One of the few downtown bars to survive the Great Chicago Fire, the Green Door Tavern has also spent time as a grocery store and Italian restaurant. Before heading inside, take a peek from across the street. You might be surprised to notice that the bar’s wooden frame leans visibly to the right.
Near Addison and the Kennedy Expressway sits an unexpected slice of Bavaria: Mirabell Restaurant & Lounge. Taking in the German flags, live accordian music, and dirndl-clad servers, it's not difficult to sit back and imagine the twin towers of Munich's Frauenkirche looming just outside the doorway. But it's the food and drink, more than anything, that firmly roots this Irving Park cornerstone within the German beerhall tradition. A hefty menu of central European staples includes the “best damn Wiener schnitzel in town,” according to the Sun-Times, as well as what the Chicago Reader calls, “some of the city's best goulash.” And their extensive beer selection is flush with iconic German brews such as BBK, Juilius Echter Weiss Beer, and Krombacher Black. The heartiness of Mirabell's fare is offset by an airy, skylighted dining room. Banners and plants hang from the main space's lofted ceiling, casting dappled shadows over a collection of ornate steins, Hummel figurines, and crystal pieces. During warmer months, a leafy beer garden lets drinkers supplement beers with a little sunshine, which is allowed by German beer purity laws as long as the sun is not frowning.
Brehon Pub's original tin ceilings have hovered above the establishment since the historical building's construction shortly after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Throughout the century-long parade of patrons that has followed, the pub has had its share of brushes with fame—movie cameras have repeatedly been attracted to the saloon's classic décor, and crooked city inspectors were brought to justice in the bar in 1977 during a nationally reported sting set up by the Chicago Sun-Times. More recently, dignified clientele such as Barack Obama and John Kerry have perched themselves upon the original Brunswick bar. In 1980, the Burke brothers hung their family's coat of arms above the doors of the historical site and began dishing out classic Irish fare, including shepherd's pie and Guinness stew. Today, bartenders pull more than 15 domestic and foreign draft beers from the taps or slide 1 of 41 bottled beers toward thirsty customers. Diners seated at the pub's long cocktail tables can toast to the pictures of Irish writers mounted on the wall, gaze at an authentic Irish World Cup jersey, or whisper Yeats poems into the breeze from the seats of the sidewalk cafe.
In Italian, sentieri Italiani means "Italian paths"—something with which Daniela Cavallero is very familiar. A native of Italy's Piemonte region, Cavallero imagined a place where she could bestow the rich heritage and language of her homeland upon the citizens of her new home in Chicago. She spun her vision into a reality, summoning a squadron of fluent Italian speakers to lead Sentieri Italian's language and culture classes. During each lesson, these well-versed instructors strive to teach pupils of all experience levels more than just language skills—they also give them a thorough rundown of Italian culture and history.
The team also spreads its wealth of knowledge of all things Italian beyond the classroom. To prep travelers for annual excursions to Italy, staffers devise detailed cultural training to ensure travelers know basic phrases and can quickly catch leaning towers. They also arrange regular cultural and dining events and organize a trove of services, including translations, genealogical studies, and assistance in procuring Italian citizenship.
Named one of America's Best Beer Gardens by Travel + Leisure magazine, The Village Tap's ivy-coated garden hosts guided explorations into the nuanced art of beer appreciation. A fireplace and heating lamps keep guests warm as they're gathered around a series of picnic tables, listening to an expert explain the ins, outs, and upside-downs of beer. During the 45-minute session, each pupil will taste three 8-ounce samples from the bar's pantheon of 26 draft beers—one ale, one lager, and one that's neither ale nor lager. Each tasting pair can mix the flavors of the brews with an appetizer, such as barbecue chicken wings or pita bread and hummus.