Nova Lounge's open kitchen gives diners a front row seat to watch chefs prepare a menu of half-pound burgers and meaty sandwiches accented with house-made sauces and fresh toppings. The Nova munching plate starter primes palates with potato skins, mozzarella sticks, and chicken wings before house barbecue sauce infuses taste buds with tang via the Louisiana chicken sandwich, cloaked in mozzarella cheese and bacon. Sudsy draughts such as Blue Moon or Guinness can douse mouth fires caused by eating an Inferno burger topped with chipotle and jalapeño peppers or attending a Fire-Breathing for Beginners class.
Old Chicago offers a menu of deep-dish pizzas and fresh pastas, with an extensive list of 110 beers from around the world to wash it all down. The sicilian pepperoni roll, a potent mix of pepperoni, pepper jack, mozzarella, green onion, and ranch dressing baked into a doughy fuselage ($7.99), leads an arsenal of appetizers equipped to soothe early hunger pangs. Eight offerings of pasta include the santorini, a motley crew of Mediterranean vegetables—black olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic—lovingly embraced by romano-and-parmesan-garnished cavatappi noodles ($10.99). The Chicago Seven calzone packs a savory payload of sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, green peppers, red onion, and melted cheese ($9.99). Old Chicago diners can follow in the footsteps of famous pizza artist Vincent van Stuffedcrust by creating their own pies ($20.79 for a large with three toppings)—choose from over 40 toppings, including grilled steak, ricotta, and jalapeños—or pick from a list of eight specialty pizzas, such as the protein-packed meat me ($21.99 for a large) or its arch-nemesis, the malibu veggie ($19.99 for a large). Those pining for a tasty meal cap can indulge in OC's famous big cookie ($4.99), a frisbee-sized chocolate-chip treat served in a hot pizza pan.
Zanies Comedy Club presents established comics in Chicago, St. Charles, and Rosemont. Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chelsea Handler are among the many comedic greats who have brought in crowds with jokes since the club opened in 1978.
Mike O'Donnell's Irish Pub ushers patrons from a broad stretch of Franklin Avenue into a bar from which all pretense has been stripped away in favor of a cozy vibe conducive to unwinding. Even the ceiling tiles broadcast the pub's ties to the community in the form of quaint, business-card-style ads for local businesses. In the game room, friendly competitors hone their skills at the dartboard and draw cues for dibs on the pool table between bites of Irish-inspired appetizers and burgers hot from the grill. Meanwhile, barkeeps refill glasses and chat with regulars as flat-screen TVs keep crowds updated on sports action and the latest commands from Big Brother.
A towering, 35-pound pile of Angus beef, American cheese, and bacon awaits those who accept the Da Big Hurt Challenge at Shoeless Joes Ale House & Grille, the 22-year-old sports bar that has won over Chicago diners and Channel 2 News alike. Diners who tackle the challenge are rewarded with a T-shirt and are automatically entered to win the next presidential election. Guests with smaller appetites can enjoy more reasonably sized selections from the sports bar's menu of 14 gourmet burgers, steak, ribs, and pizza. Meals pair with pours from an impressive wine list or the roster of more than 20 craft beers on tap. The restaurant's 36 flat-screen televisions beam sports into the pub throughout the week while guests shoot pool, and singers belt out karaoke tunes on Saturdays.