The fact that the brand new Stout Barrel House and Gallery in River North has a Maine Lobster Roll ($17) on its menu didn't initially faze me. Lobster rolls are impossible to avoid this summer. I'm not sure who exactly opened the flood gates (could be the low prices) but I'm seeing the delicacy, complete with the top split bun, everywhere I go. What did utterly and completely baffle me was how genuinely delicious the version turned out to be. See, Stout is a beer-centric sports bar, the kind of place that may advertise house made sausage, but also has a couple dozen flat screen TVs covering about every wall. And yet, Stout absolutely nails this.
It's about as straightforward as a lobster roll gets. The split-top bun is well buttered (almost too much so), sautéed until browned on the sides, and then piled with lobster meat. There's no goopy mayonnaise or crunchy celery to get in the way. This kind of strict minimalism would mean nothing if the lobster wasn't so plump, sweet, and left in such huge hunks. It's not quite the best lobster roll I've sampled in Chicago, but it is surprisingly solid. Even the price is impressive. Sure, it's $17, but the plate arrives with three half-bun sections, making it more like one and a half lobster rolls.