu, too, which is a favorite of mine.
As for the food, here’s what we had:
- Korea-town Riblets – bulgogi-marinated, scallion (happy hour special)
- Jack’d Up Mussels – sausage, fennel, No 1, pumpkin curry
- Oxtail Croquettes – blue cheese, pear
- Smoked Salmon Scotch Egg – mustard, dill
- Lobster Mac N Cheez – lobster claw, bisque, cheez-its, crispy leeks
It was pretty solid, but overall didn’t really stand out for me in particular. My friend and the bartender raved about the Lobster Mac N Cheez, though. I thought that was pretty delicious, but not what I was in the mood for at the time. I ordered it because I was excited about the Cheez-its, but the flavor didn’t really come through with everything else going on. I think they used the Cheez-its as breading to fry the stuffed jumbo shell pasta. I was kind of disappointed by the Smoked Salmon Scotch Egg. I figured it might still have sausage or at least some real mustard. Instead they were served with more of a cream based dill sauce. It was fine, but I usually think the mustards make the scotch eggs. That’s probably why I like Lyndale Taphouse’s rendition. The Jack’d Up Mussels were not my thing. I think Cafe Maude’s green curry mussels are delicious, but the pumpkin curry was a little too sweet for the mussels in my opinion, and the meat really stuck to the shells. The Korea-town Riblets had great flavor, but I wanted them to be more tender and come off the bone easier. Both the mussels and riblets were only $5 on happy hour, so I’m not really complaining. I guess my mood was kind of finicky for food that night. I will say that my personal favorite dish was the Oxtail Croquettes. The flavor was very umami and delicious, and I loved the shredded oxtail with blue cheese.
Perhaps a little on the pricey side overall for what it is (up to $24 for an entree), but you can definitely find items that aren’t out of range ($10-15 for an entree). I would definitely return to try some of their more standard bar fare like a burger with happy hour Parm Truffle Fries.