Is it just me, or is Petrol Station Oak Forest's best kept secret?
A confluence of events revolving around unruly children, the need for beer, and a chance Twitter conversation landed me at the converted service station on a recent Sunday night. Nestled between houses on a quiet residential street, Petrol Station looks more like an utterly unpretentious neighborhood joint than a hangout for beer geeks. Fortunately, it's a bit of both, and has some damn decent food, as well.
My wife retired to the spacious patio, kids in tow, while I arranged for some burgers and brews. The tap wall at Petrol isn't huge, but it is populated by selections that don't show up at many beer joints around town. As Deryck Whibley would say, it's all killer, no filler. I struck up a conversation with one of the friendly and informative gents behind the L-shaped bar, and talked through a few recommendations.
When I noticed Left Hand Milk Stout on tap, I knew that one was a given. My wife and I have fallen in love with this smooth, creamy, full flavored stout. Plus, it was on a nitro tap, rendering it luxurious in texture, almost like a milkshake. Nitro taps occasionally dial beers back a bit too much for my liking, muting the flavor and stretching it out through the glass. The creaming effect simply served to amplify everything that's great about this beer, though, almost forcing you to revel in its many subtleties.
Number two ended up being a bit of a wild-card suggestion, in the form of Flying Dog Brewery's 20th anniversary beer, Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA. I won't go into much detail here, as I've got a sixer of the bitch in my fridge right now, with Brew Blog written all over it.
With the important decisions out of the way, we moved on to the food menu. I went with Mary's Lamb Burger, despite its disconcerting stab at menu cuteness, while my kids selected pint-size Petrol Burgers off the kids menu (that's right, a craft beer bar with a freaking kids menu) and convinced the kitchen to top each with a fried egg. I have smart kids. My wife ordered shepherd's pie.
The kids' burgers were perfectly cooked to a nicely juicy medium, and full of beefy flavor. Their diminutive size made the beef-to-yolk ratio something like 2-1, resulting in an insanely messy but extremely rich burger experience that made me wonder why topping sliders with fried eggs hasn't exploded, yet.
My lamb burger was cooked to the requested medium rare, something I find harder and harder to convince restaurants to actually do (and I'm not alone). The lamb flavor was a bit muted, but added a subtly gamy bite to the burger. Sauced with a tzatziki-like yogurt and topped with tomatoes, cucumber and feta cheese, the burger tasted like a pub-grub version of a gyro, and it was delicious. The tang of the yogurt, richness of the meat, and fresh accent of the cucumber played perfectly, and went extremely well with the mix of sweet and bitter offered in my beer selection. My wife's shepherd's pie was serviceable but underwhelming.
Petrol Station impressed with its combination of great beer, good food, and an atmosphere so laid-back and welcoming, it felt a lot like having dinner in an extension of our own backyard. I just wish my backyard had a nitro tap.