Ah, the ubiquitous diner-- where one goes to meet friends, cure hangovers, and linger over endless cups of coffee. To me, the perfect diner provides a rallying point for its community. Johnny's Grill, the Logan Square mainstay, has always served up diner standards while offering the perfect position to people-watch across the square. When the original Johnny's Grill closed in summer of 2014, the iconic spot remained empty for a little over a year-- until August 2015, when it opened its doors again and the old-school Johnny's Grill signage remained untouched.
In fact, most of the interior is very recognizable-- counter seating, vinyl bar stools, laminated menus-- just brighter, updated. Chef Sarah Jordan, mostly recognized for her previous work as a pastry chef, now has her hands in all aspects of the restaurant and seems to know what the people want. The breakfast menu features tried-and-true standbys such as "Johnny cakes" and a full Irish breakfast (Jordan herself is originally from Dublin). However, when I visited recently, it was for dinner.
Along with updating the original Johnny's Grill space, Jordan also expanded into a defunct florist next door, creating the Flower Shop Bar-- a complete one-eighty from the old-school diner vibe. The Flower Shop is dim and quirky, with vibrant teal walls and light fixtures that seem to float above the bar. Drinks include cocktail classics, along with budget-friendly boilerplates and Moody Tongue beers on tap. Dinner options (also available at lunchtime) are varied and surprising: there's your double cheeseburger, yes, but also Irish Bacon Bap sandwich (thick-cut bacon, Swiss cheese, and giardineira) and, on my recent visit, a pleasantly spicy tofu Bahn Mi on a soft roll. Specials are ever-changing, and my friend and I polished off a bowl of fragrant red lentil dal. Definitely not a diner standby, but there was no complaining. On a past visit I also tried the fish and chips-- one of my personal go-to's-- and found it crispy but tender in all the right ways, and an appropriate diner portion (i.e.: large).
Yes, it may take some time for some to completely come around to the idea of a "new" Johnny's-- there are significant changes at this new iteration, but at its heart, it maintains that greasy-spoon vibe (just with less actual grease). Most importantly, it serves up lovingly-made food with a dash of personality-- and that classic people-watching perch.
"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 (!!).
On a quiet street in River North, not too far from the bustle of Michigan Ave, emerges another sound--this one, nostalgic. The chime of pinball machines, the thumping of control panels, snippets from Back to the Future. Compared to its neighbors in River North, HQ Beercade is an eccentric bar, but a good one, with a lively atmosphere and fantastic drinks. This adult arcade is the perfect retro escape for '80s children wanting to relive their Reebok Pump and Paula Abdul childhoods.
Metro Deli, billed as "Union Station's official commuter bar," closed on June 19.
"I'm not sure if it was a Chicago institution, but it sure felt like one," says reader Larry Dahlke. "The food was actually pretty good, and the fact that they had live music was impressive. It definitely had a Boulevard of Broken Dreams vibe, but it was my favorite place to go for lunch, and I'm going to miss it."
Metro Deli was owned by Schaumburg-based Ala Carte Entertainment, which last year sold Castle -- the nightclub you may know better as Excalibur -- to Four Corners Management. This closure leaves Ala Carte with a total of 20 restaurants and bars, but takes its Chicago locations down to three: Lion Head Pub and The Apartment in Lincoln Park and Moretti's in Edison Park.
Sunday's "A Day in the Country" at the Hideout looked like it was plucked straight out of a summery, smoky day in the south and dropped right in the middle of an otherwise gloomy Chicago--warm weather, lawn chairs, and plenty of dancing late into the night.
The music, of course, was the main event. A wide array of country-rooted styles including the punk rock-tinged jams of the Siderunners and the velvety crooning of Sarah Potenza drew a devoted crowd. Event organizer and local musician Lawrence Peters played one of the liveliest sets of the night, transforming the Hideout into a swirling dance floor.
The food included Honky Tonk BBQ's pulled pork sandwiches and corn on the cob, and Bang Bang Pie provided dessert (which disappeared very quickly). Lagunitas Brewery was featured on tap.
If you were unable to make the event, or simply looking to find out more about the music you heard, check out the following links to transport you back to A Day in the Country.
It'll be a pie-eatin', beer-guzzlin' good time at the eighth annual "A Day in the Country" music extravaganza, this upcoming Sunday at the Hideout.
Presented by Chicago-based musician Lawrence Peters, the all-day event will feature brews from Lagunitas Brewing Company, pies from Bang Bang, and barbecue from Honky Tonk BBQ-- representing the best of Chicago's picnic-ready food and drink.
Peters has also invited an array of bands representing a wide spectrum of country music genres, including bluegrass and honky tonk. Artists such as headliner Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys, Derek Hoke, Sarah Potenza, and Peters' own The Lawrence Peters Outfit perform throughout the day across two different stages.
Stop by the Hideout on Sunday, June 14 to be a part of the action. Doors open at 1 pm and performances continue until 11 pm. Click here to see the full lineup. Tickets are $10 and the Hideout is located at 1354 W. Wabansia.
Synonymous with the sugar-saturated, brownish liquid one sips on a cold winter's day, cider is a seriously understated beverage. Cider is essentially fermented fruit juice, with the same complexities and diversity as wine. It was actually extremely popular in the U.S. during the late 1700s, but German beer and Prohibition quickly stymied its growth. Spain and England are the world's primary producers of cider, though France and the U.S. are burgeoning markets. Today, cider accounts for roughly 1% of the total U.S. beer market, although some experts believe that projection will increase to 5% within the next five years.
Cider presence in Chicago is decent, though obviously minuscule compared to the craft beer scene. One restaurant team is trying to change that by opening Chicago's first cider-oriented bistro-pub. From the group behind Fountainhead in Ravenswood, The Northman will offer 100+ ciders in bottles, draft, and cask. Located in Lincoln Square, The Northman will open its doors in Spring 2015, but I attended a recent pop-up showcasing its cider and food menu:
Despite its legacy on Division, in an interview with Good Beer Hunting, owner Phil McFarland said that the bar has been fighting against the current of the area's nightlife trends in recent years. "I wanted to prove that what Division St. has become could co-exist with what we wanted to do," McFarland said. "So we've been fighting hard to maintain a hold, and relevancy on the street. And we have, but I'm looking to have a business that's growing, not fighting to survive."
Before it closes, Smallbar will host two more events. One will be a "pop-up taproom" Nov. 3 with Firestone Walker, with eight beers from the California brewery on tap, including four rarities only available that night. Then on Nov. 13, the bar will throw a Festival of Barrel-Aged Beers pre-party as its final sendoff, with rare barrel-aged beers, brewers from several local breweries on hand, and a general celebratory vibe.
Three Dots and a Dash turned 1 year old on July 31, and, Paul McGee and company are throwing a party tonight to celebrate. Starting at 5pm, the first 150 customers will receive free tote bags and t-shirts, and everyone after that will get temporary tattoos and sunglasses. McGee will be behind the bar, introducing five new cocktails:
Though I'd normally order a cocktail before anything neat, I happily sipped my tumbler of straight amaro while sitting at the bar in CH Distillery. I had a grand view of the distilling equipment, the massive column still the perfect eye candy for savoring my drink.
I had read about the cocoa nibs and honey (both made in Illinois) that go into the new CH Amaro, but I still expected something dark and bitter. Amari, that catch all-category of bitter-and-sweet Italian digestifs, are part of a bigger, very bitter family of liqueurs that, as Grub Street notes, are "steeped with roots and tasting like dirt-infused toothpaste." They make me think of disheveled old men, slamming back shots of something as harsh as they look.
While bitter, there's nothing dank and forest-floor about CH Amaro. Made from a rum base and infused with honey, it has a little sweetness but it's not cloying, the cocoa nibs balanced with a touch of cinnamon spice and grapefruit. The bitterness presents in the back of the mouth like a melting piece of very dark chocolate, which, coupled with the pleasant heft on the palate, encourages slow sipping.
As Belgium, home of the Red Devils, luscious chocolates, and saison-style beer, observes its independence from the Netherlands on Monday, July 21, Maria's Package Goods & Community Bar (960 W. 31st St.) will celebrate by featuring beers from Belgian-style brewer Brewery Ommegang.
From 7 to 9pm, Maria's will serve the one-time, limited-release 2014 Belgian IPA along with other selections from the Cooperstown, NY-based brewer, such as Fleur de Houblon and Rare Vos, for $1 off the usual price. Other Belgian-style beers will be on special while Belgian-inspired savory pies from Pleasant House Bakery will be available for noshing.
Chicago Craft Beer Week starts Thursday and continues on through May 25 with as many as 300 bars and bottle shops in the city and suburbs celebrating Chicagoland's massive selection of creative, awesome beer. Events range from the Beerfly Alleyfight, which fuses art and beer, to pub crawls to $4 beer specials.
On April 7, 1933, Herman Berghoff, founder of The Berghoff Restaurant, secured the first two liquor licenses issued by the City of Chicago after the repeal of Prohibition. Liquor license #1 was obtained for the Berghoff Bar and license #2 for the Berghoff Restaurant. Those original licenses are still on display inside the Berghoff Bar and have become a popular photo opp for tourists and locals.
On any Monday during the month of April, Berghoff's is inviting customers to snap a photo with the #1 liquor license and post it to either Facebook or Twitter. The first 30 people will receive a stein of Berghoff Beer for a dime.
Steadfast wino that I am, I don't know a ton about whiskey, except I like it in cocktails and Hot Toddies. Luckily, Fountainhead (1970 W. Montrose) has put together a series of whiskey classes, part of their "School of Spirits," running now through March.
I missed their first class earlier this month, an Introduction to American Whiskeys. It covered the basics of whiskey tasting and terminology, among other topics, and featured five tastings from different producers, like Knob Creek, Bulleit, and Koval. I did make it to the following week's class, "The Whiskeys of Heaven Hill," which featured four tastings from the Bardstown, Kentucky-based distiller, the third largest producer of American whiskey.
Over twenty students attended the sold-out class, which was held in Fountainhead's barrel room behind the bar. Sections of old whiskey barrels decorated the space above the seating area, blessing the class. The chatter of the restaurant provided a lively, if at times loud, atmosphere and reminded me of how much fun it can be to hangout at a bar with friends.
The Whistler is accepting submissions for its Jan. 30th Friends and Family Cocktail Challenge, in which the night's cocktail offerings will be determined by the best recipe submitted by their fans, friends and/or foes. The winner gets prizes and a lifetime of humble brags. Email your detailed recipe by 5pm this Thursday to the Whistler; two submissions per person. Mine is called the Strawberry Squash Alley Cat.
Throughout this month, Drive-Thru staffers will be writing about their favorite bars and restaurants to celebrate the holiday, as so much of the holiday is not the day itself, but the days that come before -- the places you end up at after a holiday party, a day of errands and shopping, or just to hide away from the shorter days and colder weather.
Perched along the quiet 3400 block of Elston Avenue is the coziest pub in Chicago. Yep I said it. Chief O'Neill's Pub & Restaurant boasts a crackling fireplace, above which the Chief's portrait keeps a watchful eye over unruly patrons (ne'er to be seen). Celtic knot-themed stained glass line the windows and keep the grit from Elston out of eye sight. Poinsettias and garlands line the booths, tables and bar for a nice festive touch.
