Even though former Joffrey Ballet dancer Sam Franke took over this neighborhood joint in 2008, the goal of original owners Craig Fass and Mandy Franklin to have a pub with good grub and an ever expanding beer list remains. Thankfully, nobody told him that dishes like the rich and creamy duck-confit mac and cheese, and the pulled pork panini topped with creamy coleslaw go way beyond the call and duty of normal pub grub. If we’re lucky, nobody ever will.
The recent menu revamp at this winecentric stalwart is full of trends, Thankfully, no dish here is getting by merely on street cred. Meatballs tossed in romesco are like Prozac in their ability to cause happiness. Halibut is notable mostly for the sprightly kimchi dumplings alongside it; meanwhile, the stuffed mushrooms may be the richest in town, filled with escargot and capped with bone marrow. Desserts are surprisingly good, too, but you’ll probably never taste them: When you’re faced with one of the best cheese programs in the city, it’s always wisest to end with a cheddar flight.
We know, we know: The last thing Chicago needs is another Irish bar. But once inside this sprawling (yet somehow still inviting) space—which has separate areas for eating pub grub, watching the game from the bar and even reading (in the cozy "library")—you just may find yourself wanting more.
At first glance, this place looks like your typical yuppie sports bar, but the vastly male clientele, plum and ochre walls adorned with abstract art, and Kylie Minogue soundtrack reveal it to be Rogers Park’s straightest-acting gay bar. It’s also dog-friendly and offers a nice selection of retro cocktails like sidecars and lime rickeys.
Soda bread? Black-and-white pudding? Not so much. This Irish bistro serves food you’d find in modern-day Dublin, which means Guinness isn’t just on the epic beer list, but also in a rich onion–and–white cheddar stout soup. You’ll also find it in the beef stew, along with chunks of parsnips and carrots. It’s even in the mac and cheese served alongside barbecue ribs. Not hungry? Stop by for a great selection of Irish whiskey at the gorgeous bar.
If you’ve been in a train’s dining car recently, you know the menu ranges from Doritos to Ruffles and most of the clientele is passed out with cans of Bud Light at their feet. Thankfully, this dining car is nothing like that. The menu includes gems like light, crispy calamari and a club sandwich with sliced duck breast and prosciutto. Skip the jumbo shrimp and be aware that service can be slow, but the sweet, caramelly apple pie is a must. Perfectly made classic cocktails come from the attached bar, the Matchbox.