It’s a miracle that nobody got sick!
Nope, I’m not talking about from the food at Owen & Engine, I’m talking about at our house. This is the third time we’ve tried to go to Owen & Engine in Chicago over the last couple months, and the first time we’ve been successful. The previous two attempts were thwarted by sick family members that caused us to have to cancel our reservations, which was a bummer as we’ve really been looking forward to trying out the food here.
Thankfully on this attempt everyone was healthy and feeling good and we were able to make it down to the restaurant. I even thought about not making a reservation just because I didn’t want to jinx us, but seeing as how it was restaurant week and a Saturday night, I figured it was better to just roll the dice and see what happened, and thankfully it all worked out.
And on top if that, we even found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant as we pulled up, which was a nice little bonus.
Owen & Engine Chicago – The Restaurant
We arrived at the restaurant about 45 minutes early for our reservation, but our table was already waiting for us so instead of just having a drink at the bar, we decided to grab our table and just have a drink there while we waited to get a little more hungry.
As we walked in the door of the restaurant I was a little shocked by how small it was. There were a few tables (maybe 4) near the front window, and then a bar that spans the rest of the length of the restaurant, with a few high tops along the side window. It’s a very narrow space, but had a nice warm cozy type feel to it.
Of course those were just my first impressions as I didn’t realize there was an upstairs until the host lead us up to where our table was.
Upstairs isn’t much bigger, but it seemed to feel a bit larger to me because of how the bar and the tables were setup.
There’s a smaller bar upstairs that has a fireplace with some general seating next to it, and on the other side of it was a little dining area that had maybe 6 tables or so. Across from the bar are two 4-tops and two 2-tops that run the length of the restaurant. Again, it’s not huge upstairs, but the way things were spaced out made it feel less cramped than downstairs. Either way though, the atmosphere was dark and intimate. Not quite what I had in mind when I heard it was an English Gastropub, but I’m not complaining.
It was a tad bit dark for me take pictures, since I refuse to use a flash, but thankfully the new iPhone 11 Pro takes some good quality low-light photos, so it wasn’t really an issue… I just couldn’t take pictures directly in Instagram for my story, which was fine, I don’t like being on my phone when we’re at restaurants anyways.
After a few minutes of getting situated our server Kevin came up and welcomed us to the restaurant and explained a few of the menu items to us, as well as the special Chicago Restaurant Week menu, which we didn’t take part in. I can see how it would be a decent deal if you got a dessert, and there were a couple things on the Restaurant Week menu that weren’t on the regular menu, but based on what we knew we were going to order, we didn’t feel it was worth the price for us.
We had already looked at the food menu, and of course heard how incredible their burger was supposed to be, so we already had an idea of what we wanted, and the Restaurant Week menu didn’t change our minds on that.
Drinks – Cocktails & Wine
After a few minutes looking over the drink menu we decided on a glass of wine and a cocktail.
Normally I’m pretty basic when it comes to my cocktails, Tito’s and Soda with a lemon is my drink of choice, but as I’ve decided to put more of an effort into this site this year, I decided to branch out a bit and order a specialty cocktail off of the menu, while my wife went with a white wine.
My wife also decided to branch out a bit and went with the ’17 Domaine du Viking La Craie Vouvray (Chenin Blanc) wine, which she actually didn’t care for too much. I can’t remember what she ordered the second time around, but she said her next glass of wine as much better than the first.
As for my cocktail I was torn between two drinks, the Wedding Present and Marvin’s Opinion. Now, as I mentioned before Tito’s vodka and Soda are my usual goto, and before that I was a Captain Morgan Rum & Coke type of person, and a lot of these cocktails were made with liquors I was not a fan of like Malort, Whiskey, Scotch, Cognac, and Gin. However, the two drinks I was torn between, one was made with Mezcal and the other with Rum, so I figured I’d be ok with either of those… and I left it up to the decision of our server…
I’m sorry Kevin, but maybe it’s just because I’m super dull in my drink choices, but the Wedding Present cocktail was not good.
The combination of Mezcal, Grapefruit Liqueur, and Ginger Liqueur was not what I thought it would be… although I’m not really sure why I expected it to be a bit on the sweet side – maybe I thought the mezcal would be a bit sweeter. Either way, I was wrong, it was not good… but I still drank the entire thing. I’m sure there are people out there that will enjoy it, but it was not the drink for me. It literally just tasted like straight liquor… because that’s exactly what it was, so I’m not sure why I thought it would taste differently. Oh well, you live and learn.
However, by the end of the glass I was feeling pretty good, and with a little melted ice in my cup, it didn’t taste as bad. I will say though, my next drink, vodka soda, tasted much better to me.
If you’re a beer drinker though, they have a nice selection of beers, we just aren’t, so I can’t comment on any of those.