Chief's does have a decent craft beer list but I like to focus on the standard Irish bar pours as their Snakebite and Black and Tans taste particularly good while nestled in a booth with friends. The Guinness and Cheddar soup is a must do, especially considering the four block walk you trudged along to get here from the Belmont Blue Line stop. Goat cheese fondue and peat smoked shrimp are other toasty favorites. And the Harp-battered Atlantic cod either in fish and chip form or on their sandwich is light enough that you can handle another snakebite or two, but will sustain you for the walk back to Belmont.
I've admittedly never been able to decipher their music schedule but it's worth a call ahead of time to see if wandering musicians may find their way to the pub that night. Past 9pm, most likely there will be some folks playing something that you can tap your pint to.
Throughout this month, Drive-Thru staffers will be writing about their favorite bars and restaurants to celebrate the holiday, as so much of the holiday is not the day itself, but the days that come before -- the places you end up at after a holiday party, a day of errands and shopping, or just to hide away from the shorter days and colder weather.
When the cold weather season comes around, all I want to do is drink. Don't get the wrong idea--I'm talkin' all sorts of drinks, from gold-hued tea to frothy cappuccinos to belly-warming beers to velvety hot chocolate. It's kind of my thing. However, although all of these beverages regularly inspire something festive in me, there are certain bars and cafes that just seem a little more in their element during the holiday season--places that fully embrace the coziness, the over-indulgence, and (because it's an essential part of it, too) the delightfully kitschy vibes of the holiday season. Here are some of my favorites.
Dollop Coffee and Tea Multiple locations, but this review is specifically for the Uptown location, 4181 N Clarendon Ave.
This café is on the complete other side of town from where I live. I have to take a convoluted series of buses to get there, and it usually takes me upwards of 45 minutes to arrive. However, despite the fact that I've only been there a precious handful of times, I still consider this place my coffee shop. Home base. I first went there about a year ago, in the thick of winter, for a writing MeetUp group where I knew no one. I got lost on the way there. A wayward car sped past me and spattered sludge all over my new coat. But when I walked in the door, after the fog on my glasses had subsided, I felt like I'd found my happy place. This place brews Metropolis coffee, sells Hoosier Mama pie slices, and has the means to satisfy pretty much any snacking need. Gather your spoils and head to the back of the café--there, down a few steps, you will find the coziest room in existence, practically designed to accommodate the lengthy process of writing out your holiday wish list.
The Map Room 1949 N. Hoyne
"A travelers' tavern." This warm, inviting bar is a proper bar, no small plates or mixologists, no blaring music or dainty décor--a dying breed, it sometimes seems? Let's certainly hope not, for there are few better places than the local tavern to get properly imbibed as snow falls outside the window and regulars nosh on pretzel sticks at the bar. Opened in 1992, the Map Room boats an impressive list of draft beers (including, of course, some international players) and a dose of wanderlust: topographical maps line the walls and book shelves are stocked with previous issues of National Geographic. Think rich wooden accents, cable-knit sweaters, and a dash of adventurers' spirit. The bar features nightly specials and even hosts their own "Beer School" on select nights, where local brewers come speak about beer and how to enjoy it like a pro.
The Green Eye Lounge 2403 W Homer St (under the Blue Line Western stop)
All of the character of a dive bar without the seediness. A pretty standard spot for a solid night of drinking: nice extensive draft list featuring plenty of craft beers, wall space available for local artwork, and a strong following of regulars. However, during the holiday season, I like my bars lit up with the otherworldly glow of oversized Christmas-themed lawn ornaments-- and hopefully you do too. The Green Eye takes the art of holiday decorating with all of the seriousness of a suburban dad trying to out-spirit the Joneses. As a "Home Alone" marathon whiles away the hours til Christmas on TV, drink your brew in the company of scarf-sporting penguins, beer mug-shaped Christmas lights, and a fake fireplace mounted upon the wall. If there's any place that will make you willing to brave 1 degree weather for a hearty drink--it's gotta be this one.
Throughout this month, Drive-Thru staffers will be writing about their favorite bars and restaurants to celebrate the holiday, as so much of the holiday is not the day itself, but the days that come before -- the places you end up at after a holiday party, a day of errands and shopping, or just to hide away from the shorter days and colder weather.
One of my personal favorites this time of year is Hopleaf in Andersonville. Though it's much expanded since I first set foot in the cozy bar, it still feels friendly and inviting, and if anything the expansion into the back of the building and next door means that it's less of a fight for one of the coveted booths.
Fall means many things to many people: scarves and tights, football, pumpkin everything, and, most importantly, the grape harvest. This is that magical time of the year when those lush, juicy berries are picked, crushed, and begin their transformation into wine.
Beginning as early as late summer for some grapes, the harvest is celebrated in wine regions all over the world, and it deserves it because all that time worrying about weather, about excessive rain or heat or hail in the vineyards, about pests and mold, shifts and the winemaker can get down to business. As Plato said, "No thing more excellent nor more valuable than wine was ever granted mankind by God."
Here's just five wine bars and restaurants where you can celebrate this excellent gift:
In honor of the crush (the gentle splitting of the grapes prior to fermentation) Frasca Pizzeria and Wine Bar and D.O.C. Wine Bar are offering free wine tastings September 23 - 27 (with guest sommeliers and exclusive varietals) plus half-price bottles of wine on today (September 23) and half-price glasses of wine on Tuesday, September 24.
Bar Pastoral currently has a selection of reds and whites from the Rheinhessen, including the velvety Weingut Wasem, a Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) that'll knock your socks off. Plus loads of cheese so go hungry.
Volo Restaurant and Wine Bar has a knowledgeable staff ready to help you navigate the menu based on your tastes. Or try a wine flight, which is how I discovered the aromatic oomph of the Müller-Thurgau grape. They have daily $1 oyster and $2 pork belly happy hour specials and a "hidden" patio.
Webster's Wine Bar has an atmosphere that encourages lingering for hours. Their extensive wine list includes personalized notes about each of the wines, which can be daunting if you're not sure what to order, so ask! They're currently featuring Spanish wines.
*photo by Graham
Tremaine Atkinson, owner (along with Mark Lucas) of CH Distillery, was making gin one Saturday afternoon at the copper-topped still near the front entrance. Anyone passing by or entering the distillery/cocktail bar could see this steampunk-y piece of equipment with its levers and windows and tubes. It's hard not to get an itch to poke around around the place.
A spout arced a stream of completed gin into a stainless steel jug as Atkinson took samples to taste and assess its progress. This was an important part of the process and no doubt a contributor to his 12-14 hour days. You have to catch any "funkiness" in gin right away to correct it, otherwise you'll ruin a whole batch. (Luckily, vodka can just be re-distilled if something is off). He let me taste as well, and we'd continue to do so over the course of the hour I was at the distillery. Atkinson pointed out how the different flavors in the gin, juniper, lemon, coriander, presented themselves at different times.
"Those are vertical flavors," he explained, because the mouth picks up on a variety of tastes and sensations. The coriander in particular struck me because it's less a flavor and more a light peppery sensation toward the front of the tongue. Those ingredients steeped in re-distilled vodka, a "soup" that melded over the course of two weeks into a fine, high-quality gin.
Punch House is coming to Pilsen this fall, to be housed in the renaissance of Thalia Hall, a gorgeous and controversial building now owned by Empty Bottle's Bruce Finkelman, who is adding some retail shops, a music venue and two bars (the other being Dusek's, a beer-heavy tavern and restaurant named for the Bohemian immigrant who commissioned Thalia as a community center back in 1890). Look for Punch House to open Sept. 17.
Absinthe is the Sweeney Todd of liquors: complex, misunderstood, and seductively dangerous. Distilled from three primary ingredients (anise, fennel, and wormwood), this green-fairy drink was maligned by the temperance movement and other liquor competitors as a psychoactive drug containing a dangerous substance called thujone. By the time scientists disproved such shenanigans, most countries (including the US) had banned it. But thanks to a little something called human perseverance, absinthe quickly made its way back onto the shelves of bars across the world. In fact, one of the largest collection of absinthe in the United States resides within a discreet restaurant in Chicago's hipster Wicker Park neighborhood: the Savoy.
In honor of Hot Dog Week, I went to Bull & Bear's Dog Days of Summer event to sample their neighborhood-inspired dogs, and despite my general excitement, I was admittedly apprehensive. You see, I believe Jesus himself invented the classic Chicago-style dog: a beef frankfurter nestled in a soft bun, topped with white onions, relish, pickles, tomatoes, and mustard. No fucking ketchup. There's something delightful (pornographic even) about pushing this bread-enclosed sausage into your mouth, condiments oozing down your chin like nobody's business.
Nonetheless, I couldn't very well miss an opportunity to eat hot dogs, so I made my way to River North to try Bull & Bear's creations. I ordered the "Frank Plank" (a flight of all five specialty dogs in miniature form) and a side of their Parmesan truffle fries.
This past Friday was the first official day of summer, as you could probably tell from the stickiness of the air since then. And I'm happy to announce that along with the humidity and heat, the summer drinking series has returned to Gapers Block! We kicked things off on Friday with a few beers at the Hopleaf, that venerable Chicago drinking establishment, which is benefiting from its 2012 expansion to include a second dining room. A less packed bar makes grabbing a beer and frites much more bearable in the heat, especially since the air-conditioned rear dining rooms escape the wet gasp of air every the door opens--which at Hopleaf, is often.
For my inaugural summer quaff, I ordered a Sofie Paradisi, one of over 60 possible drafts, and a spin on my very favorite Goose Island offering. For this special summer beer, the usual saison-style Sofie is aged in its requisite wine barrels with grapefruit peel and juice, rather than the more traditional orange peel. Grapefruity beer is a trend I first noticed last summer, with Steigel's Grapefruit Radler, and which I heartily endorse. The bitterness of the grapefruit esters seem perfectly suited for a lightly sour saison, and with Sofie Paradisi, the resulting brew is a lovely addition to the beer drinker's ever-expanding fruity summer palate. It paired nicely with Hopleaf's sweet crab and smoky endive salad (with grapefruit segments! it was meant to be) as well as the giant pile of fries I lovingly dunked into aioli all night. Aaaaahhhh, summer. Welcome back.
North Center's Bad Apple, like so many restaurants, has jumped on the all-natural bandwagon. The restaurant is free of chemicals, pesticides and preservatives, and has been since it opened almost four years ago. Everything has been all natural and as-local-as-possible since the day the restaurant opened its doors. Well, everything except for the ketchup.
Chef and owner Craig Fass opened Bad Apple with a mass-produced ketchup but quickly converted to making their ketchup in-house.
This housemade ketchup is made two to three times a week, 15 gallons at a time, producing over 120 gallons a month. The pot, larger than most toddlers, sits on the stove for six hours. If you're a cook at Bad Apple, here's your routine: put a burger on the stove, stir the ketchup, flip the burger, stir the ketchup, put the burger on a bun, stir the ketchup, add toppings to the burger, stir the ketchup. Get the idea? It's a time-consuming process.
Chicagoans love mixing booze and vintage arcade games, as evidenced by recent news that both Emporium in Wicker Park and Headquarters in Lakeview are planning major expansions. Joining them soon will be Replay, which will replace Buck's Saloon in Boystown.
Emporium, which was the first arcade bar in Chicago, picking up the concept from New York pioneer Barcade, is taking over the storefront just south of the bar at 1370 N. Milwaukee Ave. Co-owner Danny Marks told DNAinfo the expansion would hopefully be complete by June.
