The “gastropub,” a drinking place that specializes in serving high-quality food, is represented in Chicago by relative newcomers like Longman and Eagle, The Portage  and, opening within the next few weeks, Blokes and Birds. All these restaurant/taverns feature more than the usual lineup of “bar food” and an ambitious selection of microbrews.

Given Oak Park regulations that limit the sale of liquor to only those venues where food is served and our population of increasingly food savvy villagers, it’s a little surprising that we don’t have more places like The Kinderhook Tap, which makes a genuine effort to offer lesser known brews and food that reflect a more adventurous spirit than one might find at a regular bar.

Unfortunately, though The Kinderhook Tap is riding a trend that seems tailor-made for Oak Park, the food needs work.  I ate there on several occasions and found that the chow ranged from okay to just about inedible: the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich ($12) was a study in sourness, with the sharpness of the Buffalo sauce brutally reinforced with green apple and feta, a misconceived dish served with limp and cold French fries.  On another visit, I had a Kinderhook Burger ($12) stuffed with melted cheese that slimed out of the patty with the first bite and left an odd cavity where the cheese once was, just an odd – though inventive – take on the standard cheeseburger.  The nachos($9)  proved to be the predictably huge pile of standard-issue chips drenched in a sheen  of the easily recognizable and unnaturally orange-yellow cheese, with no effort made to upgrade the ingredients or serve anything more than would be expected at a sports stadium.

Still, it’s hard not to admire the aspirations of The Kinderhook Tap, and I really dig the Martin Van Buren theming. Nonetheless, I have to believe this place can do better.

We’d like to hear what others think about The Kinderhook Tap, especially if you had a good experience, because Oak Park needs more places that set higher goals than simply satisfying the lowest common denominator. The Kinderhook Tap seems to aim for that, but it isn’t there yet.

The Kinderhook Tap

800 S. Oak Park Ave

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...

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