Food – Scotch Eggs, Sausage, Burger and Fish
Before we even made the reservation the first time we attempted to visit, I knew I was going to try the burger. The burger from Owen & Engine is always on the list of Top Burgers in Chicago with the likes of The Loyalist and Au Cheval, so there was no question about what I was going to order, but my wife wasn’t quite sure.
As we mulled the menu and she tried to decide what she wanted for her entree, it still wasn’t even our reservation time so we decided to start off with some small plates.
The restaurant is an English Gastropub that specializes in making their own sausages, cheeses and breads from scratch in house, so we had to at least try something they made from scratch – and that something was the sausage.
We started with a charcuterie and cheese plate that consisted of the daily sausage, which was a lamb sausage and the Barber Cheddar cheese (which, unfortunately is not one of their homemade cheeses, but it is flown in from England). The plate also came with bread, a strawberry jam-type dip, a small cheese pastry, as well as some other small items to munch on, but we were here for the sausage and cheese.
The cheddar cheese is aged 20 months (I believe is what Kevin told us), which means that it’s a very sharp cheddar, but it wasn’t bad. Usually I’m a simple person when it comes to my cheeses, you know, American cheese, Mild Cheddar Cheese, Mozzarella, Provolone… the basic stuff, but I actually liked the Barber Cheddar quite a bit. Not enough to get it on my burger, but the burger isn’t intended to have cheese anyways, so I wasn’t going to add it anyways.
The lamb sausage was better than I was expecting. It has a bit of a bite to it, a little spiciness, but overall it was very good and I would definitely try it again. I’d say I’d recommend it, but it was the sausage of the day, so it may not be on the menu every single time.
In addition the sausage and cheese, my wife knew she wanted to order the Scotch Egg – a soft boiled farm egg, pork sausage and stout mustard, so we made sure to get that as well.
I told her I would definitely try it even though it looked different, it was still a bunch of ingredients I knew I could handle – and it was delicious.
The sausage was not nearly as spicy as the lamb sausage we had, it almost tasted like a breakfast sausage (seeing as how it’s pork, that makes sense), and it balanced well with the egg. I thought for sure it was going to be a bit weird, but it wasn’t at all and I would definitely recommend ordering it.
I did dip my fork in the stout mustard, but it wasn’t my thing so I didn’t bother putting it on the food.
By this time we’re trying so hard to stretch out our night, we have a babysitter, we don’t want to be home before the kids go to bed, so we order another drink and finally choose our entrees.
The Burger that Owen & Engine is known for is extremely simple. It’s a variety of different meat cuts ground together, topped with caramelized onions served with fries and malt vinegar mayo on the side. Of course I’m going to do what I do best and take everything off of the burger and make it how I want it made, but in this case I don’t think that’s much of an issue.
I can’t eat onions in general, so even if I liked caramelized onions I couldn’t have them on there, and that just leaves the meat. There is no cheese on the burger, there’s no lettuce and no tomato. It’s literally just meat and onions.
They do, however, tell you that you can add bacon or a fried egg to the burger if you want, so that’s what I decided to do.
I didn’t want to take away any of the meat flavor, so I decided against adding bacon to the burger, and instead went with the fried egg, which I think was the right choice. I remember adding the bacon to the burger at Au Cheval and I thought it was a huge mistake. These burgers stand on their own two feet without the need for bacon, in my opinion.
The burger at Owen & Engine differs from the burgers at places like Au Cheval in that it’s a thick pub-type burger, as opposed to a thinner, griddle patty. And personally I actually prefer the thinner griddle patties that you find at a lot of places now, but this burger at Owen & Engine was absolutely delicious.
I can definitely say that out of all of the thicker pub-style burgers I’ve had over the years, this is definitely my favorite. Hands down.
I had it cooked medium, and I think it was a touch more medium-rare, which is totally fine. All of the different cuts of meat blended together perfectly and each bite was incredible. I honestly could have been totally fine without the fried egg on it, it was that good. And the way the juices from the meat got soaked up into the bun…oh man, so good.
I would definitely agree with all of those lists that put this burger in the top 10 burgers in the Chicagoland area, it was truly that good.
That being said, I would absolutely even order the Fish and Chips as a meal for myself after having a few bites of my wife’s meal.
The fish and chips is just that simple, two fried pieces of haddock fish with a side of fries and two different sauces (which I did not try).
I’m not a huge fish person, but after having a few bites of this, I would definitely order it for myself if we make it back. And my wife, who loves seafood, couldn’t stop raving about it, as well as the sauces that came with it.
So basically, if you’re looking for good food with a dark and intimate atmosphere, with ok cocktails and wine, but a good beer selection, I would highly recommend checking out Owen & Engine. I’m sad that it took us three attempts to make it here, but it was absolutely worth the wait.