Headquarters Beercade, which opened as a side bar to the much larger Uncle Fatty's Rum Resort at 2833 N. Sheffield, has been a huge hit as well -- so much so that it's overshadowed its older sibling. Uncle Fatty's will close May 4, making room for a 7,000 square-foot addition to Headquarters that will house the Midwest's largest pinball arcade, including both vintage and new machines from suburban Stern Pinball.
The newest game spot, Replay, will take over Buck's, 3439 N. Halsted St., in mid-May, with more than 20 arcade games from the '80s and '90s and 25 craft beers on tap, plus a cocktail menu designed by Elixir's head mixologist, Danny Quinn. Buck's was one of the first gay bars on Northalsted; there are several farewell parties planned for this weekend.
When I was around 10, I went through a (long) phase where I refused to eat anything normal 10-year-olds ate. Burgers? No. Birthday cake? Hell no. Pizza? Not unless it has fancy toppings on it, so basically, no. When I was first introduced to barbeque chicken pizza, it felt like it arrived accompanied by choirs of singing angels, not to mention the relieved sighs of my parents -- no marinara sauce, no spicy meat products, plenty of cheese and sticky sweet chicken. But childhood memory can be a bitch -- for a long time, no real BBQ chicken pie has lived up to mistily shrouded recollections of picky 10-year-old eater bliss.
Until I tried the Knife and Forker at the new Homeslice Wheel House, Lincoln Park's grown-up refuge from the college-student inundated pizza and beer scene. And McGee's and those snobs at the Local Option had best watch their backs. Homeslice's version is like the Platonic form of barbeque chicken pizza: shredded chicken bolstered with spicy pepperoni, dark sweet barbeque sauce and finely sliced red onion for just a touch of acidity, draped with perfectly blistered cheddar, mozarella and provolone. This, with 12 beers on tap and a cocktail menu! My childhood heart be still, my grown-up liver rejoice.
Several years ago when I first moved to Logan Square, I regularly visited a whopping 3 bars. I'm not going to count the number of bars open now, but one more vies for your attention starting tonight: Off Site Bar, adjacent to Longman & Eagle.
Confused about it's location? So was I. The press kit said it was behind and to the east of L&E, and all I could think of was the garage. Well, turns out that's where it is - right next to the gated patio area behind the restaurant is a new bar that will be available as a small event space and serve as an overflow area for the long dinner waits. The decor continues the warm gray and wood themes of the front bar while adding stark white concrete blocks, and since it is in a garage, it features a vintage racing motorcycle (is it still running? I forgot to ask!) For those curious how the garage looks so big but the bar is so small, it also houses a new prep kitchen for the staff.
What I'm most excited about, though, starts up in a couple of weeks: OSB is set to host a Saturday Sausage Shop (alliteration!), with the menu announced the previous Thursday and sous chef Matthew Sliwinski's creations becoming available at 11am on Saturday, until the meat runs out. Look for the first one on March 16th!
The bar is named for White Stockings (which became the Cubs) player turned evangelist and temperance activist William Ashley "Billy" Sunday. Look for cocktails ranging from classic to contemporary -- some familiar to those who do at Yusho -- and a food menu that's mostly small plates, heavy on pickles and preserves.
Billy Sunday is located at 3143 W. Logan Blvd., next to Dunlay's on the Square. Hours are 5pm to 2am every day.
Being a cask ale virgin, I wasn't sure what to expect from Thursday's Cask Night at Smallbar. All I knew was that cask ale was a very old, traditional method of making beer, which is why it is referred to as "real ale." For me, that meant an association with medieval England and bearded men in dark, cave-like taverns.
So naturally, I half expected to walk into a scene from the Canterbury Tales, complete with corrupt clergy, vernerial diseases, and drunken knife fights. While none of these were immediately obvious when I arrived, I took the number of bearded men as a sign that at least I was in the right place.
A friend and I planned a visit to Oiistar for a Wednesday night dinner. I met up with him at the door. "I'm not feeling it," he said immediately. "It's like a club in there. Too noisy." I glanced through the window to assess the interior: full, but not packed. Atmospheric, minimalist decor with lots of woody accents. Classic cartoons projected onto a far wall. The word "trendy" came, almost instantaneously, to mind.
But this being Wicker Park, and Oiistar being one of the newest additions to a specific trend set -- fusion cusine gastropubs -- I decided that my friend's fear was just symptomatic.
On Wednesday night, the sign above the bar at Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., counted 9,996 bottles of Maker's Mark bourbon served. By 9pm, the bar had cracked the red plastic wax on its 10,000th.
Customers were encouraged to run through the four bottles as quickly as possible, earning raffle tickets for prizes and honors like finishing off or opening one of the bottles. Upstairs, patrons could get a free, freshly hand-dipped glass. Maker's Mark Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr. was on hand, wearing a gold plastic dollar sign "bling" necklace, to open the 10,000th bottle with Delilah's owner Mike Miller. He also presented Miller with a commemorative bottle of Maker's Mark etched with the bar's well-known "Evil Queen" sign.
Once Samuel's opened the bottle, Miler poured shots from it for everyone in the bar for a big toast, and encouraged everyone to keep drinking so as to make it to 10,001 and beyond that night.
It's a time-honored tradition: getting a drink at the Gingerman Tavern before or after a show at the Metro. The two spots are now even more closely bound, as news broke today that Metro owner Joe Shanahan has purchased the Gingerman from its longtime owner, Dan Schnitta. A July real estate listing of the building, which contains three second-floor apartments in addition to the bar, set the price at $2.3 million; the final sale price was not announced.
"Both Gingerman and Metro have contributed to a Wrigleyville spark that is being drowned out by more modern establishments," said Schnitta in a press release. "Joe understands the revelry necessary to carry on that spirit." Schnitta said he plans to focus his attention on his other business, the Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, MI. He plans to celebrate the transfer with an open track party Oct. 20.
A statement from the Metro said there are no immediate plans to change the bar, though "future plans may draw upon the business' relationship with Metro and Smart Bar next door and could include new beer and liquor options as well as special events."
Gapers Block has held several get-togethers at the Gingerman over the years, and will likely continue to in the future. The folks behind the bar are friendly, the beer and whiskey lists are interesting and deep, and the pool tables in the triangular second room are well-maintained. Plus, the jukebox is one of the most eclectic in the city. It's great to hear that it will be kept "in the family," so to speak, rather than becoming another anonymous Wrigleyville bar.
Actually, text it. Grant Achatz finally did away with the secrecy around getting into The Office, the exclusive "speakeasy" in the basement of The Aviary (955 W. Fulton Market), with a tweet yesterday. You're now free to text your reservation requests.
Who is interested to going to the Office at 6 pm any night this coming week? If you are, text your request to this number-- (312) 972-7641
To be sure, there wasn't much of a secret to getting into the Office at this point, and in my own experience, it's actually relatively easy to get an "invitation," provided you're not trying on Friday or Saturday night after 8pm or so. Next time you're at the Aviary, just ask your server and he or she will check with the manager to see if there's room for your party. Be prepared: the prices are higher than Aviary across the board, so if an $18 In the Rocks upstairs gives you pause, the room downstairs isn't for you.
Emporium, Chicago's first arcade bar, held a surprise soft opening this past Saturday and officially opens for business tonight at 5pm at 1366 N. Milwaukee Ave. The bar boasts more than three dozen arcade games and two dozen beers. I for one look forward to practicing my technique on Galaga while enjoying a cold Oberon.
This Wednesday at Flo and Santos in the South Loop (1310 S. Wabash), I will be putting down the writer's pen and picking up a bottle of vodka - for fundraising purposes, that is. Catch me from 7-9 where I will be guest bartending to raise money for the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. I will be mixing up "The Spicy Shortie" - fitting because I'm both spicy and short, and my secret ingredient is certain to make you do a double take.
The story goes that a married couple, Flo (Polish) and Santo (Italian), blended their two cuisines into the most unusual fusion when it came to putting dinner on the table. It was only natural that years later a pizza and pierogi restaurant was born. Flo and Santo's specializes in thin crust pizzas such as Na'Ma's Veggie (spinach, olives and mushrooms), or the Flo's Polish (kielbasa, sauerkraut and applewood bacon). And their Polish traditional fare their sampler the Holzman (which includes kielbasa, pierogi and portato pancakes) and the Ravirogi -- their version of polish ravioli, in a creamy bacon vodka sauce. Take it from me, this one will have you licking the plate. If you're a vodka connoisseur, their top notch variety of Polish vodkas will have you salivating at the mouth. (I was clued into recently that vodka actually originated from Poland, not its neighbor Russia, so Flo and Santo's takes their vodka seriously).
If you haven't been yet, the guest bartender night is a fun way to donate to a cause while enjoying great food. And if you have a cause that you'd like to support and can pour a drink or two, stop by and get on the list. Hope to see you there this Wednesday.
Imagine Big Star and your favorite, neighborhood dive bar had an unassuming, yet delicious restaurant-baby. Their cash-only love child, touting, among other things, tacos and whiskey, is Bullhead Cantina. Having recently opened in Humboldt Park (1143 N California), this place is off to a great start-- offering a comprehensive selection of whiskey, beer and tasty, tasty food.
When you order their tacos (as you should), make sure to try the grilled tilapia, glazed with bourbon and tamarind and the pastor, marinated and served with grilled pineapple, pickled cabbage and cucumbers. Their tacos are served with homemade corn tortillas and made-to-order salsas.
Rumor has it, they'll also be hosting the occasional live show. Keep an eye on this place-- great things to come.
Mixologist Paul McGee (pictured right as a friend's Halloween costume), whose delicious cocktails launched the Whistler to bar stardom (bardom?) will be leaving the Logan Square watering hole after tonight to embark on a new project with R.J. and Jerrod Melman of Lettuce Entertain You, the management behind such places as Hub 51 and Paris Club. Will the drinks go with him, and the Whistler invests in a lit-up margarita machine? Time will tell.
From its bare-bones website, I was getting a definite basement bar vibe from the new Highball Lounge, located above Orange on the western edge of River North -- utilitarian bar, basic U-shaped booths, nothing much else. As with the proverbial book and cover, however, you can't necessarily judge a bar by its website. While the lounge has been technically open since November, I stopped by for a reception last week and was pleasantly surprised by the intimate but playful space.
The long, lean lounge has a speakeasy feel to it (enhanced in part by the lack of street-level signage -- the ambiguity is intentional for the time being, according to manager Anthony Williams, but a banner and lit sign are on their way), all low lights and 60's-inspired decor, with a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over Clark Street lending an openness to the space. The menu is true to the bar's name, primarily focused on the highball, with such spirit-and-mixer favorites as the Moscow Mule, Pimm's Cup, and the Mai Tai, the last being delightfully sweet and sour, a burnished golden color (none of that pink, "MTV Spring Break" nonsense, thank you) and garnished with a garden's worth of bright mint.
Jared Van Camp, Chris Dexter and Chris Freeman wrote a successful resto/hookup formula with his charcuterie-focused brasserie /no-cover-night club with Old Town Social and are now on to their next project. Nellcôte , according to Twitter will be "an impertinent take on refined dining...sexy and high-energy nightspot with absolutely no pretense." But the really exciting bit of this is what was announced today: he'll be opening up a little side spot as well. RM Champagne, named after the producers of champagne that grow their own grapes, is scheduled to open in February. Edith Piaf, champagne and fromage? Yes please. <via>
Classic cocktails in general are, of course, but has anyone else noticed the negroni in particular getting a lot of attention lately? It must be negroni season.
