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Restaurant Dispatch: Pub Royale Is Open

By Melissa McEwen in Food on May 14, 2015 8:00PM

Pub Royale (Photo credit: Martha Williams)

In one of the most exciting restaurant openings so far this year, Pub Royale (2049 W. Division St.) opens its doors tonight. We stopped by for a preview as media and sampled their "British food culture"-inspired menu.

Everyone worried that a bland sports bar serving mediocre nachos and burgers would open in the former SmallBar Division space. Luckily, we got exactly the opposite. It has a beer list that seems a mile long, filled with weird sour beers, ciders and local craft beers and, when we were there, they even had a deliciously funky fig mead. But with a tap list that rotates often, we can't promise it's still there.

Gobi Manchurian: crispy cauliflower, sweet and spicy Manchurian sauce, sesame and cashew (Photo by Erika Kubick)

And if it seems too risky to order a whole pint of a particular drink, Pub Royale offers half pints. The cocktail list is just four refreshing cold drinks or you can order a rum-laced lassi.

You'll need it, because the food is brash. It's not necessarily the spiciest and if you are expecting Devon Street authenticity, you're at the wrong place. But the flavors are intense and unusual. Samosas filled with salt cod, lamb dumplings with a well-balanced but intense gaminess, crispy sweet-sour fried cauliflower redolent of Chinese spices and a face-achingly spicy tripe with Szechwan peppercorns and chilies.

Palak paneer: creamed spinach, crispy spiced naan, garam masala (Photo by Erika Kubick)

The space itself is beautiful, with the kind of steampunk-ish neo-Victorian aesthetic we've come to expect from Heisler Hospitality's bars and restaurants. Check out the full menu here.

Other cool projects that have come up on our radar this week:

King's County Tap in Lincoln Park where Etno Village Grill used to be will be helmed by talented up-and-comer Wilson Bauer, who we first noticed at Elizabeth Restaurant and then Schwa.

The Chicago Athletic Association Hotel project by the Land and Sea Department (Longman & Eagle, Parson's, Lost Lake) also snagged another talented person, Nandini Khaund, who has left her post at The Violet Hour this week to helm the beverage program at Cindy's, the rooftop restaurant.

Begyle's new taproom at their Ravenswood brewery (1800 W. Cuyler Ave) opened yesterday.