Anthony Carollo, brewmaster for The Lucky Monk and Kevin Chorzema, general manager.

Craft Beer, Custom Menu Make a Winner

Discover a relatively new hangout in South Barrington, where locally brewed craft beer and quality, scratch-made food are the main attraction.

Anthony Carollo, brewmaster for The Lucky Monk and Kevin Chorzempa, general manager.
Anthony Carollo, brewmaster for The Lucky Monk and Kevin Chorzempa, general manager.

Launching a new restaurant is tough enough, but opening it in the midst of a recession? That’s an entirely different matter.

But before The Lucky Monk, 105 Hollywood Blvd., South Barrington, served its first dish and poured its first beer in late 2009, its seven principals had a plan: focus on a growing interest in craft beer and high-quality burgers.

“We wanted to capitalize on something that was approachable and affordable,” says Jeremy Samatas, one of the seven principals.

So, the managers hired an experienced brewmaster, and built a scratch kitchen capable of an output far beyond typical pub fare, with made-from-scratch dishes such as artisanal pizzas, chicken and fish entrees, and gourmet salads.

Close proximity of the site to a multiplex theater, with its promise of a built-in customer stream, sealed the deal.

“In my opinion, we were in the right place at the right time,” says Samatas.

The establishment’s name recognizes the tradition of early monks who brewed beer. The Lucky Monk’s most popular drafts include the Confessional IPA, a very hop-forward ale. Fallen Angel, a traditional amber ale, also resonates well.

Brewmaster Anthony Carollo is charged with taking the in-house brewing operation to the next level by increasing its annual production, currently between 700 and 800 barrels a year – the equivalent of 1,400 kegs.

“We always try to satisfy a core lineup of five flavors and complement that with one or two seasonal offerings,” says Carollo. “We gained momentum during the past year, releasing a different barrel-aged beer every single month.”

Customers have responded well, buying refillable growlers that they can take home. And, The Lucky Monk supplies some of its draft beers to other bars and restaurants within a 20-mile radius.

“I can definitely say consumers have become more educated and a lot more savvy about beer,” says Carollo. “It seems the theme these days is that there are no rules, as long as you make good-tasting beer.”

The Lucky Monk’s menu also includes 40 bottled craft beers, mostly domestic-produced, but with a few German and Belgian exceptions. The full-service bar stocks 20 domestic and imported wines, each available by the glass.

Every few months, The Lucky Monk hosts special five-course Brew Master Dinners, where meals are paired up with beers.

“These events regularly sell out, due to their popular demand,” says Kevin Chorzempa, general manager.

The stylish, modern dining room holds about 230 guests, with a seasonal patio with fire pit that can accommodate another 100 guests. Two rooms, the Priory and the Abbey, are available for private functions; the semi-private Latrappe Room has tables and banquettes for lunch and dinner parties.

Head chef Peter Partaker runs the kitchen with assistant Saul Serna, and the menu is updated seasonally. Among signature dishes are bourbon- and stout-glazed chicken, beer-braised pork shank, and beer-battered fish and chips. Pizza and prime 8-ounce burgers are big sellers.

Homemade desserts include deep-fried sticky doughnuts served with raspberry, chocolate and caramel dipping sauces.

“We’re also known for our fish, steak and chicken tacos,” says Chorzempa. “A lot of customers come from nearby towns, including Schaumburg and Hoffman Estates, but we’re finding more and more people regard us as a destination place. They like our service, beer, food and prices.”

Guests can arrange a tour of the beer-making operation.

The Lucky Monk is open for lunch and dinner Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday to 1 a.m. It accepts reservations and offers free valet parking on weekends.