I love the idea of a negroni -- traditionally 1 part gin, 1 part Campari, and 1 part sweet vermouth. But while I'm a fan of all of those things separately, I just can't get on the negroni train. Let's be honest here: they're kind of gross. Or, if you disagree, you'll at least grant me that they're an acquired taste. In fact I don't think I've ever heard the negroni described without "they're kind of an acquired taste" added as a caveat. It's a drink that's quite strong and bitter and sweet, all at once.
Another deviation from shandy-land in this week's entry! Still not an IPA for you hop-heads out there, sorry. But this is an interesting one -- I'd never had (or heard of -- not an expert here, guys, I just like drinking beer in the summer...and fall and winter and spring) Schmaltz Brewing Company until I came across their Coney Island Albino Python, a "white lager brewed with spices" in the cooler at Rootstock earlier this week. I usually gravitate more towards draft beers in the summer for some reason, but wasn't feeling the two options on tap, and decided to give this bottle a try. My first thought was, oooh! cool label! And my second thought was, this beer is TALL. At 22 oz. (and only $9!) and 6% ABV, this is a beer for the seriously parched. Not too heavy, not too cloudy, it departs from the typical summer white beers in its earthy, almost grassy flavor profile. No hibiscus flowers or lemon slices here, thank you. Albino Python is brewed with, yes, orange peel, but also ginger and crushed fennel (I'm assuming seeds, not stalks, but who knows), which gives it a spiciness more on the dark and sour side than the sweet. You may feel a bit dirty when you order this drink out loud, as I did, but it's worth the faint blush, and goes very well with fries at the bar.
Rootstock never disappoints, in either its beer selection or menu. I also tried a sip of the Brauerei Hirt Hirter Privat Pils (a 5.2% pilsner), which was exactly my usual taste in summer beers, all crispness and bright with a hint of lemon sweetness; and one of the draft selections (which now I can't recall! I didn't take notes! See, sooo not a professional) which was incredibly layered in flavor -- just like Rootstock's food. The cheese and charcuterie plate is always a good call, with current features like rabbit rillette, a chicken liver pate crowned with pink peppercorns, barely-solid bloomy Kunik cheese, and tangy Sofia goat's cheese from Indiana. And small plates can either be shared, like the fat, doughy, pizza-ish "crusts," or hoarded all to yourself, like suckling pig with tomatoes, peaches, and sweet corn.
As promised, this week's beer is slightly off the beaten track of wits and wheats. Revolution Brewing's Coup d'Etat is a French-style saison dry ale packing 7% ABV -- not a beer for gulping down quickly as you stagger into the bar from your un-air conditioned apartment. Saison pale ales were initially developed farmhouse by farmhouse as a quenching end-of-day reward for farmhands during the harvest season, and Coup d'Etat drinks likes this sort of pedigree would suggest -- it's a spicy, rich beer for lingering over, and with a toasty, caramelized flavor palate that feels more like August than the citrus and flowers of June. Still totally refreshing, but a very different character than both the shandies and summer IPAs out there.
And worth waiting for. Which you will do, at Revolution. The year-old-ish Logan Square brewer still commands a 40 minute wait on a weeknight, unless you can sneak in at the bar. (It'll be interesting to see if the opening of their new upstairs lounge ameliorates or exacerbates this.) But like all good things, the wait is worth it. Coup d'Etat is merely one among many top-notch beers (the summery Rosa, infused with hibiscus petals and orange peels, would have been my first choice, but they were sold out that night -- I just can't help myself with these fruity botanicals, it seems), and the food is excellent, from an entree-sized burrata topped salad, to generous piles of mussels, to a wide range of traditional and creative flatbreads. French farmhands would toast their approve, I imagine.
Observant readers may have noticed a pattern at this point in the summer beers I've been highlighting -- they tend to be of the wheat or wit variety, sweeter over bitter, crisp and fruity, not too hoppy. Next week, I swear, I'll break the pattern (if I can find something I like that breaks the pattern...). For now, though, let's spend some time with Belgian import Blanche de Bruxelles, a beer strikingly similar to a pulpy lemonade in appearance, and wholly refreshing when the air is warm and the late-afternoon sun is slanting across the table. Light, mellow, ever so slightly sweet with a nice orange peel scent, you could be forgiven for thinking you are, in fact, drinking lemonade. Lemonade with 4.5% ABV -- also known as, the dream.
I first encountered this beer at Avec in bottle form, which is acceptable because of the somewhat hilarious little peeing fountain boy depicted on the label. (Yes, I am a 12 year old boy.) However, Blanche de Bruxelles really shines on draft, and particularly in the mason jar glasses at Fish Bar, which allow for a few inches of lacy foam to develop on top. It's also available on tap at Fork and smallbar (Fullerton) -- but unlike Fish Bar, neither of those establishments have what may be the best oysters in town, and what is undoubtedly the best garlic bread in the galaxy. The long, thin baguette slice comes doused in enough butter to almost give it an eggy, custard-like consistency, studded with garlic and crowned with a subtle lattice of parmesan. Order two. Order four! And order some Blanche de Bruxelles for a fresh complement to such decadence. Win!
Are you thirsty? Yes, yes, I know it's not even noon yet. (YET.) But wouldn't a tall glass of beer just make your Tuesday that much more bearable? If you're in the Wicker Park vicinity or have access to the Blue Line, Big Star has you covered -- both tonight, and in perpetuity as they add Three Floyd's to every tap in the joint! Moving forward, the regular beer selection will return but tonight, it's Three Floyds all night long. Gumball Head as the sun goes down. Alpha King as the stars come out. They're pretty psyched too, if this poster is to be believed.
Starting June 6, Big Star will have another new brew on tap, after the Three Floyds madness subsumes. Zephyr, a collaboration between Big Star, the Publican, and Lagunitas Brewery in California, who perfected the idea brewed up here in Chicago. (Brewed! Hahaha, pun.) 200 kegs are on their way to Chicago, and will be available not only at Big Star and the Publican, but your local favorite Lagunitas-carrying bar as well. Word on the street is that Zephyr was conceived as a Prohibition-period style beer -- perhaps hopping on the trend Next Restaurant has started with era-specific eating -- and corn (the grain used to make America's national beverage, bourbon) is used as the base. Which should go just fine with some tacos.
Chicago Craft Beer Week is finally here (do you have your passport, by the way?) and that means more awesome daily events then your liver can reasonably be expected to handle. One you should save room for though-- remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint-- is Friday's double-event at Co-Prosperity Sphere and Maria's Packaged Goods & Community Bar, sponsored by a true craft beer trifecta: Three Floyds, Half Acre and Dogfish Head. "Over a dozen styles of beer (4 from Half Acre, 4-5 from Three Floyd's and a few from Dogfish Head) will be available on draft for imbibing at a simultaneous sweet party at the Co-Prosperity Sphere. The event at the Co-Prosperity Sphere takes place from 8pm to 11pm. Admission is $10 which entitles you to complementary beer. There are no online or presale admission tickets." Happy Friday, everyone.
Swing by Half Acre anytime today to sample one of their returning all-stars: Twin Ginger. Rate Beer gives it an extremely 90 out of 100. One commenter remarks: "Nice sweet caramel aroma with pine and citrus hops also present. Flavor is a nice balance between malt, citrus, and hop bitterness with subtle spiciness present, too. Quite a nice ipa." It does sound quite nice, actually!
Oh, and after the jump, read how you can save anywhere from eight to fifty percent on all your Twin Ginger purchases. Trust me, you'll want to read...
Or so says a message published on Facebook today. They go on to say "It will be 6 PM to 1:30 AM - Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday - Tuesday.... once we open." Which, if you weren't paying attention, will most likely be next week! To get ourselves pumped up, let's watch Craig Schoettler make a bad ass Gin and Tonic. [Facebook]
Perhaps to go along with the upcoming bone-chilling temps, there are many beer dinners and events coming up in the next couple of weeks. Here, we present you with some highlights:
Lincoln Station, 2432 N. Lincoln, 773-472-8100
January 19 (that's tonight!), 7:30 - Great Lakes Brewing Company dinner, featuring 4 courses (pork belly, smoked salmon, chicken adobo, chocolate mousse) - $40
The Long Room, 1612 W. Irving Park, 773-455-6500
January 20, 7pm - 11th Anniversary Celebration featuring Goose Island Brewmaster Gregory Hall, who brings with him Bourbon County Stout Vertical; samplings of 2008, 2009, 2010 Bourbon County Stout also available for purchase (note: I did this last year and it was fantastic)
Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield, 773-281-4989
January 20, 7pm - New Belgium / Allagash Collaboration: Vrienden tapping
January 27, 7pm - Half Acre: Double Daisy Cutter, Thunder & Son tapping
January 29 - 11:30am - 2nd Annual Two Brothers Brewery Tour - brunch buffet @ Sheffield's, bus leaves 1:30pm, tour starts 3pm, back at Sheffield's 5pm. $45
Table Fifty-Two, 52 W. Elm, 312-573-4000
February 2, 8pm - 3 Floyd's Beer Dinner - Art Smith brings you 5 southern-styled courses + dessert, paired with Munster's favorite brews
Blokes & Birds, 3343 N. Clark, 773-472-5252
February 9, 7pm - Lagunitas beer dinner with 7 courses (English fare, natch) - $60
Some big news from Revolution Brewery in the new year: five new beers, news on the upstairs, and a second brewery?!
First, every Wednesday this month (starting tonight!), they are releasing a new beer. Schedule is as follows:
Jan. 5th: Baracus Imperial Stout (11% ABV) & Triple Fist Triple Pale Ale (9.6% ABV)
Jan. 12th: TV Party Rye IPA
Jan. 19th: Village Green English Bitter
Jan. 26th: Black Power Oatmeal Stout
Next, you may have noticed stairs that lead to nowhere on the right when you walk in. Well, the opening date for the upstairs overflow/event/live music/private party space will hopefully happen in late spring. With renovations one can never be sure, but the upstairs bar is starting to be built, and that's always good news.
Finally, in rumors I hadn't heard because it's cold out and I'm a hermit, Josh Deth & Co. are looking to open a new brewery to produce beers you can take home and/or enjoy out of state in bottles smaller than the current growlers. If by chance you could be an investor or know someone who could loan them big bucks, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have you been dying to share your drink recipes with a wider audience? Think your Dirty Frenchman (wine and olive juice) or Yeast Infection (rum and milk)* needs to bless the gullets of other Chicagoans? Consider entering Prairie Fire's first-ever bartender contest, where you can submit your drinks and photos for a chance to guest-bartend at the restaurant. The only stipulation: you must use a local ingredient in the beverage. Upload your drinks to the Prairie Fire Facebook page between now and December 10.
The top two mixologists, chosen by the restaurant and cocktail master Adam Seger, will compete on December 14 for tips, which will be donated to hunger-fighting nonprofit Share Our Strength -- whoever earns the most will appear December 22 with Prairie Fire chefs and co-owners Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris at a Green City Market demonstration.
*Thanks, Home Movies. I knew my obsessive watching of you would come in handy some day.
So put the Natty Light aside for a moment and swap that drinking cap for a thinking cap.
Now through November 30 you have the opportunity to up your game with a contest from Rock Bottom Brewery in which the winner gets to create their very own seasonal beer.
