At Paddy Mac's, chefs revel in gastropub traditions by sizzling up a bounty of Irish-inspired bar staples. In the dining area, servers adorn high-top tables with dishes of potato skins, corned-beef sandwiches, and a signature burger that Centerstage_called "a half-pound of perfection" as patrons cheer for local teams or affable corporate mascots on eight HDTVs overhead. A slew of Irish beers and microbrews complement the pub grub, while an outdoor patio and a full brunch menu encourage guests to celebrate the sunshine.
The owners of Smoque BBQ are passionate about smoked meat—so passionate, in fact, that they composed a lengthy manifesto outlining their goal of creating a distinctly Chicagoan style of barbecue. They traveled the nation, picking up tips in Memphis, Kansas City, and other cities famous for their barbecue, and put the tastiest traditions into practice at a BYOB eatery. North Carolina-style pulled pork, subtly smoky beef brisket, and ribs of the St. Louis and babyback varieties are a few of Smoque's specialties. Diners can also sink teeth into double-smoked, Texas-style hot links that Serious Eats describes as having “a gentle, complex spice from both cayenne and black pepper.” Other aromatic spices can be found in Smoque's sauces, each of which is carefully crafted to complement a particular meat.
Ban Po Jung serves authentic Korean comfort food in a cozy, casual environment. Traditional dishes such as dolsot bi bim bop, a medley of rice, veggies, and possibly meat in a sizzling stone bowl, and bulgogi, grilled and marinated meat, come accompanied by an impressive number of side dishes called banchans. Their soups are large enough to serve two people, making them perfect to share on a cold night or use to melt more than one snowman.
As night falls on the corner of Lawrence and Central in Jefferson Park, Central Kitchen and Tap's towering sign blazes to life with a neon invitation to "stop in" and shining arrows helpfully pointing the way. The vintage-inspired fixture wouldn't look out of place beside a roadside eatery from the 1950s, and it perfectly conveys the restaurant's spirit before diners even step through the front doors. Central Kitchen and Tap manages to walk a fine line between two ambiances by combining the counter service and charming booths of a casual diner with the full bar and assorted televisions of a neighborhood pub.
The family-friendly tavern welcomes everyone and this is readily apparent in the menu of American classics, which also includes the occasional international treat. Roasted chicken, slow-cooked ribs, and grilled pork chops seem directly inspired by home-style recipes. However, the selection also features dishes such as saffron-tinged Spanish rice with grilled shrimp and a traditional pasta bolognese with braised beef marinara. In between bites of comfort food from home and abroad, diners can also enjoy a refreshing pint of beer or a glass of wine.
A large chalkboard hangs over the central bar and counter section, laying out the entire menu in neat handwriting. Small black-and-white photographs line the walls beside the slate-blue booths, although the televisions also keep guests' attention by playing various sports broadcasts. For the children or the young at heart, the diner features a couple of arcade games that allow patrons to pass the time in exchange for a few quarters.
Windy City Inn's bartenders wet parched whistles with beer by the glass, bottle, and bucket, as well as cocktails and myriad libations, late into the night seven days a week. Wall-mounted televisions pour sporting events into fans’ thirsty eyes at this friendly North Center pub. Its atmosphere drew praise from the Chicago Bar Project, which wrote, "the camaraderie at Windy City Inn is amazing." Occasional music and open-mic nights accompany the melody of clinking ice cubes, and a brief menu of bar nibbles keeps stomachs from growling out sea chanteys.
PitchFork's whiskey devotees pride themselves on a sweeping selection of grain mash beverages and a menu of rustic bar fare served in a Western-inspired setting. A pantheon of more than 100 different whiskeys stoically stands over the bar to silently challenge all passersby to test their fiery contents, including 4 Roses ($5), Old Weller ($7), and the voluminously bearded 12-year Pappy Van Winkle ($10) (prices based on shots and cocktails). The pulled-pork sandwich ($8.50) loads piles of smoked meat onto a toasted bun to create a cleaner, more efficient porcine consumption medium than tangy slabs of baby back ribs ($12 half; $19 full). Patrons can coax out reclusive appetites with a platter of buffalo-, barbecue-, or citrus-sauced wings ($8–$20) before designing their own mac 'n' cheese, accessorized with a variety of ingredients including prosciutto, asparagus, or mother-of-pearl brooches ($7+).