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Small Bar

Small Bar

The Bluebird

1749 N. Damen | 773-486-2473

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, Sunday-FRIDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

This late-night lounge/wine bar/gastropub from the owners of Webster's Wine Bar is a pleasantly understated space, outfitted in a sort of rustic-minimalist vein, with tables made from old wine casks and stools reminiscent of high school chem lab. For the most part the starters are great—lots of cured meats and funky cheeses, salads, flatbreads, and so on. The classic frites, simultaneously crispy and floppy and served with little cups of addictive curried ketchup and garlic aioli, are no-brainer perfection. The seasonal menu features dishes like ale-braised rabbit with mushrooms, bacon, and Manchego served on fettuccine. By-the-glass options we tried from the wine list were excellent, and the extensive beer list is sophisticated and heavy on the Belgians. —Martha Bayne

Brasserie Jo

59 W. Hubbard | 312-595-0800

$$$

FRENCH | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11

With chef Jean Joho (Everest) in charge of this Lettuce Entertain You partnership, the menu expands on traditional brasserie fare with specialties from Joho's native Alsace. A very rich and flaky sweet onion tart appetizer is named after Joho's uncle Hansi; typical brasserie dishes like steak frites, cassoulet, and salade nicoise are also offered. The French wine list emphasizes Alsatian wines, and the new Bar Jo offers 75 beers—more than half of them on tap—from Two Brothers, Half Acre, Lost Abbey, Chimay, Koningshoeven, and others. —Paul Schoenwetter

The Bristol

2152 N. Damen | 773-862-5555

$$$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL MIDNIGHT | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

If we truly lived in a town that cared to eat well, restaurants like chef Chris Pandel's beercentric the Bristol would be distributed evenly instead of concentrating in overcrowded, gentrified ghettos like Bucktown or Lincoln Square. The seasonal menu promises interesting variety at accessible prices; on the daily chalkboard menu, snout-to-tail items beyond pork belly or the increasingly common headcheese put the Bristol in the growing class of restaurants catering to the public's curiosity about the fifth quarter and other uncommon proteins. It's indicative of Pandel's guts that he's unafraid to leave the foot on a roasted half chicken, but at the same time he occasionally shows too much restraint. A supper-club-style relish plate special with potted salmon and beer cheese featured beets with a sprinkling of grated bottarga, the delicious, famously funky cured roe of a mullet. But it was applied with such moderation that if I'd never eaten it before I'd think it was nothing more than some ungarnished purple root vegetable. If these dishes sound fearsome, there's plenty here to feed the timid—duck-fat fries, a burger—and the beer list is deep and fascinating, with lots of large-format bottles and unusual choices. —Mike Sula

Goose Island Brewpub

1800 N. Clybourn | 312-915-0071$$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2, OTHER NIGHTS TILL midnight

Last year former Mas chef John Manion gave the menu at this brewpub a makeover, taking a new approach emphasizing the pairing of locally sourced foods with brewmaster Greg Hall's prolific rotation of beers (there are about 15 on tap, plus a couple guest taps). The kitchen fell in line with current snout-to-tail doctrine, receiving and butchering whole animals, and the brewery even began sending its spent grain back to farmers to use as animal feed. Now Manion's moved on to Branch 27, but Goose Island has promoted longtime in-house chef Andrew Aroza to keep his legacy alive with dishes like house-made goat sausage with pickled brussels sprouts. There's another location at 3535 N. Clark (773-832-9040). —Mike Sula

Hopleaf

5148 N. Clark | 773-334-9851

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Michael Roper's Hopleaf has always been a great bar with a few tragic flaws. The staggering selection of beers with an emphasis on Belgians can be daunting for novices to navigate without assistance, and occasionally stony bartenders are sometimes unwilling or too overwhelmed to provide it. Still, an extremely detailed beer menu helps, and there's no place like this one to explore the deep Belgian tradition of pairing great beer with food—not to mention good food cooked with great beer, the most celebrated and enjoyable example being the mussels steamed in Wittekerke white ale, with long, crispy frites and a tangy aioli. But one of the coolest things about Hopleaf is its commitment to the proper way of drinking—many drafts are poured in their own glasses, designed to accentuate the special qualities of each. A planned expansion will add 120 seats and 20 beer taps. The kitchen's open till midnight on weekends, other nights till 11 PM. —Mike Sula

Jake Melnick's Corner Tap

41 E. Superior | 312-266-0400

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: THURSDAY-SATURDAY TILL 2, MONDAY-WEDNESDAY TILL midnight, SUNDAY TILL 11

