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Photograph: Donna RicklesHopleaf

Five great gastropubs


The Bluebird Tom McDonald of Webster’s Wine Bar didn’t plan for his beer-focused tavern to be such a food destination, but the eats here take center stage. The dinner menu is full of tempting plates such as mussels sautéed in Unibroue, duck breast in a port reduction over Israeli couscous, and a plate of German-style sausages, all of which are perfect foods for experimenting with the Belgian-heavy beer list. 1749 N Damen Ave (773-486-2473). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Dinner. Average small plate: $10.

Hopleaf Thought this was just a bar to belly up to with a Belgian brew in hand? One bite from the seasonal menu and you’ll know there’s much more. And after a famishing two-hour wait, you’ll need more than just one bite: Go for the beer-steamed mussels served with frites and aioli, a sandwich (brisket for carnivores, cashew butter for leaf-eaters) and a side of thin, crispy onion rings. 5148 N Clark St (773-334-9851). El: Red to Berwyn. Bus: 22, 92. Dinner. Average main course: $18.

The Gage Aggressively flavorful, rich mainstays like the Gage burger, dripping with melted onion marmalade and gobs of Camembert, keep this downtown gastropub buzzing. But much of chef Dirk Flanigan’s menu shifts with the seasons: Currently, a peppered hanger steak is paired with beets, roasted winter squash and fontina fill a savory tart, and pheasant thigh is served with pears and lentils. Not hungry? Stop in for a carefully mixed cocktail like the Winter Spritzer, made with black-currant-and-clove-infused soda. 24 S Michigan Ave (312-372-4243). El: Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Madison. Lunch, dinner. Average main course: $24.

Mrs. Murphy and Sons 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 soup. Bangers and mash are up for grabs in the form of savory lamb sausage and potatoes—the fingerlings are roasted with Morbier cheese and apples and served next to the sausage on a fragrant cedar plank. If a full meal isn’t in the cards, stop by for a great Irish whiskey at the gorgeous bar. 3905 N Lincoln Ave (773-248-3905). Bus: 11, 50, 80, 152. Brunch (Sat, Sun), dinner (closed Mon). Average main course: $18.

The Publican Diners come to this megaproject from Paul Kahan and crew for three things: to sample the massive list of brews while basking in the golden-hued, beer hall–like space; to sample impeccable charcuterie and amazing oysters from chef Brian Huston’s dinner menu; or to begin their Sundays with arguably the best brunch in town. We oscillate, but currently we’re in the latter camp, and once you taste the housemade ricotta, the scones, the souffle-level fluffy omelettes and the thick slabs of “Publican bacon,” you will be too. 837 W Fulton Market (312-733-9555). El: Green, Pink to Clinton. Bus: 8, 65. Brunch (Sun), dinner. Average shared plate: $19.

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