Some places re-invent, others re-imagine; Owen & Engine serves British pub food, re-perfected.
'bar eats' on Serious Eats
It's fitting that "evolution" is part of the name, because this place is quite a few steps removed from the industrial park/cement garage/questionable legality days of brewery visits.
It's all about the pork at The Publican. While Paul Kahan's place features just as much seafood, there's no hanging artwork of an oversized fish on the walls, I'm just saying.
Behind an entrance that would give your average abbot door envy, Old Oak Tap is an altar where Ukranian Village brunchers come to pray.
Better known for heartiness over refinement, Wisconsin cuisine evokes images of summer sausage, curds, brats, and other beer soaker-uppers. Probably fried, with butter on top.
Fork invites you to sit down and have some good food paired with good drinks. A little of this, a little of that, with friendly, knowledgeable staff, and no pretenses. I'm still not 100% sure that's upscale casual, but it's certainly worth checking out.
Largely a Venetian thing, cicchetti are essentially Italian tapas, small shared fare to linger over, preferably with a glass of white wine. However, if Venice is not in your immediate future, you can find a nice rendering of the concept right here in Chicago, at Ombra.
A little beer nerd outpost smack in the nucleus of the yupster bubble of Ukrainian Village, Small bar attracts moustaches the way puddles attract rain.
A friendly rockabilly/punk/hipster-esque neighborhood joint, with an almost speakeasy feel, a pool table in back, and a menu of tatted-up Italian fare that may cause some double-takes.
The distinction of neighborhood bar means the place is physically located in a residential neighborhood, and is frequented by said residents. And then also by outsiders like me, who come just for the food.
Great food doesn't open its door to suggestions; good food, however, leaves that door slightly ajar.
I would describe the food as somewhere between Midwest comfort and upscale cafeteria. And that is in no way a slam.
Johnny Brown Bag has had staying power possibly because it's exactly what you think it's not. It is a cozy little BYO restaurant, complete with a menu of small plates, pizzas, pastas, and, yes, sandwiches.
British food used to be the butt of a lot of jokes; greasy and dull, a lot of it didn't make the trip across the pond for good reason. But places like Red Lion Lincoln Square are doing its best to change that impression. And it's working.
Twisted Spoke could easily be the friendliest little biker bar in Chicago. Sounds kind of like a Broadway musical, doesn't it? Please don't tell them I said that.
Like the Neil Young of Chicago brewmasters, Jonathan Cutler has won over twenty major awards for his reliably great beer, and he sells it right beside excellent New Haven style pizza at Piece Brewery and Pizzeria.
Maple Tree Inn doesn't make you feel like you are their guest for the evening; it makes you feel like more like a house guest, with a table always waiting for you.
With its Bavarian façade and unmistakable black and yellow German coat of arms aglow on Irving Park, you've probably seen Laschet's Inn at least a dozen times, each with the same thought--I wonder what happens in there?
The menu, like the beer, is unapologetically in your face with flavor you can't avoid. What hops are to the beer, salt is to these dishes.
Dubbing itself, "The pub you've been practicing for," Chief O'Neill's has something for everyone. My advice is go for the drinks, but stay for the food.