ESPN on the flat screen? Check. Thirty-one revolving brews on tap? Check. Golden Tee? Check. At first glance there's nothing to distinguish Local Option from any other Lincoln Park sports bar, and maybe that's as it should be—after all, packing your place full of New Orleans tchotchkes won't make your gumbo any better. The menu offers comfort food with a focus on Cajun and creole dishes. Foodwise, anything from the deep fryer can't miss: big, juicy sea scallops and calamari with fries and beer-battered onion rings made for a grand deep-fried meal. Other fish dishes didn't hold up as well—the grill marks on the swordfish in my fish taco were branded so deep in the flesh that nothing could mask the sharp carbon aftertaste, and the grouper in a fish sandwich was lost in a giant bun. Still, in the end Local Option isn't a bad one. Not only does the place do pub grub proud (the burgers and wings are great), it offers a (deep-fried) taste of the bayou without the kitsch.
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With a handwritten sign inside reading "Welcome Nerds (You Know Who You Are)," custom neon for Mikkeller and Evil Twin above the bar, and a huge skull-and-crossbones mural whose German motto translates to "Shit beer will kill you," Local Option could not announce itself any more clearly as Serious About Beer. No drink specials, no cocktail menu—just 31 taps of happiness (the management is especially tight with Three Floyds, De Struise, and Against the Grain) and a small but totally top-shelf bottle menu. The Local Option also runs a gypsy brewing program called Bierwerker that’s as ambitious as it is excellent—the bar reliably has half a dozen of its own creations on tap, and you can find several varieties in bottles around town. The menu leans toward creole dishes, and they’re decent, but if you come here for the food you’re missing the point. —Philip Montoro