ELMHURST – Summer just screams brews and barbecue, among other things, to me.
My dining companion and I decided recently to get a jump on summer with a visit to Red Arrow Tap Room, located near the train tracks and police station in downtown Elmhurst, where craft beer and barbecue food are the specialties.
No matter which entrance you use, the front entrance off First Street or the one off the alley to the side, the first thing you notice is the wall of beer taps. The 48 taps are the centerpiece of the modern industrial room, where exposed brick walls and Edison bulbs lend the establishment a laid-back air.
In a unique twist on self-serve beverages, Red Arrow has 48 taps where patrons pour their own brews, wines and ciders. Pours are measured and paid for by the ounce, with a 32-ounce limit. (For the sake of novelty, I had to sample a beverage.)
With a perfectly poured (if I do say so myself) beverage in hand, my companion and I sat down at a table and encountered another unique element at Red Arrow – some tables have built-in touch-screen tablets for viewing the menu and ordering dishes.
After considering jalapeño cornbread with maple butter and smoked chicken wings, my companion and I decided to try the loaded potato skins, sans meat, for our appetizer. Served with jack and cheddar cheeses, tomatoes, green onions and a healthy dollop of sour cream, the skins hit the spot as we considered our main courses.
After thinking about some of the burger offerings, my companion decided to go with the pulled pork barbecue platter. A plentiful serving of succulently smoked pork and sweet Kansas City sauce proved to be an ample meal. The sidewinder fries – large, thick-cut spirals – on the side were wonderfully cut, crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside. The small portion of macaroni and cheese was warm and rich, and paired perfectly with the meal.
I thought about ordering the macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwich, both with barbecue meat added, but I simply could not pass up the half slab of ribs. Red Arrow's secret spice rub provided a crisp bark on the top of the ribs, which landed right between being fall-off-the-bone tender and pleasantly firm. I picked a spicy Texas sauce on the side but would choose the sweet Kansas City sauce next time. On the side, the homemade potato chips with barbecue seasoning dusted on top were crispy and flavorful, and the coleslaw was fresh and tangy.
After filling up with our entrees, my companion and I decided to keep dessert light and share the underage float, a cold mug filled with vanilla ice cream with a bottle of Sprecher root beer on the side. Red Arrow's version of the classic root beer float was delightful and seemed to signal the start of the summer for the both of us.
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.
If you go
WHAT: Red Arrow Tap Room
WHERE: 111 E. First St., Elmhurst
HOURS: 11 a.m. to midnight daily (kitchen closes at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday)
DRESS CODE: Casual
INFO: 630-501-1322; redarrowtaproom.com