[Photograph: Amber Gibson]

Green Door Tavern has been around since 1921 and famously sold alcohol during Prohibition. The green door signified the presence of a speakeasy since money (green) was used to pay off the cops. I'd never really thought of it as a food destination, but clearly lots of loyal regulars can't get enough or it wouldn't still be around.

The front door and building are slanted like the Leaning Tower of Pisa but that only adds to the historic charm. The only other place in town that can compare is Billy Goat Tavern. Just hope a wolf doesn't come to blow the house down, because I'm fairly certain he'd succeed.

The menu has been pretty much the same standard tavern fare for more than forty years, but recently Dirk Flanigan (formerly of The Gage and Henri) consulted with the restaurant to elevate the cuisine to gastropub levels. Several new sandwiches and burgers are the result of the collaboration, but my favorite is the crispy braised beef ($12) which is the best sandwich I've eaten all year. It's December and I've eaten an awful lot of sandwiches this year, so that statement means a lot.

Owner Lou Waddle owns an angus ranch in Somerset, Kentucky and uses his own beef for a few of the specialty items on the menu, including this one. He starts with a 40-pound cut of beef belly and braises it for eight hours, ending up with nine pounds at the end. "We extract the lean meat," Waddle says. "We're taking most of the fat away, but what's left is incredibly moist."

It's juicy indeed, especially when folded in with smashed caraway seeds and havarti cheese on the flat-top grill. The meat mixture is served on a buttered pretzel bun with horseradish sauce and a little mustard. What results is a mass of juicy, fatty, cheesy, meaty deliciousness with crispy bits along the edges. It's all brightened by the horseradish sauce and mustard. If you need a little more acid and crunch, take a bite of the pickle spear that's served on the side.

The crinkle cut fries deserve mention too. They are dusted with a tasty barbecue seasoning salt. Just eating this sandwich makes me feel like I can add a small layer of fat to my body to fend against the bitter winter cold.

Green Door Tavern

Green Door Tavern

  • River North

678 N Orleans St at Huron St Chicago IL 60654 3126645496

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