Simply choose the flavor profiles and style of beer you'd like to see on tap and send your ideas to the bar's brewmaster, Chris Rafferty, via Facebook. Rafferty will pick his favorite entry, and get this -- you will be invited to join him alongside the brewing process and you'll get to name your beer, which will be on tap in early 2011 in Chicago.
Sure beats bragging rights over who got the most blacked out from one too many PBRs during your weekly Friday Night Power Hour, huh?
Forkable Blog and theWit Hotel's Phoenix Lounge present a complimentary menu sampling on Thursday, November 18 from 6 pm to 8 pm. The new Phoenix Lounge will welcome a limited number of guests to sample a menu of hand crafted cocktails and Mediterranean-inspired small plates while enjoying live musical performances from local and emerging artists. Guests must RSVP through the Forkable Blog to secure a spot.
The Phoenix Lounge
201 N.State St. Chicago
The newest iteration of the daily-deal phenomenon is My Drink On, a group-couponing site offering drink deals for Chicago bars.
Tomorrow, November 4, MDO hosts its 8pm-1am launch party at Rebel Bar & Grill (3462 N. Clark St.). Rebel is also the location of its very first featured deal: $40 worth of drinks for $20. For celebration's sake, buying the deal is not required for the complimentary cocktail reception (8-10pm).
As boxes of sweaters come out of storage and Chicagoans mournfully discuss the passing of summer to fall, there is one thing we can all hang our sable hats on: Fall beers are here and they're delicious. Perhaps in the pantheon of seasonal brews they don't rank as highly as their dark, complex Christmastime brethren, but they're a welcome reprieve from the cruel injustices perpetrated by summer seasonals (we're looking at you Leinenkugel Summer Shandy). All that said, our friends over at Half Acre have informed us that they'll be tapping a new Fall concoction tomorrow. From their blog: "The goal was to lean on some rye malt with this beer with a flash of pilsner malt, back it up with some crystal hops and serve up our take on a harvest beer." We're not sure what most of that means, but it sounds great and we're there. The sweaters will be left at home in protest.
I can summarize my sophomore year of college by saying this: I haven't drunk bourbon since then. So last night when I went to The Southern for the unveiling of their new fall cocktails, a wave of nervous excitement ran through me as I saw that several of their drinks contained bourbon. Like any good champion of drinking, I felt it was time to get back on the bourbon wagon and confront my greatest demon.
To start I ordered the most intimidating of bourbon drinks: Southern Apple Pie. Sure the name is adorable, but this drink is anything but cute. Served neat in a snifter glass, this was definitely the right drink to start back on the bourbon train. The infused bourbon was sweet with hints of Moroccan vanilla and obviously apple. While I wouldn't say it tasted like a pie, it was just as comforting.
Next I ordered the Sasparilla (pictured). Much like it's name this drink is sassy. A cross between a rum and coke and a really good root beer, I could easily make this my daily libation. A combination of Galliano, Kahlua, cola, soda water, lime and rhubarb bitters, the Sas was unanimously voted as the best drink among our table.
To top off the night we went with the Mississippi Milk: a pecan infused vodka combined with cream. Wow. The drink was surprising light, and full of pecan flavor. The vodka still had a strong bite, but was nicely balanced by the sweetness in the cream.
Throughout the evening, appetizers like shrimp with andouille sausage and remoulade sauce, beef skewers with djion aioli, and pimento cheese on toast were passed around by the manager, Evan, who was incredibly nice and helpful in making our drink decisions. Being a Southern I can attest that the food was pretty on point and Chef Cary Taylor has done well with this menu.
This fall you should make an effort to try one or any of the drinks listed (I sampled them all and they're all good). On Saturdays the bar shows SEC or ACC football games with $5 Jack Daniel's cocktails and $3 SoCo lime shots - although I don't know if I am ready to head back to sophomore year just yet...
Tonight The Crossing opens as the latest addition to the Four Corners Tavern Group. Coming hot off the heels of the Benchmark opening, The Crossing is going to be a sports haven for those who like good beer, good food and LOTS of TVs. I had the fortunate experience of dining there earlier this week and testing out the new menu.In some ways the menu was completely what I expected; in others, it was surprising. Staples like chicken tenders and burgers are a must, however unexpected items like Korean steak tacos and truffle cheese mushroom pizza made me happy.
This night the food was free, so naturally I wanted to stuff my face with as many options as possible. To start we ordered the jalapeno spinach artichoke dip. The dip was creamy, with just a little spice. Being from Texas, I like my dips a little spicier. If I were to go back though I would probably get the buffalo rolls that they have at other Four Corners bars, because they are just so wonderful.
Hub 51 is your go to joint. The ladies are great, the food even better, and hey, you don't mind bumping into Jay Cutler every now and then.
Well loyal customer, it's time to head to Paris, but don't take out your passport just yet. A few doors down from the wildly successful joint you've grown to love comes Paris Club (59 W. Hubbard St.), a new venture brought to you by RJ and Jerrod Melman (sons of Rich Melman, founder of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises).
The club is currently slated to open in mid-November, so you have a few more months to rub elbows with Cutler over at Hub.
For those unfamiliar with island cocktails, a Painkiller is typically some combination of dark rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and orange juice. It's a classy drink, frequently housed in one of those giant, rotating tanks and dispensed into the 64 oz. plastic cup of a drunk Spring Breaker. Over at The Aviary, Craig Scheottler is experimenting with a similar concoction, except his contains Matusalem Clasico, Flor de Cana 4 yr., finger lime cells and vanilla maldon salt. Take that Fat Tuesday!
The beer pioneers over at Half Acre announced today that their next limited edition ale, Sticky Fat, will go on sale tomorrow afternoon at the brewery. The name comes from an old fable they attempt to recount on their blog: It's something about a bear that ambles down from a mountain, and eats the farmer's hops, and then there are some school children involved somewhere. Anyway, it doesn't matter. What you need to know is that Sticky Fat is a wet hop, American Dark Ale, brewed with whole cone sticky hops and, of course, a whole lot of love. It's only available on draft at the brewery, so you can bet it won't last. [via]
Previously run by Maria Marszewski since 1986, and now run by her sons Ed and Mike, Maria's has undergone a bit of a face lift while still keeping that package store charm.
With some new furnishings (including beer bottle chandeliers and butcher's block tables), a bit of rearrangement, and a dash of local art, Maria's is looking to be less of an "old man dive bar" and more of a community bar.
The bar will have ten beers on tap, and about 100 other micro and specialty brews available as well.
Swing by on Friday (27 August) between 7pm and 2am for the grand opening!
You've been looking longingly at shiny new pencils and today's version of the trapper keeper, but it's time to smarten up, grown up style. Ian's Pizza in Wrigleyville & Sheffield's Bar are hooking up to host their second annual Pizza and Beer School. Your class schedule is as follows:
Mac n' Cheese pizza with Lagunitas Czech Style Pils
Dimo Florentine pizza (feta, chopped tomato, & spinach) with Ommegang Hennepin Saison
Sheffield's BBQ pizza with Robert the Bruce Scottish Ale
S'more pizza with New Holland Dragon's Milk and Framboise half & half
Get schooled Wednesday, August 25th at 7:00 pm ready with $30, an empty stomach and summer-lulled mind.
258 N. Sheffield Ave
RSVP: email@example.com or call 773.716.7200.
Paddy Long's is a fairly unassuming, Irish-inflected Lincoln Park bar with a well-priced international beer selection (charmingly chalked onto the bar's blackboard in approximations of the draught beers' brand fonts). Delirium Tremens and Lindeman's Framboise are both on tap. A Manchester United tin plaque is on the wall. And in the upper left cornice of the bar, a creepy plastic pig mask almost blends into the pleasantly low lighting. But don't be fooled -- pig is big at Paddy Long's.
As previously reported, Paddy Long's is hosting Friday and Saturday pig roasts all summer long, $22 for all you can eat of pork and sides -- less if you have a Groupon or Baconfest promo in hand. The low-key, casual set-up reminded me of the Map Room's International Night dinners, but without the mad scramble at the bar to earn your plate by stamping your ticket and gulping down your beer before the food is dished out. I prefer to scramble for the food and then eat and drink at my own pace. (Also the guy behind the food table doesn't yell at you, unlike the Map Room.) More on the food itself...
Jack Tripper and the Three's Company gals at the Regal Beagle.
Where the kitschy Reagle Beagle used to stand downtown, a more loungey sports bar has moved in. Over the course of several months, renovations have stripped the joint of its '70s and '80s vibe, and it reopens today as Grami. The name has nothing to do with music awards or your mama's mama--as ChicagoNow explains, "it's a mash-up of its nearby intersection of Grand and Michigan." To draw a happy-hour crowd, they have drink specials every day--I'm going tonight and looking forward to the $4 sangria--and there's a selection of your standard pub food to soak up the booze.
Attention hipster-Parisian wannabes: you still have time to find the perfect "looks like I pulled these out of the dollar bin at the local Salvation Army but really cost me a pretty penny" 501s and Ray-Bans. Maude's Liquor Bar, 840 W. Randolph St., a French barbecue joint set to open in less than three months, will be "like a dive bar in Paris" according to owner Brendan Sodikoff of Gilt Bar fame. In a recent interview with Chicago magazine, Sodikoff says fare will include "fresh-made sausage, grilled food and a raw bar." You can check out the bar's construction blog here (and with Sodikoff acknowledging that timing is subject to change, you might just have time to grow out a looks-believable shaggy hipster do in time for the grand opening).
Last Thursday a few friends and I got the night -- and my vacation -- rolling with an after-hours event, after which the Happy Margarita Summer Project made an unplanned stop at Flaco's Tacos in Printer's Row. The HMSP's rules were flouted. Prior drinks skewed our powers of perception. Thus, the "Extra" on today's Flaco's Tacos review. If I make it back under proper circumstances before summer's end, I'll be sure to update this post.
For now, I've got to give Flaco's props for serving strong, cheap, decent frozen margaritas and really solid food in a casual, friendly South Loop setting. This place is all about bang for your buck. For just over a 10-spot, I had a frozen lime margarita with salt, a tilapia taco with chipotle crema and slaw, and a decent skirt steak taco. Our table shared a basket of excellent, if slightly greasy chips that were the perfect foil to those margaritas. The guacamole is good, as were the tangy tomatillo-based salsa and the smoky red guajillo salsa.
As for the margaritas, they're frozen, so they're obviously made with a mix. But for $4.50 (or $3 if you're smart and come on Mondays, when glasses of sangria are also $3), this baby is as easy on your budget as it is rough on your tolerance. My group sat in the window seat for a couple of hours working on two margaritas apiece, and the entire group agreed Flaco's doesn't skimp on the tequila. In short, I'll definitely keep Flaco's Tacos in mind next time I want to meet a friend after work, and you should, too: It's counter service, so you'll save on the standard 20 percent tip, and they're open until midnight on weeknights.
Now, because I'm on vacation this week, the plan is to head to the lakefront tomorrow to test the theory that margaritas always taste better on the beach. Can you guess where I'm headed? Keep your fingers crossed the rain holds out!
If you still haven't made it to Big Star -- Paul Kahan's tacos-and-whiskey joint in the revamped Pontiac Cafe space on Damen near Wicker Park (the park) in Wicker Park (the neighborhood) -- the vast, sun-drenched outdoor patio is beckoning you this summer.
People-watching here is guaranteed to put you in a good mood, thanks to the wonderfully eclectic mix of adorable hipster families, sexy singles on the prowl, and puppy-toting dudes just happening by. Chef Kahan's tacos look like modest portions but the rich fillings will get ya, so go easy -- if for no other reason than to save plenty of room for the guacamole, which is arguably the best dish on the menu.
