When it comes to 2011 dining, it’s time to clear the table. But first, a look back at what got our attention
It was the best of times (particularly for new steakhouses), it was the wurst of times (pork products remained en fuego). And it was another year of dining in Chicago, and there was no dearth of compelling stories. Here are the ones that resonated with us.
Need another reason to drink? How about a full roster of them? Just when you thought you had tabs on all the places to get a wet one, another Golden Tee machine is ordered, more Tanqueray is stocked and a new bar opens it doors. Here are some recent scene-joiners to add to your to-drink list, plus some that are on the way.
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The Bar 10 Doors goes global
Co-owners Narsi Salivendala and Patrick Frazer have assembled a menu that leans on flavors from around the world, such as the Mediterranean olive plate or the South American mahi tacos. Further exceeding expectations is the beer list, featuring a number of decent offerings, including beers from local brewers Metropolitan and Warrenville’s Two Brothers.
Turtle Bar & Grill keeps ’em crawling in
Pocketed in a residential building overlooking Armour Square Park, just north of U.S. Cellular Field, Bridgeport born and raised Tom “Turtle” Mancine presides over this simple sandwich-and-pasta sports pub. In here, a clean set of hi-tops tables, a half dozen flat-screen TVs and a rotating cast of regulars keep company with a Bud and Miller-slim beer list.
Come out and play on The Pitch
It’s soccer morning, noon and night at this three-level Lincoln Park sports bar, from the owners of Rocks and in conjunction with the Chicago Fire. Find the place open early for European matches and open all day, serving up quality bar food like burgers, wraps, wings and salads.
A Benchmark for success
Four Corners Tavern Group unveils its latest offering, a summery Old Town bar with all the amenities. Expect a retractable roof on the outdoor patio and a bank of flat-screen TVs behind the bar that can be turned into one huge mega-screen.
Racine Plumbing Bar & Grill is no place for drips
No, it’s not an after-hours plumber bar. It’s a Lincoln Park sports bar, named after the owner’s dad’s plumbing company. Find plenty of beer and cocktails, complementing a menu chock full of sandwiches and other bar food. And don’t forget to save room for a fried Twinkie.
Break The Curse of being a Cubs fan
The curse of the billy goat is probably the last thing you’d want to remind people of when they’re just a block away from Wrigley Field. Yet the owners of Red Ivy have done just that ? but with the aim of breaking the curse, not embracing it. With an array of fish bowls, cocktails and beer, you’ll have good reason to forget about all those losing seasons.
D.S. Tequila Company brings the fiesta to Boystown
Sip tequila and mahcine-made margaritas while you eat burgers and tacos at this new Boystown hot spot. The side patio is perfect for people-watching in the neighborhood.
Grace Street Tap makes for a charming dive
Find great beers (Oberon, Dirty Bastard, Dogfish Head, Three Philosophers and more) and home-made cocktails at this dive bar with character in North Center.
Curio: The classiest basement bar around
River North hot spot Gilt Bar gets this underground cocktail lounge, which mixes up about 30 different (strong) concoctions.
The Belmont Lounge classes up the neighborhood bar
Part swanky lounge, part neighborhood bar, The Belmont offers up something for everyone in the former Touch (and Bungalow before that) location.
Blue Frog 22 keeps the party going
Kick back and have some fun at this River North spinoff of the popular Blue Frog Bar & Grill that looks more like a basement rec room. Board games and karaoke rule this bar.
The Boiler Room heats things up
It’s all about beer and pizza at this spot from the folks behind Simone’s Bar. Microbrews sit alongside old faithfuls like PBR. Specialty pies dominate the menu, like the namesake pizza, Boiler Room 4, which is topped with PBR meatballs, giardinera and oregano.
Jimmy Green’s Bar & Grill takes it up a notch
This self-described “all-American sports bar” serves up everything from pizza to hummus in the South Loop. The beers are poured with care and food is a marked step up from your average bar fare.
Find four bars (including a full bar in the back patio) at this new sports bar offering from the Four Corners group.
DePaul students can party until 4 a.m. (5 a.m. on Saturday) at this late-night basement bar in the heart of Lincoln Park.
Grab a specialty cocktail and check out the Gold Coast’s best eye candy at this two-floor club in the former Level spot.
Head to this gangster-themed River North bar for a cocktail fit for prohibition, along with solid sandwiches and other bar food. Nighttime performances include burlesque shows and an open-mic night on Mondays.
Get in on the ground floor at this bar in the W Chicago City Center.
The former Vain spot re-opens as this three-story dance club in Lincoln Park with a VIP level on the third floor overlooking the rest of the party.
Adding to the growing izakaya (Japanese small plates bars) trend is this Lakeview spot. Expect Japanese food without the sushi — ramen, udon, yakitori.
Free of the kitschy Three’s Company theme, Streeterville’s Regal Beagle re-opens as this contemporary American bar/restaurant with a focus on beer and comfort. A dozen flat-screens show the sporting event of the day, and DJs take over at night on the weekends.
Blokes & Birds
This British-themed bar in Wrigleyville plans to offer communal seating, 20-plus beers on tap (including many American craft brews), pool tables and more.
Sip specialty cocktails in style on plush black couches at this French-inspired River North spot, which features an entire wall painted gold. There is also a small menu of appetizers to nibble on.
Cork & Kerry at the Park
The popular Beverly bar opens a new location just a few blocks from U.S. Cellular Field in Bridgeport.
Moe’s Cantina (River North)
The popular Wrigleyville bar plans to open a River North outpost in October.
Leader Bar & Grill
This Avondale establishment (with thin-crust pizza as a specialty) from the owners of Uberstein and MaxBar is aiming for an October opening.
Haymarket Pub & Brewery
Rock Bottom brewmaster Pete Crowley is leaving his post to open this West Loop brewpub sometime in early November.
Get sensual at this new River West club, opening later this year.
A new cocktail lounge from Alinea’s Grant Achatz and his team will open in the former Fulton Lounge space in the West Loop, sometime this year. We think.
Grab a local beer or martini and order up from the menu full of comfort food favorites at this quaint Lincoln Square bar, opening later this year. There will be TVs to watch the game and a patio coming soon after.
Exchange Urban Hang Suite
Head to this South Side for a night of bottle service or just to chill on the outdoor deck – beginning later this year.
Check out Centerstage Chicago food and drink deals!
Phil Vettel recommends
Christmas Day dining options few, but impressive
Dining out on Christmas Day is never easy, but it’s not impossible. Most people know that Chinatown is always a good dining-out bet, and nearly every hotel restaurant has to provide some sort of food service, even on Christmas Day (can’t let your guests go hungry).