Friday, January 31, 2014

Bars I Like - Pittsburgh, PA

I spent two years living in Pittsburgh while I attended the University of Pittsburgh for my MS degree at the Graduate School of Public Health. Coming from Fargo, ND it was a large transition but I was excited about it and met a lot of great people in the process.

Being a poor graduate student (and without a car) I chose to live near Pitt's main campus. The lab I was working in was located in the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside.
Hillman Cancer Center UPMC - Credit TheZachMorrisExperience - 09.22.2008

Since I didn't have a car and about 95% of my time would be spent in Oakland and Shadyside, I lived very close to the Hillman...very close...like I counted the steps one day from my bed in my apartment to my desk in the lab and it was less than 400.

Therefore, the bars I am going to list are all fairly close to each other geographically. I am certain however, that if these bars were spread out anywhere, I would still love them.

Silky's Pub
Silky's Pub - I love this bar. Right down the street from where I lived and worked in Pittsburgh, THIS is a neighborhood bar. Good drinks, good food, shuffleboard (what else could you possibly want?) But the list goes on. A unique location in the Bloomfield burough of Pittsburgh, a unique interior/exterior, and very close to the best 24 hour diner in Pittsburgh.

Sharp Edge Beer Emporium
Sharp Edge Beer Emporium - Located in Friendship, right on the East Liberty border, this bar was a little farther walk. However, this is the bar where my love of beer was founded. The variety is extensive. The food was great, the beer was great, the sports scene was great. There wasn't anything special about the layout. I remember the bar being a little on the small side and they had split the seating area into multiple rooms. This is where my unofficial going away party was held and whenever I get back to Pittsburgh, this is one of the first places I stop.

Hemingway's Cafe
Hemingway's Café - The best college bar in Pittsburgh, and one of the top in the country. Dollar drafts of Yuengling and Pitt co-eds. What more do you need to know?
BrilloBox
BrilloBox - The BrilloBox was hipster before hipster was cool (I don't even think that makes sense). Located in a great old part of Pittsburgh, the Box always had great indie bands, and a pretty unique crowd. There is a regular there (and man I hope he is still there) that I personally will never forget, he was there all night every night, it was amazing. He may have lived there. The Box will probably be most recognized by fans of "She's Out of My League".

Fuel and Fuddle
Fuel and Fuddle - Fuel and Fuddle was nothing special except that it has good food and good beer close to campus. Often times when students would come interview at Pitt, this is where we would take them. That being said, there were a lot of really good times here, and I met a lot of really great people in this bar. This also was the source of one of the best grades I got on an Immunology exam. We had studied really well over the whole weekend, I believe the test was Tuesday morning. The Steelers had a big Monday Night Football game and a group of us went out to reward ourselves. I think it was just what I needed, a little R&R before the test. Also...great sweet potato fries.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bars I Like - North Chicago, IL

I spent five years of my life living in North Chicago (which is the name of an actual suburb, not just northern Chicago city). Numerous students (especially foreign) were tricked into thinking they would be living in the northern area of the city of Chicago, not in a completely separate suburb 30 miles north of downtown.

North Chicago the suburb is a wasteland consisting of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, a U.S. Navy Base and associated military base things (commissary, exchange, housing, administrative buildings, etc.). There are very few quality restaurants or bars nearby. Directly south is Lake Forest (which has one of the only Ferrari dealerships in IL, and has a median family income of $200,000+). Directly north is Waukegan which the majority of the population is minority, and the median family income is $47,000). Based on the demographics of its neighbors, North Chicago is a weird place.

The best place to go then is a little further away. Libertyville, and Highwood were my personal favorites in the time I was there. Libertyville is a little slice of Americana. The main stretch of shops, bars, and restaurants is historic, classy, and has nice variety.

Firkin - Libertyville, IL
Firkin - With what I would consider the best beer menu and best food in the area, Firkin is a high quality bar. Very average size, but they were smart enough in the cold Chicago winters to make people go through their back alley to keep drinkers and diners comfortable and away from any drafty entry way. They have vinyl Monday's and a lot of other great events.

Firkin is also interesting to me because it seems like the best informal meeting bar in an area where there is a lot of business being done. Headquarters in the area include Solo Cup Company, Pactiv, CDW, Grainger, Brunswick, Abbott, Baxter, Hospira, and Takeda to name a few. Firkin was a good place to be seen and to talk to locals.

Mickey Finn's Brewery - Libertyville, IL
Mickey Finn's Brewery - Just across the street from Firkin is a solid bar. Not quite a great sports bar, not quite a great microbrewery, not quite a great venue for music, but above average in all three.  It has a great patio, and often throws block parties in the summer behind the bar. The menu is great, with all the usual bar food, but large, above average quality of each. Apparently it is moving as construction has begun on their new bar (just across the street, down a little ways).

I love this bar. It is sort of my default bar whenever I can't or don't feel like making a decision. I know if I go here I won't be disappointed and will probably have a great beer, a good meal, and feel very comfortable whether at the bar, or out on the patio. Plus like any good brewer, I enjoy looking at the brewing room.

Chief's Pub - Lake Forest, IL
Chief's Pub - I love the bar at this bar. Chief's is very unpretentious, with a good menu and good beer. They have a very friendly (usually very attractive) staff, and keep their prices reasonable, especially for Lake Forest. There is nothing really special about this bar (except the bar itself which is huge and beautiful). Great for watching a game, an after work drink, or anytime.

Bridie McKenna's - Highwood, IL
Bridie McKenna's - A definitive Irish Pub, they have a great beer selection and the best of the best Irish dinners. The bar is clean and very pretty. Not especially ornate, but a lot of dark wood and brass as well as hardwood floors, a nice fire place, and an interesting flow of patrons. The bar is close enough to Lake Forest College that it attracts college kids, which adds to the atmosphere, especially on the weekends.

Bridie McKenna's is one of my favorite places to go in the fall and winter when it's necessary to have a great dark beer and some Beef and Guinness Stew.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

What's In a Name?

Obviously, one of the most important aspects of of starting any business is the name, and branding of your business. Personally, I think this is even more important in the service industry. Bars and restaurants are known by their name and a lot of feelings can come with the mention of a name (good or bad).



With that being said, a couple of ideas have been floated over the course of our bar planning that I particularly like.

  1. Lance's - This is an obvious choice. However, what I would like to do is make the logo into two crossed lances and have it be a what I think is a rather cool visual play on words (which may or may not be a oxymoron). 
  2. Juanita's Last Resort - This is a long running name, probably the first name that we came up with way back in college. Outdated, and doesn't really mean anything anymore, I add it to the list just for posterity.
  3. Far-Going's - Again, I like this is a play on words. It would be a very nice name for branding purposes, and I think would convey a nice positive message which is perfect for a non-profit bar.
  4. Fargo Public House - The best part about this name is the tradition and history that it conveys. Public Houses were places people could go, get a beer, converse, debate, and were important centers of ideas. Unfortunately, this name isn't so original and there are many (insert city/state name here) Public Houses, and the first successful non-profit bar is the Oregon Public House.
  5. Sanctuary - Again, not necessarily an original name, (there is a great one in Iowa City, IA) but for a non-profit pub, I think it conveys the proper message and just has a really nice connotation. 
  6. Fellowship Pub - Relatively original name, and again proper messaging and branding. 
So my hope is that when the time comes, one of these works well and people gravitate and appreciate the name.


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