The building that houses Argus Brewery was once a horse stable. But not just any horse stable—the distribution stables of Chicago’s historic Joseph E. Schlitz, of Schlitz beer fame, where the Schlitz horse teams and carriages resided in the early 1900s. Today, two large terra-cotta horse heads on the building’s parapet pay homage to the building’s origins. Inside, instead of horses, there’s craft beer created by father and son and three-legged-race partners Bob and Patrick Jensen, who have worked tirelessly to perfect their sudsy creations. Along with hard work, they bring their South Side pride and attitude to making each premium craft beer, which they feel is reflected in the unique flavor, depth, and unapologetic bravado of each brew.
Michael Dorf stood with his brother Josh, smiling over the barrel filled with wine from grapes they'd just crushed, fermented, and pressed. He claims that despite tastings and classes, he'd never begun to understand wine until this moment. As his understanding grew, he laid the foundations for City Winery: a full winery facility, restaurant, and concert venue inside urban Chicago. He now watches over more than 400 international wines and 20 house wines. Inside the winery, these wines—made from nine US and international varietals—age inside stainless steel tanks and American and French oak barrels. Here, staffers lead winemaking classes, letting visitors join the crushing and fermenting process, and showing them how make private barrels and fill custom juice boxes or bottles pasted with labels of their own design.
These monolithic tanks and barrels can be seen through floor-to-ceiling windows from most of the restaurant's rooms, where servers ferry Executive Chef Andres Barrera's dishes, each a blend of Italian, French, Spanish, and Middle-Eastern flavors. The culinary team crafts small and large plates of artisanal cheeses, seafood, and flatbreads—which they make using the winery's own wine lees as yeast. In the restaurant and Barrel Room tasting bar, staffers pour housemade wines piped fresh from the cellar through 14 taps, while visitors bask in the glow from hard wood and floor to ceiling windows. Patrons dine on a ground floor lit by soft blue lights and hanging lamps fashioned from old wine bottles, as well as a mezzanine level looking out on the city skyline. Private dining rooms gather guests around long communal tables, stretched between exposed brick walls. In the show venue, comedians, live musicians, and slapstick-prone stage crew members entertain audiences under the glow of tabletop candles.
Granite City Food and Brewery, a casual family restaurant founded by hospitality experts, has an on-site brewery and a menu stuffed with more steak, seafood, pasta, flatbread pizza, burger, and sandwich options than Abe Lincoln had dollar bills stuffed in his top hat. Gourmet pub-grub appetizers and many other generously portioned dishes are listed alongside the beers that bring out their flavors. The intoxicating taste of the inebriated vodka mussels ($12.99) is suggested alongside Northern Light, a light creamy beer, while the juicy, tender meatiness of a 14 oz. New York strip ($25.99) is advised along with Brother Benedict’s Bock, a brownish German style lager. Others among Granite City Food and Brewery's six specialty brews are the Irish-style Broad Axe Stout, known for its nose of roasted chocolate and coffee notes, and Duke Of Wellington, an English IPA with muscle-bound malt character and a deep-seated dislike of Napoleon.
Equipped with an in-house brewing system, Old Hat Brewery churns out a medley of homegrown suds to pair with an extensive menu of hearty pub fare. Whistles receive a thorough wetting with a bevy of brews ($4–$5), such as the house-brewed alt ale, which glows with a ruby hue and creates a bitter balance of malt and hops; and the pub’s original gluten-free brew, a sudsy beverage that gives sippers with vendettas against whole grains the opportunity to quench thirsts. Old Hat Brewery fills in the nooks and crannies left in the stomach after a brew-dousing with noshables such as the prime-rib french dip sandwich, a mound of meat marinated in homemade stout and resting atop billowy bread ($6.99); or a half-pound burger cooked to order ($5.99). Burritos, nachos, and quesadillas satisfy southwestern appetites ($5.99–$7.99), and an array of hand-tossed dough disks come adorned with your choice of fixings or inspirational quotes penned in marinara sauce ($8.99–$12.99).
PRP Wine's continent-hopping wine experts search far and wide for the world's finest pours, constantly replenishing their stock with bottles plucked off the vine in the United States, Europe, Australia, South America, and South Africa. PRP’s seasonal wine catalog champions unique adult beverages from renowned suppliers, including Germany's Ferdinand Pieroth GmbH Winery, whose grape-shucking traditions date back almost 300 years. Those who would like to try before they buy can call upon one of PRP's knowledgeable consultants to host an in-home tasting party, during which the wine expert brings a handful of samples and shares wine-pairing recipes. For special occasions, personalized wine bottles arrive at doorsteps bearing such messages as “Happy Birthday!”, “Congratulations on the new baby!”, or “Everyone falls off the water tower at some point––get well soon!”
Zodiac Cafe and Lounge balances a constellation of themed martinis with a Mediterranean-inspired menu of sandwiches, salads, and small plates. Diners design flights of cheese and olives, and chefs stuff grass-fed burger patties with a rotating selection of ingredients. Pints from the craft-beer menu complement edibles, as do 12 martinis that re-imagine each astrological sign as a concoction of colorful spirits. Muted earth tones and wood accents anchor both dining room and lounge to terra firma, and starburst light fixtures and an astrological chart grant insight into Zeus's interior-decorating scheme. After the sun sets on the patio, wander inside to check out the schedule of karaoke, open-mic performances, and sets from local house DJs.
Prior to arriving at tables, the wings at Brewski's Wings and Things bathe in one of 12 sauces, which range from Dijon honey to parmesan and pepper. It's fair to say the sauces have a kick since even the mild buffalo sauce is called "mild hot" and the hottest flavor goes by the name "hotter than super hot." Aside from wings, diners nosh on chicken tenders, half-pound steak burgers, and nachos loaded with beef, beans, jalapeños, and guacamole. A cartoon rooster named Roscoe, the eatery's brew-holding mascot, makes multiple appearances on the menu and in the dreams of children who want to grow up to be a chicken who drinks responsibly.