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Review

Sandy Noto

Middle Brow Bungalow

$$$$
Written by
Sandy Noto

In a city full of approximately 67,946 brewpubs, not including the suburbs, Middle Brow Bungalow stands out. Instead of being a dark bar with burgers, pretzels, and bacon-fat everything, it’s light and bright, serving fresh-baked bread and pizza. It feels more like a non-obnoxious version of your friend’s wedding vision board than a typical Chicago brewpub, and being here is like hanging out at a casual DIY wedding reception done right.

If you’ve ever visited Pinterest, you have a good idea of what Middle Brow Bungalow looks and feels like. The space features refurbished furniture, an old piano, plants in birdcages, and a communal picnic table topped with tea lights in glass votives. Unlike your cousin’s wedding in a cow pasture that’s 45 minutes away from the nearest hotel, this spot is both charming and comfortable. And the food here is actually enjoyable (and not ham-and-cheese pinwheels slowly expiring on a buffet table).

Sandy Noto

Middle Brow, unlike most brew pubs, is open all day and has a short menu of housemade bread in addition to pizzas and beer. For breakfast, you can get a variety of toasts like turmeric milk jam with cream cheese, sugar and spice, or pecan butter with honey. The bread ranges from whole grain to rye to country loaf, and all of it is crusty, soft, and flavorful. It’s exactly what you want it to be, and the toasts make for an easy, straightforward breakfast.

While relaxing here in the morning is nice, our favorite time to visit is with friends over some pizzas, which have a delicious and chewy hand-tossed crust with a puffy, bubbled edge. There isn’t a huge variety to choose from, but the best ones are the margherita (you can add pepperoni if you want) and the sausage. Both have just the right amount of fresh mozzarella and a slightly sweet tomato sauce we really like.

Sandy Noto

Like a friend doing you a “favor” by moonlighting as an amateur wedding caterer, some of the more creative attempts on this menu don’t go so well. The mushroom pizza with fontina and caramelized onions is soggy, and the seasonal pizzas can be inconsistent (like an overly acidic butternut squash or a tasty but greasy ramp). But all of Middle Brow’s beers go well with whatever pizza you get - they have a wide-ranging selection, including some Belgian and European styles you don’t see that often. And even if you don’t like your pizza, you’ll probably still have a good time.

DIY wedding operations are tricky. They can be very cute, but all the sunflower-filled mason jars in the world won’t make bad homebrew taste better, and no amount of rustic charm will change the fact that the barn venue doesn’t have a bathroom. Handled correctly, though, they can be likable, charming, and fun. That’s the case at Middle Brow Bungalow, and being here is something you’ll want to RSVP “yes” to.

Food Rundown

Sandy Noto
Margherita Pizza

This is, hands down, our favorite pizza here. It uses great ingredients (fresh mozzarella and high-quality meat) and has just the right amount of slightly sweet sauce so the delicious crust shines through.

Sausage Pizza

The sausage pizza has the same sauce as the margherita, so your preference between the two will be based on your love of sausage. But just to be safe, you should probably get both.

Sandy Noto
Mushroom Pizza

From a flavor standpoint, this pizza is great. But the crust doesn’t hold up to all the fontina cheese, mushrooms, and too-large pieces of caramelized onions.

Sandy Noto
Seasonal Pizza

If you like playing pizza roulette, get the seasonal pizza. They range from butternut squash and calabrian chili to asparagus to roasted and pickled ramps. We haven’t found one we were really impressed with, but you might. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Sandy Noto
Toast

This place has outstanding bread, which thankfully you can also buy in loaves. Order the pecan butter and honey on whole grain for breakfast, and get some of the country white for the table with your pizza - it comes with plenty of house-cultured butter that’s 100% acceptable to spread on your pizza crust.

Salad

Yes, they have a salad here, and it’s the sort of salad you’d make after going wild at Whole Foods and getting a hold of some daikon and high-quality red oak lettuce, then remembering you don’t own a salad spinner. The lettuce leaves are big, the citrus vinaigrette is tasty, and the whole thing is wet. Skip it.

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