The bar area at Vie restaurant in Western Springs.
The serene bar area of Virant’s three-star gem in Western Springs


Our favorite of the evening was a porter called Dirty Old Man. Hmm.

DINING Hey, Chicago, did you hear? Craft beer in the Windy City is kind of big now. With last month’s Stout Fest, last week’s Craft Brewers Conference, and the opening of three breweries in the past two years (Metropolitan, Half Acre, and, most recently, Revolution in Logan Square), it’s easy to feel a bit saturated—in suds. That is why I leave the decision-making to the professionals.

Scene from a beer dinner at Vie, Paul Virant's fine-dining restaurant in Western Springs
One of the delicious pours that night

Two weeks ago, I made the trek to Western Springs for a beer dinner at Vie. Chef Paul Virant teamed up with a "beer sommelier" from Windy City Distribution, a local company that deals in specialty beers from around the country, and Metropolitan’s brew master Doug Hurst for a five-course meal with pairings of regional brews (actually, it was more like an eight-courser). Sure, I like my Gumballhead and my Stone Soup on a good day, but I don’t have a clue when it comes to pairing beer with dry-aged beef, rye dumplings, Bordeaux spinach, and foie gras butter. The answer: a Dirty Old Man. Dark brews are not my favorite (I struggled with some of the gag-inducing, vanilla-flavored samples at Stout Fest), but this chocolatey porter from Tyranena Brewing Co. in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, enriched the beef flavor and topped my favorites of the evening. Tyranena was popular on the menu, too: Virant paired food with three of its beers, including the tangy Scurvy IPA (with blackened arctic char) and the brown ale Rocky’s Revenge (with mind-blowing aged gouda from the Winchester Cheese Company, beer jam, bacon, and glazed almonds).

By the end, I was stuffed and slap-happy, but the best part of the meal was the commentary. Virant and Hurst mingled with the small group (maybe 40 total), dispensing expertise and enthusiasm. I didn’t take many notes after beer No. 3, but I kept a copy of my menu for reference the next time I’m at the Godzilla Whole Foods in Lincoln Park. I plan on getting my hands on some Dirty Old Man.

Beer not your thing? Chicago mixologist Adam Seger (Nacional 27) joins Chef Virant for a seven-course meal with cocktail pairings next Tuesday.

GO: Adam Seger at Vie. Apr 20 at 6:30 p.m. $125. 4471 Lawn, Western Springs.

  • In May 2005, we declared Virant Chicago’s Best New Chef in our annual best new restaurants issue.
  • Vie gets three stars from Chicago magazine’s dining editors.
  • In March 2007, we published the recipe for Virant’s famous Gooey Butter Cake.
  • Food & Wine magazine named Virant one of its Best New Chefs of 2007.


Photographs: (top, thumbnail) Courtesy Vie; (right) Cecile-Anne Sison