Gone Phishing

Wyoming's Tela bar + kitchen pays homage to Jam bands, wine and high-level pub grub

Feb 10, 2016 at 11:54 am
click to enlarge Tela bar   kitchen mixes a hip Rock & Roll aesthetic with elevated pub grub and local pours.
Tela bar kitchen mixes a hip Rock & Roll aesthetic with elevated pub grub and local pours.

Having recently discovered Piccolo Wine Room in Glendale, I was intrigued to learn that one of the owners of nearby

Tēla bar + kitchen, L. R. Hunley, had been instrumental in setting up that wine bar a few years back. Then, last July, Hunley teamed up with longtime friend and restaurant veteran Doug Nawrocki to open Tēla on a prominent corner along Springfield Pike in Wyoming. Hunley drew on his Piccolo experience to develop the new restaurant’s wine menu, and they factored in the Glendale customers’ complaints about a lack of dining options in the northwest suburbs when they scouted locations for their venture.

They settled on a large building in a tiny strip center with a big parking lot in back, and they loved that up to 20,000 cars pass that corner each weekday. Since they wanted to provide what Nawrocki called “pub grub executed at a much higher level” than you can find anywhere nearby, the site looked just about perfect.

The two men divvy up the work: Nawrocki manages the kitchen and bar, including beer and craft cocktails, while Hunley runs the front of the house and keeps the wine list current. Serving both lunch and dinner six days a week, Tēla does steady business and really rocks on weekends.

We found that out when we turned up for a 7 p.m. Saturday reservation. Our friends had claimed the table before we arrived, so we didn’t get to hang out in the invitingly designed bar. It’s separated from the dining room by a low wall and features a sofa and easy chair seating area by the front window; behind that is a bar with about a dozen stools and a few high-top tables. I could imagine it as a comfortable place for lunch or to meet someone for drinks on the way home from work.

The drinks list includes a couple dozen beers in cans and bottles ($2.50 for Budweiser and other mass-produced domestics to $18 for large-format Belgian-style ale), six “handcrafted cocktails” ($9 each) and 30 selected wines, of which about a dozen are available by the glass ($6-$12).

Tēla also offers house wines by the quartino or half carafe ($9-$17) and eight rotating beer taps with local and regional selections ($7-$10). My companions all went with draft beers, and I tried a pretty good bourbon cocktail called C Brown, mixed with apple cider, maple syrup and a couple other ingredients, served on the rocks.

Rock & Roll cognoscenti will appreciate the numerous music references, starting with the restaurant’s name, taken from a song title by the owners’ favorite band, Phish. At least four menu items contain sly nods to that band’s playlist, and I caught the Pulp Fiction allusion in their naming the burger the “Royale with Cheese.”

The pub-grub slant is apparent at the top of the dinner menu, with items such as pretzel nuggets, chicken wings and poutine. What brings this fare to a “higher level” might be such twists as preparing the wings as confit or adding pork belly to the poutine. One of our party ordered the Pendery’s Poutine ($9) as his entrée and loved the combo that included hand-cut fries, cheddar cheese curds and housemade gravy along with a fried egg.

Three of us had salads, ranging from a beet salad ($9.50) to an iceberg wedge ($6) or a mix based on Brussels sprouts ($9). I liked the sprouts best, although I was surprised to see the main ingredient was raw, not cooked. It worked; the thinly shaved green vegetable was well complemented by golden raisins, walnuts and tasty bits of lardon. I had asked for a light hand on the maple vinaigrette, but it seemed as though the kitchen had forgotten to add any dressing at all. Even so, I enjoyed this salad, and the others were pretty good, too. The fourth starter was Mussels and ’Shrooms ($11.50), shiitake mushrooms, mushroom stock, red onion and herbs, which got an “A+” from our friend Melissa.

For main courses, along with the poutine, we sampled braised pork shank ($24), the evening’s “Phish” special of sautéed sea scallops over quinoa ($25) and the vegetarian whole grain bowl ($14). The scallops were cooked just right, and their savory grain bed hit all the right notes. Melissa loved the balsamic-glazed roasted Brussels sprouts with the pork shank, a hunk of meat large enough to require a doggie bag for leftovers. My grain bowl based on local wheat berries, while nicely seasoned, would have benefitted from more veggies in the mix. It tasted a little too starchy.

A dessert menu is divided into Sweets and Stickies or glasses of dessert wines. Our server recommended the éclair cake ($6) and it didn’t disappoint — but what’s not to like about a cream-filled, chocolate ganache-frosted éclair? We tried a slice of apple cake ($6), made with cream cheese vanilla cake and bourbon glaze, and I ordered a delicious glass of tawny port ($8).

We spent hours talking with our friends, and the tables around us turned over more than once while we took our time. Nobody seemed to mind since the place was busy but not overrun. All told, it was a fun evening. ©

Go: 1212 Springfield Pike, Wyoming;

Call: 513-821-8352;

Internet: telabarandkitchen.com;

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday-Saturday.