I recently stayed out in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago near a dealer I have in Hoffman Estates. After a morning meeting, I went back to the hotel to return e-mails and pack up. Across the street from the hotel I stayed at was a small entertainment area that featured a brew pub called The Lucky Monk. I didn't have my next appointment until about 2 p.m., so after checking out of the hotel I wandered over to The Lucky Monk to get some lunch.
The Lucky Monk opened in December of 2009 and is owned by a group of capital investors - NexGen Partners - based out of west suburban Lombard. Kevin Chorzempa is the General Manager of the restaurant and Anthony Carollo is the Lucky Monk's brewmaster. The 10-barrel microbrewery features six different styles of year-round beers as well as a number of seasonal varieties. If you name the place after Trappist Monks who perfected the art of brewing beer, you'd better have some good beer.
The Lucky Monk is located just north of the Northwest Tollway and just west of Barrington Road in what is known as South Barrington. (see map) I think Hoffman Estates is considered to be on the east side of Barrington Road. I was greeted at the hostess stand by a young lady who delivered me to a table in the bar area of The Lucky Monk. She seated me at a tall banquette seat along the wall and dropped off a menu. She said that Jinny would be my server for lunch.
There's a spacious dining area off to the right as you come in, but the bar area is also rather large with a rectangular bar, the brewing barrels are off to the side behind glass windows, and a number of flat screen televisions hang from the ceiling and walls of the bar area. There was some sort of one instrument synthesized music playing in the background of the bar.
My server came over, only she introduced herself as "J.J.". She asked if I wanted something to drink and I ordered up their housemade Confessional IPA. In addition to the year-round and seasonal beers they feature at The Lucky Monk, they also have a number of other regional craft brews available including Lagunitas beers from California and some imports. I found that to be somewhat interesting because most brewpubs refuse to have other beers other than their own.
They're proud of their burgers at The Lucky Monk - all burgers are made with USDA prime beef and ground in house. They feature twelve signature burgers which include the Grilled Cheese burger - a grilled bacon and cheese sandwich as the bed for a burger and it's topped with another grilled bacon and cheese sandwich for the crown. There's also the Ellis burger that is topped with ratatouille, feta cheese, Kalamata olives and arugula. Then you have the Sunrise burger that is topped with a fried egg and bacon marmalade. And they have a burger in which they pay homage to Elvis Presley - The King - which is topped with sliced bananas, peanut butter and bacon. Uh, no.... thank you very much. For the health conscious, they also have two turkey burgers on the menu.
In addition to burgers, The Lucky Monk features wood fired pizza, the typical appetizers, soups and salads, a handful of sandwiches, dinner entrees that include baby back ribs, a tri-tip sirloin steak, and an interesting pasta dish featuring short ribs braised with their housemade stout beer and mixed with wild mushrooms. They also have skirt steak tacos, as well as deep fried fish tacos. If they had grilled fish tacos, I may have considered getting those.
The Confessional IPA was actually very good. It had a good and forward hoppy taste, but it wasn't overpowering as some India Pale Ale's can be. The beer had a nice finish and a lingering hop taste that was rather tasty.
When Jinny came back to take my order, I figured on making my own burger. I got a burger topped with Merkts cheddar cheese, smoked bacon and sauteed mushrooms. Fries came with the burger, but I was more interested in the burger.
The lunch crowd had ramped up while I was there and it took about 20 minutes from the time I ordered my burger until another server brought it to my table. The burger was topped with sliced red onions, a sliced tomato and lettuce greens in addition to the sauteed mushrooms, Merkts cheddar spread, and smoked bacon. The burger was sitting on a small base that gave it more height over the mound of hand cut French fries that came with it.
The burger was cooked to a perfect medium for me - a little pink in the middle. With all the toppings, I was sort of worried that I wouldn't get the essence of the taste of the meat. But after my first bite, I forgot about that. The bold taste of the ground USDA Prime beef jumped out at me. It was juicy and very flavorful. The toppings were a great complement to the burger. The Merkts cheddar spread was very forward but not overpowering. The sauteed mushrooms had a great taste, but I couldn't put my finger on what they sauteed them in. I was guessing butter and Worcestershire sauce, but it could have been soy sauce, too. And how you go wrong with bacon on a good burger? Even the bun was a big part of the burger. It wasn't large and it held together well with all that was on the burger.
The hand cut fries were sort of cold and lifeless. It was like they had made them up about a half-hour earlier and put them under a heat lamp. But quite honestly, I wasn't there for the fries. The 8 ounce burger and all the toppings were more than enough for me for my lunch that day.
For my first visit to The Lucky Monk, I have to say that I went very impressed with the place. The burger I had was exceptional, I really liked the Confessional IPA that I ordered, Jinny's - or J.J.'s - service was very good, as well. I liked the atmosphere at The Lucky Monk and I wouldn't mind going back and trying one of their wood-fired pizzas at some point. Like I said, The Lucky Monk is proud of their burgers, as well they should.
(Update - I have been back a couple times to The Lucky Monk. I had the reuben sandwich for lunch one day and it was very good. But the pizza I had on another visit - a thin-crust sausage, pepperoni and mushroom - was surprisingly very good, as well. The Lucky Monk has become my go-to place in the far NW suburbs of Chicago.)