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Belgian Restaurants?

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  • sc Jul 13, 2001 06:23 PM
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Can anyone suggest a Belgian restaurant in Chicago? Anywhere? I know about the Map Room. Haven't been there yet, but my understanding is that it's more of bar than a reaturant.

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  1. I know of no Belgian restaurants in Chicago. The Map Room is a bar, not a restaurant, but they do have an excellent selection of Belgian beers. Actually, on Tuesdays the Map Room does serve a free buffet (tomorrow it’s catered by Cousins). Food night can get pretty crowded and I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle.

    The Map Room is most definitely worth a visit if you are into beer. They have about 30 on tap (almost all of them fairly uncommon: Mahr's Ungespundet, La Chouffe Bok, etc) and over a hundred in bottles. They also have a vintage beer list (ask for the looseleaf binder) with some even more rare beers. One unusual Belgian I can recommend is Hanssens Oudbeitje, an incredible, subtle strawberry brew ($10).

    Even if you’re not a beer fanatic, it’s still a really good bar. As far as I’m concerned it’s biggest problem is that it gets too crowded (free live music on weekends).

    11 Replies
    1. re: Rene G

      darn, I'm so disappointed! I usually satisfy my belgian beer habit at the Hopleaf in Andersonville - it's closer to me. But I will give the Map Room a try sometime.

      so, nobody knows of a belgian restaurant in the area? really?? chicago, you're letting me down.

      1. re: sc

        I’ll be very curious to see if anyone knows of any Belgian restaurants anywhere around. I thought of one thing that might be worth looking into. I think the Chicago Beer Society occasionally has beer themed dinners and I believe they have done Belgian dinners in the past. Couldn’t hurt to ask them.

        The Hopleaf is a wonderful place and I actually prefer it to the Map Room in many ways. I stopped in last Saturday and could hardly believe my eyes: there was a Rodenbach tap handle!

        This quintessential Belgian red ale has not been available in the US for years (the brewery went out of business and was acquired by another company). Turns out that Mike, the owner and Rodenbach fanatic, located a small supply of 4 year old barrels and is pouring it for $5 a glass. It’s probably not as good as the bottled version used to be but it’s unmistakably Rodenbach. The Hopleaf is likely to be one of the very few places in the country, and probably the world, where you can try the original Rodenbach on tap.

        Be warned that Rodenbach is certainly not to everyone’s taste; its sourness offends many drinkers. And, please don’t drink it all. Save some for me!

        1. re: Rene G

          I don't believe Rodenbach went out of business, but the brewery was on the way down when acquired by Palm. Rodenbach bottles were available in the US until maybe a year ago. At least that's the case in my area (northern Virginia). My understanding is that it's being repackaged and will come back on the market. It's still on the Vanberg & DeWulf web site, so I assume they expect to get it back.

          What was on tap? Grand Cru?

          There are other Belgian red ales available in the US, such as Duchess de Bourgogne and Petrus Brown.

          Back to the Belgian restaurant question, take a look at http://www.chibeer.org/ and contact one of the folks listed toward the bottom of the page.

          Link: http://www.belgianexperts.com/rodenba...

          1. re: Jim Dorsch

            I certainly don’t know the whole story on Rodenbach. I thought they ceased production for a while but that may not be the case. I’m pretty sure they (Palm) have permanently stopped making Alexander, the cherry-flavored beer, but that regular Rodenbach and Grand Cru are still being made.

            It’s been a while since I’ve seen Rodenbach in Chicago stores and I don’t know what the export plans are. A couple weeks ago I asked at Sam’s Wine (who probably sell more Belgians than anyone in Chicago) and they didn’t know when it would be available. It seems that the Frank Boon beers are also currently unavailable in Chicago (same distributor according to Sam’s).

            I don’t think there are many bottles to be had around here. The Hopleaf still has a few of the Grand Cru 1.5 liters but they are very expensive. The Hopleaf’s owner had contacted Vanberg & DeWulf to see if they had any more lying around. They had no bottles but that’s how he found out about the few kegs.

            Maybe it will soon be available here again in its original form. There’s a worrisome statement on their website (rodenbach.be): "Today the lively brown beer is therefore acquiring a new face, totally completely in the line with the wishes of today's consumers: younger, more dynamic and more modern!" I hope they’re talking about its marketing or something and that they’re not going to screw around with the beer.

            The stuff on tap at the Hopleaf is (unfortunately) not the Grand Cru.

            I’ve enjoyed the Petrus before but don’t think I’ve had Duchesse de Bourgogne. I took a quick look at MJ’s Beer Companion and it’s described as "candy-like." I’m not sure I’m going to like this one but I’ll happily try any beer once (or more).

            1. re: Rene G

              I'm pretty sure Alexander is history. We have plenty of Boon out here, so I'm not sure what the problem is in Chicago.

              I think the Rodenach web site refers merely to new packaging, but I guess we'll have to wait and see. The traditional bottle was working pretty well for me, Rodenbch seems to have a history of bad marketing. A couple years ago (before Palm) they had a campaign with the tag line 'brown thing.' Argghhhh ...

              The folks at Vanberg & DeWulf are fairly responsive. If you email questions, they'll probably answer them. Or call 800.656.1212.

          2. re: Rene G
            r
            Rantoul Davis

            Actually Rodenbach has always been available in Chicago for at least the last 10 years and probably longer. The Alexander is definitely no more.

            Regarding the Duchess de Bourgonne - it is an excellent beer right along the same lines as Rodenbach. It is not an inferior imitation.

            As of this year it is also available at the Hopleaf.

            1. re: Rantoul Davis

              If you could let me know where I could pick up a few bottles of Rodenbach (Grand Cru, preferably) in Chicago I’d be very grateful.

              Rodenbach had always been available at my usual haunts until about a year or two ago, when it disappeared. Several conversations with Michael (Hopleaf owner and Rodenbach enthusiast) as well as with the beer buyer from Sam’s Wine led me to believe that bottles are unavailable, at least in Chicago. This may be only temporary but it seems clear that Alexander has been permanently discontinued.

              I’ve had La Duchesse de Bourgogne several times now (at the Hopleaf) and it is certainly a good beer but much sweeter than Rodenbach.

              1. re: Rene G

                As I mentioned in another thread, there appears to be some sort of wait on packaging since Palm bought Rodenbach. And Alexander is indeed gone. I think if you find any Rodenbach these days, it will certainly be old. For further information contact Rodenbach's US importer, Vanberg & DeWulf at 800.656.1212 or visit their web site, link below.

                Link: http://www.belgianexperts.com

                1. re: Jim Dorsch

                  Jim –

                  Thanks for your replies. After you posted a couple months ago I looked at the Vanberg & DeWulf website but didn’t find anything new. Today I finally called them.

                  Here’s the story as I understand it. There’s still a problem with importing bottles because the labels have to be redesigned and Palm isn’t sure the US imports enough to make it worthwhile. The news (to me) is that V&D is now importing kegs of new stuff (no labeling problem here). Previously the only kegs around here were several years old (but surprisingly drinkable). Next time I stop by my favorite local sources (Hopleaf and Map Room) I’ll be sure to find out if they are serving from new kegs.

                  1. re: Rene G

                    Wow, it's great they're bringing in kegs! Is it the Grand Cru?

                    1. re: Rene G

                      I'm glad they're bringing in kegs, but will be disappointed if the bottles don't return.