One of the top places to load up on carbohydrates in the United States — as touted by a Travel Channel show this month — debuted Tuesday in downtown Barrington.
Gnarly Knots Pretzel Co., on Hough Street just south of Main Street, features house-made traditional Bavarian-style creations. Barrington marks the second location for the wildly popular Gnarly Knots, which opened in Winfield in 2013.
Under a licensing deal with Gnarly Knots co-founders Funi McLoughlin and Matt Finn, St. Charles resident Guy Sorrentino controls the Barrington location and has the rights to start others across the country. Sorrentino owns NeoTeca Pizza and Wine Bar on Hough Street across from Gnarly Knots and similar restaurants in Naperville and St. Charles.
Gnarly Knots not only has traditional plain pretzels, but also uses them for stuffed sandwiches with fillings such as salami and provolone cheese, chicken pesto, brisket and Italian sausage. There are cinnamon sugar and garlic Parmesan pretzels, too.
“I work with flour and water every day and I make pizzas,” Sorrentino said as the first customers arrived Tuesday morning at Gnarly Knots. “Theirs is a quintessential pretzel. The one that you’re always looking for.”
Gnarly Knots received a national stamp of approval of sorts when it was one of the establishments in the “Carb Overload” episode on Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” early this month. McLoughlin said about a hundred calls and emails quickly followed with requests for Gnarly Knots shipments — something the business does not do.
McLoughlin and Finn, a Lombard native, met while working at the same Seattle restaurant. The Gnarly Knots concept was born after McLoughlin made mini pretzel sandwiches in a food competition with friends in 2010.
After moving to the Chicago area in 2012, Finn and McLoughlin started Gnarly Knots by selling pretzels at farmers markets in Downers Grove and Riverside. They opened in the Winfield building near Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in May 2013.
“They are the best thing ever, actually,” said McLoughlin, who wanted to perfect the soft pretzels she was used to eating in her hometown Philadelphia.
Sorrentino said the Gnarly Knots licensing agreement came after his sister arranged a meeting for him with McLoughlin and Finn. He decided to pursue the deal, which was finalized in February, after he was wowed by the pretzel he ate.
Gnarly Knots becomes the latest addition to downtown Barrington’s growing eating and drinking scene. Last week, Flesk Brewing Co. opened at the Ice House Mall and Village Shops.
Among the Gnarly Knots customers Tuesday were Barrington resident Mary Polizzi, 43, and her three sons. They went out to lunch to celebrate Vince Polizzi, 16, receiving his first driver’s license.
“I’m ecstatic to see Barrington actually come back to life and be the town that it can be,” said Mary Polizzi, who grew up in the village.