The extensive beer list at this corner tap has some real treats, like Surly Bender on tap along with Metropolitan Krankshaft and Lagunitas IPA. The menu's straightforward—mostly artichoke dip, dinner salads, and grilled entrees like burgers, chicken breast sandwiches, and jumbo hot dogs. Nothing innovative going on here, but it's uncomplicated, homey, and a good place to catch the game. The kitchen's open until an hour before closing time. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Jerry's

1938 W. Division | 773-235-1006

$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

I don't know why a sandwich of smoked salmon, avocado, cheddar, and spicy chutney would be named the "Groucho M." or a combo of turkey meat loaf, bacon, peppers, cheddar, and southwest mayo the "Edith P." I only know that they are awesome, especially with a side of smoky mac 'n' cheese (two sides come with every sandwich). There are more than 100 sandwiches on the menu at Jerry's, 500 or so considering bread choices—pretzel roll, brioche, onion bun, focaccia, ciabatta, plus regular white, wheat, and rye. Wash it all down with something off the equally huge and eclectic beer list: it's the best thing this side of Armitage, with nice picks from Metropolitan, Ommegang, Rogue, and the new-to-town Stone. Within the next couple weeks they'll have a new tapping system in place that'll allow them to offer cask ales; the first up will be Two Brothers Bare Tree Barleywine. The kitchen stays open till 11 PM on Friday and Saturday; there's also a late-night menu. There's another location at 1045 W. Madison (312-563-1008). —Tasneem Paghdiwala

Moonshine

1824 W. Division | 773-862-8686

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH: TUESDAY-FRIDAY; DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SATURDAY & SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

The menu at this casual, comfortable spot is a collection of the owners' favorite bar food: burgers, pizza, and steaks. Freshly mashed guacamole came with red, white, and blue corn chips and a mole-ish dip made of dark roasted chiles. The New York strip sandwich was cooked exactly to order and topped with blue cheese; mushrooms are another option. Co-owners John Sanchez and Chris Storey grew up together in New Mexico, and a southwestern influence comes through in the fajitas with beef, chicken, or shrimp and the chiles offered as a pizza topping or a side with the guacamole. Moonshine brews its own beer and offers five at a time on a rotating basis; there's also a decent selection of beers from other brewers on tap and by the bottle. —Laura Levy Shatkin

Piece

1927 W. North | 773-772-4422

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 12:30, THURSDAY TILL 11 | RESERVATIONS FOR LARGE GROUPS ONLY

Award-winning brewmaster Jonathan Cutler supervises the microbrewery attached to the 5,800-square-foot dining room where a pizza party rages nightly. The space has been spruced up with counter-height tables and chairs and two sunken lounge areas up front, where soothing blue banquettes face windows that open onto the sidewalk. The specialty here is hand-tossed thin-crust New Haven-style pizza. Diners create their own, choosing from three bases—plain (tomato sauce, garlic, and Parmesan), white (olive oil, garlic, and mozzarella), and red (tomato sauce with mozzarella)—and toppings that range from mushrooms and onions to clams and bacon. —Laura Levy Shatkin

The Publican

837 W. Fulton | 312-733-9555

$$$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | SUNDAY BRUNCH | OPEN LATE: FRIDAY & SATURDAY TILL 11:30 | RESERVATIONS ACCEPTED

On a busy night here diners can wait upwards of an hour to knock elbows with their neighbors at communal tables, attended to by (mostly) solicitous servers who deliver platters of creamy La Quercia ham, oddments of offal, and peasant classics like cassoulet and boudin blanc in occasionally haphazard fashion. But on balance the food is pretty great. Rillettes were a rich jam of concentrated pork fat and flavor; dense, savory short ribs were brought into balance with a light, cheery dressing of watermelon and cherry tomatoes. And the pork rinds—gussied up bar bites—were revelatory, lighter than air yet still chewy, hit with an invigorating splash of malt vinegar. But not all the pieces of the Publican puzzle fit. A plate of roasted Spanish mackerel (with some potent green garlic) was dry and overcooked, and the dominant flavor in the sweetbread schnitzel was grease. The extensive beer list is lovingly curated, full of Belgian rarities and international cult faves, but some of the same bottles at the Hopleaf run anywhere from $1 to $7 less. The restaurant also hosts a prix fixe beer dinner monthly. —Martha Bayne

