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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