Now, I didn't come for tacos or whiskey. My friend Claire and I gathered some girlfriends together last Friday for one reason: Round Two of the Happy Margarita Summer Project.
Right now, I am sitting at Paddy Long's, eating curry chips and watching the Blackhawks game (they just tied the game up, 2-2). I found myself here because it's close to my apartment, they serve Kilkenny (hello, memories from Dublin 2008) and they have TVs. What I didn't expect, however, was the great food and the big sign telling me that on Saturdays (6 p.m.) and Sundays (2 p.m.) they have beer and bacon tastings.
It looks like you have to reserve your spot, so stop in or call if you're planning on coming. I know I'll be spending a Sunday afternoon here soon.
Paddy Long's claims to be the "home of beer and bacon." They've sold me on the beer, I'll let you know about the bacon.
Japonais now has a lounge tasting menu offered from 5-8pm Sunday thru Wednesday. Cocktails and selected appetizers are $7, which is fantastic if you want to take in the view from the open-air lounge without committing to an entire dinner. My favorite summer pairing is the Cucumber Passion, which has a nice amount of acid and a sweet after taste, with the Ebi Yoto Maki, which are charred prawns with a buttery, garlic-infused sauce.
Most of the places I eat these days are of the small plates, upscale, gastropub sort of persuasion. (Probably because most places these days are of that persuasion.) Which means I get two things when I go out to dinner: cheese, and an ever-increasing probability of contracting gout. But let's focus on the former. I'm not sure who invented the magic that is the modern cheese board -- probably the French. Bless them.
For me, the sheer multiplicity of it all is just exciting, and so sensual: combinations of blocks, smears and slabs of cheese in every imaginable texture, flavor, odor and origin. Chalky Fleur de Marquis sheep's milk from France with a juniper-terroir rind? Meet gooey, sumptuous, ultra-funky creamy gorgonzola--and voila! Fast friends. Cheese can stand on its own. (Cheese can stand alone, in fact, heigh ho the merry-o.) But what makes the cheese plate is as much the surrounding constellation of spreads, breads, jams, hams, fruits, nuts, pickles, and adorably delicate micro-salads as the main dairy protein itself. And this, to me, is where it gets really interesting. Let's take a few cases in point, shall we? (After the jump...)
"It has a hearty peanut flavor and a crazy texture, like pumpkin pie filling only ... if, you know, pumpkin pie was made from sweet potato and peanuts
That may not sound like a comment, but I have to say that after dishing up soup to several people who seemed either confused or intrigued, I was able to watch them take a taste, furrow their brows, and then nod. There were even a couple of people who came up to say they were really impressed with how good it was. (Thank you highly to them!)
But we're delighted to mention that there has been so much demand (on the part of soup-makers) that they've decided to extend the Soup and Bread event for two more weeks. And it's not just amateur soup-ists any more. Although this week's line-up sounds great. Paul Kahan is going to be making soup on March 17th. A crazy troupe of LTH'ers will be taking over on March 24th. And the world renowned "Hot Doug" Sohn is going to be cranking out something tasty on April 7th (my guess is that it will contain some sort of sausage).
And we also have to take a moment to thank all the generous eaters who have helped to raise more than $3,000 for area charities and food banks. Your evenings spent eating tasty soups is making it possible for those less fortunate to do so as well.
The longstanding hype over Revolution Brewing, Chicago's newest locally-centered brewpub from the folks behind Handlebar, may have you, like me, clamoring to experience their selection of hand-crafted, clenched-fisted beers and upscale eats. In fact, this effect seems to be widespread enough among Logan Squarians, foodies and beeries that the place has been jam-packed since they opened a week or so ago, and February is no month for waiting 90-plus minutes outside until a table opens. So after shuffling around on the sidewalk with your shoulders drawn up to your ears for warmth and your stomach making unconscionable threats for everyone around you to hear, perhaps an alternative is in order.
If you like beer and chocolate, this is your week: Two Lakeview establishments are hosting beer and chocolate pairings over the next couple of days.
On Tuesday at 7 PM, as part of its regular Beer School, Sheffield's (3258 N. Sheffield) is offering "Beer + Chocolate = Love." This pairing event puts four beers up with four different chocolates, each designed to bring out subtle flavors. The beers include Peak Organic Expresso Amber, Half Acre Baume Stout, and St. Louis Framboise. Cost of the event is $15.
If that's not enough for you, head to Fizz Bar & Grill (3220 N. Lincoln) on Wednesday the 10th for a different beer and chocolate pairing event. For $10, you can choose four of six desserts, each paired with a four ounce pouring of beer (or, if you'd prefer, you can get a red wine flight). Pairings are:
Harpoon IPA with Malted Milk Balls
Dark Horse Raspberry Wheat with Cocoa Dusted Chocolate Covered Almonds
Goose Island Matilda with Chocolate Mousse
Rogue Dead Guy Ale with McCall's Dark Toffee with Pecans from Terry's Toffee
Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald with a Bourbon-soaked Brownie with Vanilla Bourbon Frosting
Aying Celebrator Doppelbock with a Chocolate Cherry Cluster
Ten bars from the RushandDivision.com group (think Gold Coast/Viagra Triangle) will be serving up a special cocktail in an effort to raise money for the American Red Cross' Haiti earthquake relief efforts.
The Haiti-Ade, as it's called, is made with Kraken Black Spiced Rum, cranberry, and orange juice. It costs $6.50, every penny of which goes to the Red Cross.
Get them through January 31st--or until the supply of Kraken runs out--at the following bars:
The Hangge-Uppe - 14 West Elm Street
Pippin's Tavern - 806 North Rush Street
River Shannon - 425 West Armitage Avenue
Mother's Too - 14 West Division Street
The Original Mother's - 26 West Division Street
The Lodge Tavern - 21 West Division Street
Streeter's Tavern - 50 East Chicago Avenue
She-Nannigan's - 16 West Division Street
Bootleggers - 13 West Division Street
Mahoney's Pub & Grille - 551 North Ogden
I'm the kind of person that doesn't mind a bit of seasonality in my drinks. A little pumpkin in my beer, a little mulled spice in my wine...but easy on the apple pie, okay Leinenkugels? So I gladly accepted an invitation to Stoli's new Gala Applik launch party, the Moscova Affair, earlier this fall at Manor. I am not generally a vodka-drinker, nor a club-goer, so arrived thirsty, slightly early, and with all the scattered nervousness of a kid on the first day of class. With corset- and leather-clad servers and an Adam and Eve-themed silent circus tableau by San Francisco's Vau de Vire Society that more than lived up to the smoke-swilling lush-lipped ad campaign Stoli has plastered over CTA bus stops for months, I felt appropriately out of my element. At least the place was lousy with vodka, featuring at least five different suggested mixers for the new apple-infused Stoli blend, which I was expecting to taste more like Apple Pucker but has actually a mild, almost perfumey character. Applik and ginger ale was probably the best of the combinations I tried, though the signature "Applik Temptress" featured sour mix and a dash of bitters. Vanity Fair suggests a sangria-like white wine and fruit cocktail called, appropriately or not, the Rio 2016. Ouch. And, mmmmm!
I don't know that there's anything particularly seasonal about champagne, unless you feel the end of Daylight Savings Time should be celebrated with bubbles. But I still stopped by Pol Roger's Jazz Celebration last night at Pops for Champagne, an institution that I've been meaning to try for years. The White Foil Reserve Brut was the drink of the night, comprised of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes and fermented early in its life to a precise 46 F degrees, a process apparently distinctive to Pol Roger. A bottle of the White Foil retails for about $60, according to our pourer, though Pops has several other Pol Roger varieties on their menu as well, starting in more like the $115 range and rising steadily from there. The Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 1998 is aged in the deepest, coldest cellars in Pol Roger's operation, and has a dense, almost edible quality to it, with bubbles so fine you barely notice them and a mouth-feel much more like wine than champagne. My favorite was the Brut Blanc de Blancs 1999, which was both demi-sec and a bit tart, I thought the most interesting in terms of flavor of the bunch.
In other drinking news, C-House, in the Affinia Hotel, continues its prix-fixe Goose Island beer menu through the end of this week, and more paper seems to peel back every day from the windows of Lush Wine and Spirits' new location on Chicago Avenue. Whatever causes you to raise a glass this fall, be it circus folks, or grain alcohol, or the pleasing pop of a champagne cork, there are plenty of places and things to drink this time of year.
Roof on the 27th floor of The Wit rolled out new cocktails for fall, and I had the chance to sample them when I dropped by a media event for Telluride ski resort on Thursday evening.
Several tempted me: the Spiced Pears & Honey, with Hangar One Spiced Pear Vodka, housemade honey syrup, and lemon; Ipanema, with Leblon Cachaca, apricot nectar, and Madeira; and Blood Orange Sidecar, with Landy's Cognac, orange bitters, and blood orange simple syrup.
But Roof's Great Pumpkin won me over, first with its nostalgic name, and then with its not-too-sweet, nice-and-warm-going-down taste. Maker's Mark Bourbon anchored a hint of citrus and the namesake ingredient, pumpkin simple syrup.
This drink oozed autumn and was a perfect choice on a chilly, rainy night. Makes me want to spend the weekend in search of more great pumpkin cocktails in Chicago. Anyone have any tips?
Start the week out right with free oysters and beer at Cole's Bar in Logan Square from 8 to 10 pm this evening, Monday, September 21st. Sample raw oysters and Old #38 stout (pints are $3) courtesy of North Coast Brewing and the Plitt Company while enjoying a free show by The Thin Man.
Passing up a very crowded Whistler earlier this week, I decided to try my luck at Cole's, Logan Square's newest bar. Open just a few weeks, Coleman Brice has transformed this former Milwaukee Avenue pool hall into a friendly neighborhood tavern. Cole's can't compete with the bells and whistles of some other Logan Square establishments, but what it lacks in professional interior design, it makes up for with an inviting neighborhood atmosphere.
A long bar runs through the front room where Cole serves six rotating draft beers, a wide selection of bottled beers (including the requisite $2 PBR), wine and cocktails. While the drink selection is good, including Metropolitan, North Coast and Two Brothers on tap, Cole isn't shy to admit his real motivation for the bar: Music. In the back room, a large stage will host local bands each night, free of charge. A Chicago-born musician himself, Cole aims to provide a venue for an eclectic mix of local performers. Tomorrow night - Saturday, August 8 at 9 p.m. - Cole's will host The Ultimate Boeing 747, Unique Chique and Ocelots & Others.
Cole can be contacted for bookings at coleschicago AT gmail DOT com. Send him a link to your Myspace page or other music samples and include three dates you would be interested in playing.
Lincoln Park's River Shannon (425 W. Armitage), which claims to be the oldest Irish pub operating in Chicago, is celebrating their 63rd anniversary next month. They've decided that with this milestone, it's high time they had a signature drink, and they're looking to you to come up with the recipe.
From now until August 1, you can stop by the bar and submit your recipe. Recipes must use Tullamore Dew whiskey. The River Shannon staff will choose five finalists on August 6 at a tasting party where you can sample all five drinks from 9-11 PM. For the next week (through August 14), you can vote online for your favorite.
On August 15, River Shannon will hold their anniversary party from 4-8 PM. At the end of the party, they'll reveal the winner of the competition and present him or her with a plaque. Another plaque commemorating the event will hang permanently in the bar.
