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Chicago’s highly anticipated cider bar brings an impressive array of ciders from all over the country, and we can’t get enough.
The one thing I was most excited about when I was getting ready to visit the Northman—a bar on the border of North Center and Lincoln Square that we’ve been waiting two years for—was the Spanish long pour cider. It’s the one that gets poured from a tap close to the ceiling, is unfiltered and uncarbonated and gets its bubbles from falling from such a high place into a smaller vessel. It’s quite a sight, and a good experience for anyone looking to learn about cider. And you will learn something; a night at the Northman is an education in cider.
Run by the Fountainhead Group, the Northman is Chicago’s first cider bar and one of just a few in the country. While it may feel like we’ve been waiting a long time for the bar, the trend of cider is just now on the upswing, departing from the heavily sugared drinks that have long dominated the country’s cider market. The Northman’s menu is pages upon pages long, filled with ciders from England, Spain and the U.S. (to name just a few), which can be overwhelming when you find drinks that range from sweet to semi-sweet to dry and you have no idea where to begin. Not to worry, your server will be right there to help you find one to fit your palate—the staff is filled with serious cider geeks.
You’ll start your night with an amuse-bouche of sorts—a sip of the Northman’s house cider—before settling on your first of many ciders (the list is constantly rotating). Move on to the food and order some shared plates, or maybe just some cheese and the Ploughmans Platter, because while the cider list is impressive, the food is less so—pleasing but mostly incidental to drinking. That’s fine with us, as the Northman is first and foremost a cider bar that also happens to serves pub food. If you’re going to eat, get the melt or the hearty fish and chips, both served with fries. Make sure to ask for the curried ketchup, which lends a warm kick to anything you dip in it.
After you’ve had your fill of the regular ciders, splurge on a calvados (an apple brandy originating in Normandy) or ice cider (made similarly to ice wine). Both varieties lean a bit sweeter and are served in smaller pours—a perfectly delicious way to finish off the night. Cider novices need not be intimidated, just ready to learn a bit more about apples and how ridiculously delicious cider can be—even if the food doesn’t quite hit the high notes. Start to finish, the Northman delivers excellent and knowledgeable service and a hefty array of ciders you’ll want to drink your way through.
Atmosphere: The space feels like a comfortable neighborhood bar, with a wood-heavy interior, tall booths and a long bar.
What to drink: The Spanish long pour cider, for the experience. I loved the sweet and floral Neige ice cider and the Roger Groult 12-year calvados—a bright and complex way to finish your cider experience.
What to eat: Get the melt or the fish and chips (and don’t forget to ask for curried ketchup).
Where to sit: We enjoy the bar to get small glasses of the Spanish long pour (only larger portions are available via table service), but you’ll want to grab a booth or one of the front tables if you plan on settling in for a bit with snacks.
4337 N Lincoln Ave
|Transport:||El stop: Brown to Montrose. Bus: 78.|
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