Revolution Brewing Company

2323 N. Milwaukee | 773-227-2739

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

Legions of beer geeks waited longingly through the epic struggle by Handlebar principal Josh Deth to open Logan Square's Revolution Brewing, and now that the taps are flowing they're draining the house brews faster than brewer Jim Cibak can produce them. Lines of stoic bearded dudes stream in and back out again with biceps curled around growlers of hoppy IPAs, roasty stouts, and spicy Belgian-style brews, barely glancing at the beautifully designed room, with its barrel-stave fixtures and full view of the brewery's raw industrial operations. Meanwhile chef Jason Petrie does battle in a half-concealed kitchen, struggling to feed the masses inspired yet beer-friendly food and striving to appease both carnivores and the vegetarians migrating from the more plant-eater-friendly Handlebar. So far the results are mixed. On paper a bowl of bacon-fat popcorn sounds like a perfect beer companion, but in practice it's a top-heavy mass with chunks of bacon and clods of shredded Parmesan—the antithesis of finger food. The simplest efforts—tangy, plump smoked buffalo wings, crispy ale-battered scrod—come off the best. Pizzas are offered in a few interesting variants, like duck confit or a corned beef special, but though the outer edges are respectably crispy, the centers tend to get overwhelmed by toppings. The kitchen has a way with spuds, offering them three equally successful ways: long crispy fries, blue cheese potato salad, and fluffy garlic-cream cheese mashed. The last comes in a deep bowl of Flemish stew with an ale and balsamic gravy. Just give me some of that—but hold the tough, gnarly slabs of brisket—and I'll be happy. —Mike Sula

Rock Bottom Brewery

1 W. Grand | 312-755-9339

$$

BAR/LOUNGE | LUNCH, DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | OPEN LATE: EVERY NIGHT TILL 2

This River North chain brewpub is often packed with after-work bargoers. The beer, made in-house, is good, and the food's passable, mostly sandwiches, pastas, nachos, and other bar bites. There's a spacious, pleasant rooftop deck that's a big draw in the summer. The full kitchen is open till midnight on Friday and Saturday, and the late-night menu is available nightly till 1. —Rachel Klein

Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar

954 N. California | 773-292-1616

$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: MONDAY-SATURDAY | CLOSED SUNDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, MONDAY-FRIDAY TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

The main attraction at Humboldt Park's Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar, not surprisingly, is the intriguing list of small-batch beverages put together by a trio of Webster's Wine Bar vets. There are a good many interesting selections, including a passel of wines from Greece, Austria, and unusual spots like Slovenia. And the beer list includes several 22-ounce bottles, among them Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine Ale, Schmaltz Coney Island Albino Python White Lager, and the Lost Abbey 10 Commandments Ale. But executive chef Remy Ayesh's tight, well-curated menu of small and midsize plates, cheese, and charcuterie is no afterthought, peppered with items engineered to trigger Pavlovian gushes of saliva: bar plates include a few sweet and savory duos, including bacon toffee with spiced mixed nuts. Among the generally solid larger plates, the loosely packed burger with bacon-chive aioli is super, and the cognac-lamb sausage with braised chard and fresh celery hearts was a beautiful plate of complementary textures. —Mike Sula

Small Bar

2956 N. Albany | 773-509-9888

$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | LUNCH: SUNDAY, SATURDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, OTHER NIGHTS TILL 2

One of the coziest corner bars in the city, Logan Square's Small Bar stocks more than 80 bottled beers and has another 13—from Allagash to North Coast to Left Hand—on tap, but the friendly, knowledgeable bartenders are more than equipped to help you navigate them. The kitchen turns out better-than-average bar food: burgers, sandwiches, personal pizzas, and appetizers like fried calamari and baked goat cheese, not to mention ultracrispy deep-fried tater tots. A sister bar in Wicker Park (2049 W. Division, 773-772-2727) offers more of the same, plus regular broadcasts of international soccer games and the occasional live band; there's a third location at 1415 W. Fullerton (773-525-2727). —Martha Bayne

Twisted Spoke

501 N. Ogden | 312-666-1500

$

BAR/LOUNGE | DINNER: SEVEN DAYS | LUNCH: MONDAY-FRIDAY | BRUNCH: SUNDAY, SATURDAY | OPEN LATE: SATURDAY TILL 3, other nights TILL 2 | RESERVATIONS NOT ACCEPTED

"Eat, Drink, Ride" is the motto at this casual joint at the corner of Grand and Ogden, but most people are just eating and drinking. The place is decorated to look like a biker hangout, with several hogs half-buried nose down in the dirt outside, an industrial metal interior, and a rust-covered facade. The menu offers bar munchies, burgers, and a dozen or so huge sandwiches—barbecued chicken and pulled pork, a grilled portobello—all of which are served with equally huge handfuls of crispy fries; there are also wings, gumbo, and chicken tacos with pico de gallo. Saturday nights after midnight the Spoke offers "Smut 'n' Eggs"—breakfast and old stag movies. Up the stairs is a rooftop patio that's surprisingly airy for a biker bar, no matter how ersatz. —Laura Levy Shatkin

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