Many people celebrate Independence Day with cold beers and fireworks... The Fifty/50, for reasons known only to itself and its PR team, has decided to up the ante by celebrating the entire week leading up to Independence Day with that most storied American beer-product (beloved by NASCAR enthusiasts and hipsters alike!), the 40 ounce malt liquor. I strolled over for a sip of Colt45 earlier this week, served appropriately in a brown paper bag. I find Colt to be one of the better malt liquors out there, certainly putting King Cobra to shame, and $5 a bottle just seemed too good to pass up. But 40 ounces of just about anything gets difficult to drink down to the last dregs... And through, hrmm, experimentation conducted with the utmost scientific rigor, I can categorically tell you that two 40s is too many. (On a Monday night at any rate.)
If you'd like to try your hand at the Fifty/50's week o' 40s -- no frat-party inspired duct tape required -- the party continues with hip hop, Cubs viewing (it is the Fifty/50, after all), an Olde English all-day party on the 4th, followed by a Schlitz hangover brunch on the 5th. I would advise steering clear of the Cheesy Cheese Balls on the menu -- never has a bar food been so structurally off-base, falling apart into clumpy half-melted strings as soon as you pick it up. People who have had a 40 and a half cannot gracefully contend with that kind of mess. But there's plenty of other good-looking grease on the menu to keep you properly fortified against all that barley. Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, let's hear it for those amber waves of grain.
The Cheeseburger Show will be hosting a tweet-up at Sheffield's, 3258 N. Sheffield Ave., Friday night from 8pm to 10pm, and they'd like to buy you a cheeseburger. That's right -- free sliders. You can RSVP on Facebook if you like -- or, you know, just show up.
And, as Chuck Sudo notes, Sheffield's Beer School is hosting a "DarkLord Eve" party the same night from 7pm till 1am. "Kuhl and the Sheffield's staff will be tapping some choice selections from Three Floyds, Dogfish Head, Surly and New Belgium, including a cask -- not a keg, a cask -- of Three Floyd's Robert the Bruce ale." No need to register, it's pay as you go.
Fuel, opening officially this Wednesday in the old Blend space on Division, is sleek and pretty, but like a teenager sneaking a joy ride with daddy's vintage wheels, doesn't seem entirely sure where it wants to go. Pulling a double-shift as a coffee shop by day, loungey bar by night, Fuel seems to be trying to be all things to all people who might be strolling through east Wicker Park. High-gloss molded plastic tables and chairs evoke a kind of 50's car hop feel, as do the converted gas pumps showing off the liquid goods, while plasma screens and a DJ booth are as contemporary as the baffling but still unchecked upscale sports bar trend. (Hub 51, I'm looking at you.) An online menu promises such luxe libations as an Apple Cucumber mojito and Lavazza espresso infused cocktail, though no drink list was available or even mentioned when I visited. No beers are on tap, and $5 or more for a beer always makes me cringe when Gold Star or Rainbo are but a hop, skip and a sip away.
While I always appreciate a bar with a food menu, the eats at Fuel seemed only half baked. Unremarkable but nicely sized fried chicken sliders come three to a plate, an awkward number to share, served with a single slice of tomato, leaf of lettuce, pickle slice and dab of coleslaw on the side. Guacamole is remarkably flavorful, studded with tomato and jalepenos, but served with the most bland and industrial tortilla chips I've seen since my central Wisconsin school lunch nachos. Crispy crab wontons boast a creative filling favoring vegetables and crab to cream cheese, with a bright lime note against the sweet and saltiness. But an unbalanced sticky-sweet chili sauce and undercooked dough make for an uninspiring appetizer overall.
In the end, the unadventurous food didn't much live up to the sleeker surroundings, expect perhaps in its unevenness. Fuel is new, and I remain optimistic about all coffee-shop openings in the neighborhood -- particularly those that can spike their espresso with other bar offerings. But as it is, Fuel seems like it could use a better-focused and thought out tune-up to really make it.
Whether you're Irish or Catholic or neither or both, you can enjoy Irish music and fare at the Fifth Province within the Irish American Heritage Center. Every Friday through April 10, the Center hosts a fish fry and Irish music from bands like The Dooley Brothers and Seamus O'Kane & Jimmy Moore. Plenty of Irish beer and cider on tap, too. Music starts at 9pm. $12 cover.
Vanwyk is moving to Oregon to join Oakshire Brewing and Bryan Shimkos will be taking over as Flossmoor's Head Brewer. Flossmoor Station is throwing a party in their honor on Saturday, March 21 from 5 - 9 p.m. Details can be found on their website.
While I'm not too big on getting wasted under a giant green top hat on St. Patrick's day, if someone asks me to get a tasty Irish pub grub or two, I'm game. I confess that my flirtation with Irish pub food doesn't have a long history, and that I don't really know what "authentic" Irish food is supposed to be. (Hell, I haven't even been to Britain, let alone Ireland.) But in the recent few years, I've found some pretty good Irish food on this side of the Atlantic (and of Lake Michigan, for that matter). Here are two suggestions for the upcoming Green Weekend.
Fado, an Irish bar-cum-sports bar on the corner of Grand & Clark in downtown, has a great dish called Trinity Steak Boxty. It's sort of like garlicky, whisky-y beef stew made with plenty of onion and mushrooms, served over Irish potato pancakes (which is what a boxty is, I have learned). The galicky sauce has a rich, caramelized flavor, and clings beautifully to the boxty that's crispy on the outside, tender and starchy on the inside. As I said, I don't know if that's the way it's supposed to be. But it's a great pub food all the same.
The team behind Northside Bar & Grill, Streetside, Danny's and the Logan Bar & Grill opened Simone's Bar in Pilsen this past weekend. We stopped in Monday night to try the food and check out the completely rehabbed building. The space is enormous, with booth seating, a long horseshoe bar, and a gallery space in back that will be joining the Pilsen 2nd Fridays art walks. The interior is inspired by recycled objects and architectural remnants -- and there are some nice touches like the bar-top made from an old bowling alley lane -- but overall the space seemed a bit cluttered and overly-calculated.
I look forward to trying the black bean & banana empanadas and the potato, Parmesan & rosemary pizza in the future, but we were hungry for a heartier meal. I ordered the vegan burger, which is made in house with quinoa and black beans. The patty was bland, and was just barely saved by spicy mustard and the blue cheese I had ordered on top. My companion enjoyed his regular burger. The fries, a mix of sweet potato and baking potato, were excellent. The dessert list includes the delicious tres leches cake from Kristoffer's and local Black Dog gelato -- a nice touch.
The one thing that will likely bring me back (besides the fact that it is within stumbling distance of my house) is the beer menu -- Rotating Bells, Dark Horse and Three Floyds handles, $2.50 PBR tall boys, Two Brothers Cane & Ebel, New Holland Dragon's Milk, and Dogfish Head 90 Minute bottles.
A review of Simone's seems to beg a comparison to the Skylark, so here it is: The prices are about the same and the service is good at both establishments. If you are looking for a low-key bar, a great burger or a fresh, seasonal salad in Pilsen, I'd still direct you to the Skylark. But, if you are looking for a good beer menu, Simone's might have a bit more to offer.
Five Star Bar in River West has got a fantastic list of bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches--nearly 100 to keep you occupied. That's great, but if you don't know much about these liquors, you wouldn't even know where to start. Enter Whiskey University, a new monthly class series led by Whiskey Professor Steve Cole. Cole is one of three Whiskey Professors who travel the globe for Beam Global Spirits & Wine.
Each two-hour class will feature different aspects of the liquor. The first session, this Saturday, January 31, will look at bourbon, its history, and how to read a bourbon label. You'll also sample four different bourbons: Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek, Baker's and Booker's. Coming months will feature different liquors and topics.
Class is in session from 4-6 PM. Tuition is $10 per class, $5 for industry professionals. It's highly recommended you reserve a space, so call the bar at 312-850-2555.
I got a jump on the rest of the city on Thursday, when Gapers Block hosted a "staff-tivity" at the brewery in Ravenswood. We got to sample two of Metropolitan Brewing's delicious beers, the Dynamo Copper Lager and Flywheel Bright Lager, while noshing on sandwiches and fries complements of Hopleaf. I loved the Dynamo, a beautifully balanced beer with a crisp finish -- very drinkable. The Flywheel is a bit sweeter up front, but still has a smooth, dry finish befitting a German lager.
Entertainment was on point: to help celebrate Metropolitan's kick-off, the Neo-Futurists are using the brewery as a stage for the aptly-named "Beer," running Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays between Jan. 31 and March 7. We got a sneak peek at the show, which tells the story of 10-year-old Boon, who passes out drunk after drinking his stepfather's crappy beer, and awakens to find himself and his puppet buddy, Puke, in a mysterious brewery. To get home, they must learn how to brew delicious beer. It's a great idea -- the Wizard of Oz meets Willy Wonka, for beer-lovers -- made that much better by staging it at a real brewery.
So, to recap, here's an idea for a fun night out next Thursday: check out "Beer," and then go drink some (of Metropolitan's) at one of the lucky bars featuring Chicago's newest brew.
If you haven't been to Nacional 27 to try one of mixologist Adam Seger's cocktails, run, run there today. Better yet, learn from the master at his monthly "happy hour" cocktail class, held on the third Thursday of each month (that's today) from 5:30-6:30 PM. Each class focuses on a different ingredient (January is agave nectar; February will be blood oranges), and in the two-hour class you'll enjoy two cocktails and snacks as you watch Seger work his magic. And it'll only set you back 15 bucks, plus tax and tip.
If there's a time and place for a tropical drink big enough for four, served in a pearlescent porcelain conch shell with giant straws, January in Chicago is it.
The aptly named Rum Giggle arrived at our table near the end of the recent media dinner for Chicago's newly-opened Trader Vic's, 1030 N. State St. Three years ago, the city's previous incarnation of the famous tiki bar and restaurant, then-located at the Palmer House Hilton, closed its doors. For those who never made it there, the Rum Giggle sums up the Trader Vic's experience: festive and sophisticated, but with just the right touch of camp.
Read about Trader Vic's behemoth cocktail menu after the jump.
Back in August, I made my first-ever visit to Ohio's Queen City, Cincinnati. Much to my surprise, I was completely blown away by the place--and especially by the chili. I can still picture the shocked look on Cincinnati Jamie's face as I scarfed down five-way after coney seemingly (okay, literally) at every Skyline and Gold Star chili parlor that we passed for three days. It wasn't until I got back to the Windy City that I discovered our one, lonely, yet exceedingly authentic Queen City chili joint. Dear Cinner's in Lincoln Square: you own me now.
Surly Darkness, a gorgeous limited release Russian Imperial Stout from the Surly Brewing Company, is currently back on tap in Chicago.
Only a couple dozen barrels are brewed each year and most bars have a two glass maximum per person. (Which isn't a bad idea at 10.3% ABV.) The beer pours thick and is a deep brown/black with a silky brown head. The flavors run through chocolate, blackberries, molasses, coffee, chicory and roasted malt.
The supply may not last the weekend, so it may be a good idea to call ahead to your favorite bar to see if it is available. Three great bars that still have it (as of this afternoon) are:
It is just my luck that an excellent new bar moves into Logan Square just when I move out. Though, if the brains behind the Whistler had it their way, the establishment might have opened months ago.
