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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, February 24

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Bar Thu Jul 23 2015

The "New" Villains Prevails

villains01.jpg"Where's Printers Row?" my friend--who works in the neighboring West Loop--asked me. I jumped to explain, throwing out some vague geographical tidbits and something about the annual Printers Row Lit Fest (which I love and have attended regularly ever since moving to Chicago about five years ago). However, I struggled to truly pin an identity to the area. I don't know, it's nice? There's a lot of student housing around there?

Villains, originally debuted in 2007 as a neighborhood bar on Clark Street across from its current "resurrected" incarnation, is doing the work for me by giving us out-of-neighborhooders something to remember Printers Row by. The updated Villains wants to stand out, and does so by pairing an out-of-the-box beer selection with beautifully executed food that excels far beyond the realm of typical "pub grub." There was some love put into this place, and it shows: the interior is spacious and plush, with thoughtful features such as a knob placed next to each booth by which guests can control the intensity of the lighting over their particular area (!!).

However, these little geeky little touches (also including the city's only dual-temperature beer cooler, to keep beverages at optimal temps as specified by the breweries themselves) are only a small part of what made Villains capture my heart. Chicago is a bit of a local beer mecca, but sometimes more far-flung breweries are hard to find represented. Villains, billing themselves as "Black Market Craft," offers a beer menu that I found truly exciting--it's rare to see listings from craft breweries in Japan, Denmark, and (not to be forgotten) Chicago snuggled together so cohesively. Villains is particularly proud of their collection of Mikkeller brews, the Denmark-based brewery with a cult following.

villains02.jpgFood is not to be missed. Chef Dennis Stover (formerly at The Publican, Vie, and others) is not here to reinvent the wheel--his plates are straightforward but supremely flavorful, with a few thoughtful surprises thrown in for good measure (spiced shortbread on a stone fruit salad, honeycomb on pork belly). This type of food may just be my favorite sort to eat: there's a lot of technique to be showcased, but none of it is showy or misplaced. The milk-braised pork belly melted away under a fork, the schmaltz jus was a rich, intensely savory lacquer over grilled chicken. There's also a burger on the menu if you're feeling a little less adventurous, but Chef Stover's take on seasonal produce is where you'll truly find Villains' heart.

A bar with heart--that, in, itself, is somewhat of a rarity. However, if you're willing to make the (not-so-distant) trek to the South Loop, you'll be rewarded with a space that not only stands out in Printers Row but truly stands out among all Chicago bars.

Villains is located at 730 S. Clark St. Photos provided by Villains.

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Rob / August 18, 2015 12:01 PM

Hate to snark, but 730 S. Clark is not in Printers Row. Printers Row runs from the old train station at Polk and Dearborn, north to Congress. Everything else is South Loop.

Brooks / August 21, 2015 10:24 AM

The burger isn't just for the "less adventurous." It might just be the best burger you can get in Chicago. Better than Au Cheval for sure.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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