In Chicago, the build-out of a business needs to be complete before the city will begin inspections and issue business, tavern, or alcohol licenses. After such an enormous personal investment, I can't imagine the horror of being denied such permits. A misguided Logan Square resident convinced dozens upon dozens of neighbors to sign a petition to block the bar, claiming it would be an unsavory addition to the neighborhood.
Thanks to some legal representation and lots of door-knocking, the owners (who also happen to be Logan Square residents) convinced the community to give them the go-ahead. After just a few weeks, business is going well. The low-lights, blue hues, church pews, and wood bar create a stylish watering hole. The space is small, but the outdoor patio can increase capacity in more forgiving weather. The bar doubles as a no-cover music venue for live music (Sunday - Wednesday) and DJs (Thursday - Saturday).
The cocktail menu changes seasonally. When I visited we sampled the Rosemary Gin & Tonic, Hibiscus Sour, and Sazerac. All were delicious and offered at the very reasonable price of $8. The bottled beer menu includes selections from craft breweries like Bell's and Great Lakes and -- perhaps best of all -- they also stock $2 Pabst cans.
2421 N Milwaukee Ave
(between Fullerton Ave & Richmond St)
With the explosion of the craft beer industry, it's easy to get a lot of different beers, try a few, then store the rest. In no time, you've got a fridge and/or closet full of beer, and you don't always know what you've got.
Luckily, the folks over at Beer Dorks have created a new free application called "Beer Fridge" that allows you to get a handle on your collection. Not only does it keep track of the name and number of beers you own, it also notes when you bought them, which is good for keeping an eye on freshness or for collecting various vintages. You can also add your own ratings and notes.
Now if you're having a bad day at the office and could really use a beer after work, you can just check your online beer fridge and see what you have in stock.
At least that was the price a friend of Drive-Thru unwittingly paid on a recent evening. The scotch list didn't show prices, but our informant assumed that a glass would run the typical $10-15 it is at other bars, maybe a bit more considering the locale. But a greater than 100-percent markup? Ridiculous.
Ada's is a familiar lunch spot for many East Loop cube-dwellers, who stop in for decidedly straightforward and affordable takes on diner classics, such as matzo ball soup and the turkey club. Worker bees in the know hit up the joint's 14 Karat Lounge (14 S. Wabash) after hours, to get all that Ada's menu has to offer, plus some of that sweet, sweet nectar.
On a recent visit, I wanted my nectar extra sweet, so I ordered a mai tai. Paired with my usual veggie omelette from Ada's menu, it made for a grown-up twist on a.m. OJ and eggs. The ability to order breakfast for dinner with a tropical drink cocktail isn't all the 14 Karat Lounge has going for it. An unpretentious crowd, baskets of buttery popcorn on every table, and perhaps the most enthusiastic, hardest-working bartender in the Loop give the place a special lustre. My only suggestion is that they turn down the music a couple of notches to make the lounge a less deafening option for friends who want to catch up after work over a drink.
It's a pretty bold move. To not only feature shochu so primarily on the drink menu, but also name the restaurant itself after the Japanese liquor, that is. Shochu, a type of distilled liquor made from things like barley, buckwheat, sweet potatoes and rice, is definitely not the most approachable of Japanese boozes. For one thing, shochu, at around 25 percent, is more alcoholic than wine and sake. The biting sharpness of alcohol is much more pronounced in shochu than in often-smooth sake. For another, shochu often has an aroma that may not be particularly appetizing to the uninitiated. Many Japanese swear by it, and many others avoid it like vermin. Still others venture into the recently rediscovered territory of shochu with ardent curiosity. Once considered a lower-class beverage, shochu has been experiencing a sort of a renaissance in Japan in recent years, with many shochu bars popping up like bamboo shoots after a rain. And that boom seems to be catching on in the U.S. as well. Shochu, a new shochu-and-small-plates bar in Lakeview, is a great place to try out some without spending thousands to cross the Pacific.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that the 800 North Clybourn Goose Island brew pub location will be closing at the end of this year due to lease renewal issues. The Wrigleyville location will remain open and the closing is not expected to interrupt brewing services.
Keenan O'Reilley's (3916 N. Ashland) is a very solid neighborhood bar. It doesn't claim to be more than that, and in a sea of posers, that's more than refreshing enough. Even on a Saturday night blessedly dereft of snow, this place is full, but not ridiculously packed; however, it is out of frozen pizza. Such is life at a reasonably priced neighborhood bar in Lakeview on a Saturday night.
By the way, by fairly priced I mean $9 for two bottles of Goose Island and a rum and Coke. Yes, $9. I almost hate posting this because I feel like their prices will rise exponentially with demand, but you know what? I'll be glad if they do. Long live the neighborhood bar!
Most wine shops are charging a premium this week for sparkling wines, but Randolph Cellars is offering 10% off all the bubbles in house through Saturday. Use the extra couple of bucks to buy your sweetie some truffles or a decent card. Cue the Barry White...
The Edgewater Lounge is known as more of a summer spot. Its location at Ashland and Bryn Mawr features a sidewalk patio in the warmer months, and while the view isn't great (four lanes of speeding traffic on Ashland, a gas station and Jiffy Lube across the street), the atmosphere is festive and friendly, and the patio is often packed in the evenings. On a recent frigid Saturday night, however, there was plenty of seating indoors.
The opening of this new bar/restaurant across from Millennium Park was met with severalreviews that seemed to suggest that the place was almost but not quite what it could be. Most of the criticism focused on the food, which aspires to be quite high-end but falls a bit short of expectations. My solution? Skip the "restaurant" and head straight to the bar. As Heather Shouse writes in her Time Out review, the drinks do indeed "sport downtown prices," so my mojito rang in at just shy of $10. My friends who were in from New York didn't bat at an eye at the price list, but we Chicagoans grumbled a little. The beer list was decent, and I probably should have stuck to that since my drink was mostly full of big wedges of lime and mounds of mint leaves rather than alcohol. Still, the atmosphere is glamorous but comfortable, and big groups are definitely welcome. I have a feeling this place will stick around a while.
If you haven't noticed by now, Uncommon Ground is setting up a new shop on Devon in the former Speakeasy Supper club space. Expect everything you get from the original: an eclectic menu featuring natural and organic ingredients often locally supplied, live local music and art-oriented events. The new location promises to be just as green as the original, and then some, with reclaimed woods for the décor and furnishings, a roof-top collection well for rainwater re-use in plants and toilets, solar panel heated water and a roof-top garden to grow vegetables, plants and herbs for the kitchen.
Expect Uncommon Ground on Devon to open in early fall.
Uncommon Ground on Devon is located at 1401 West Devon Ave.
Uncommon Ground is located at 3800 N. Clark Street
Newly opened West Town spot RelaXLounge is the prescription for whatever ails you. Owners David Lehtman and Brian Eldridge created a laid back space where a rock-and-roll meets pharmaceuticals. Until recently, the lounge was being referred to as Pharmacy and was mired in a bit of controversy. Neighborhood locals didn’t want another bar in the neighborhood and their protests resulted in a six-month wait for a liquor license, as well as a mandatory name change due an old law from the ’80s prohibiting use of the word "pharmacy" in a business name unless the business actually sells prescription drugs.
Inside you'll find a 30-foot, white subway-tiled bar lit up by candles in beakers, a vintage sign that reads "prescriptions” and beautiful chairs and other furniture all hand-built by partner Brian Eldridge. The bar features a simple menu with one-third-pound burgers and fries, a fried egg sandwich and signature milkshakes spiked with spirits (a Guinness float perhaps?) all served until close.
River North has a new gastropub, English. Located in the historic Furla Photography building on LaSalle Street, this new offering from the people behind Union Park, Bar Celona and The Central, caters to the local lunch crowd during the day with a menu consisting of sliders, burgers, pressed sandwiches, salads and some higher-end entrees such as the Earl Grey tea encrusted center cut filet served with a black currant demi-glaze. English also serves as a neighborhood night spot for late-night lounging, boasting three floors, the first featuring a 30-foot main bar and casual dining, the second for more formal settings and the two free pool tables, and a third for private parties.
Though I think the beer selection needs a bit of work — most are pedestrian offerings in my beer snob mind — the standards of Coors, Bud and Miller and some English brews, St. Peter’s Porter among others — English looks like a nice place to lunch and a relaxing place for late-night hanging out.
Iggy’s3 will be opening in early July in the former Chicago Rib House space. If you were a fan of the original Iggy's (now Juicy Wine Company) you may be pleasantly surprised as this new incarnation promises to be more like the original River West location. Expect blood red walls, horror movies and artwork featuring sock monkeys (the true face of evil), and a menu that seems to be closely related to the original with favorites like grilled calamari, artichoke-heart fritters, bowtie pasta and, of course, lots of really big martinis.
Iggy's3 is located at 800 N. Dearborn St.
And speaking of former locations, Chaise Lounge is now open as a BYOB in the former Wicker Park locale of Iggy’s. Chaise Lounge comes from the same people who revamped Hunt Club and features a seasonal American menu with a bit of international flair. Newly remodeled with a South Beach-inspired décor (the sock monkeys most likely have made the trip to Iggy’s3), summer nights on the patio and yet to be opened rooftop sound even more appealing. Expect the liquor license to come through in late June.
Chaise Lounge is located at 1840 W. North Ave. 773-342-1840
If you have been wondering what happened to the back bar from the old Lava Lounge, it found a new home at The Blind Robin, the newly opened spot from the owners of Green Eye Lounge and Underbar. The Blind Robin promises to be a hip yet understated place to hang, with green walls hinted with orange — think robin’s breast — and board games, lots of board games. As an added plus, an exhibition of paintings by local artist David Rettker is up on the walls, and the logo was designed by Gapers Block alum Phineas X. Jones!
The Blind Robin, 853 N. Western Ave. 773-395-3002
Hours: 4 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday through Friday; Noon-3 a.m. Saturday; Noon-2 a.m.
While enjoying excellent seats at Wrigley Field on Monday, I was obligated to indulge in some gameday grub. I gleefully put back a few vapid Bud Lites and stuffed my face with a couple of brats that looked and tasted like they arrived to the ballpark in someone’s back pocket. But it’s all about tradition at ball games and if I hadn’t gone for the Bud Lite and hot dogs, it woulda been Old Style and peanuts. So, price aside, I had no complaints… especially since we split well before the Cubs’ inevitable collapse.
It wasn’t until later, at the Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville, that I had the opportunity to right the evening’s previous culinary wrongs. Still being a bit full from the doggies, I kept it light by ordering the famed muscles mussels appetizer and a pint of De Koninck Bolleke ale. The slightly fruity, slightly malty, crisp brew was an excellent foil for the succulent, nautical sweetness of the Hopleaf’s mussels.
If you enjoyed a pint (or 2) of Guinness last weekend in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day you might enjoy knowing that this stout is lighter on calories and packed with nutrients. A pint weighs in around 198 calories which is less than low-fat milk and orange juice in addition most other non-light beer. Guinness is high in iron and contains all of the B vitamins except B12 and is full of antioxidants. Research has shown that the antioxidant properties in Guinness work similarly to taking an aspirin a day to reduce clotting activities in the blood. These antioxidants may also have other affects like protecting against blindness and yes guys, even impotence. However, these benefits are negated by over consumption so it’s a good thing no one we know tossed back more than their share and danced the jig on a table...oh never mind.
The Irish Oak on Clark is a great place to go for a pint of Guinness and even live Irish music on occasion.
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 »