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.
The menu at Illusion Bar Grill Cafe reads like a culinary map of Europe. Inside the relaxing lounge space, guests can start their journey in Italy by digging into paninis bursting with fresh veggies and savory meats. Next, it's on to Greece with a plate of hummus and Greek fries arranged in the shape of Dionysus giving the shaka sign. Pierogis transport diners further north in the continent, where bottles and drafts of Polish, Russian, and German beer complement the potato-stuffed dumplings. Finally, homemade tiramisu and an Espresso martini whisk taste buds back to the country where their journey began.
Food has found a good home at Emerson’s Ale House. Here, chefs present half-pound burgers with pretzel buns and their very own beer pairings—the Smoke House burger with manchego cheese and pulled pork pairs with Rogue Dead Guy ale, for example, and the Roy-Ale burger with fried egg, smoked bacon, and English cheddar lines up nicely with Three Floyds' Robert the Bruce. To char-grilled salmon they add a side of dirty rice; to braised short ribs, garlic smashed potatoes. And they grant their desserts—chocolate-crepe cake, bread pudding, and Chicago-style raspberry cheesecake—the power to satisfy two diners at once, even if both are very upset about a failed attempt to gerrymander their foe’s sock drawer.
Emerson's TV collection helps patrons take in the game with friends, and its complimentary bacon bar provides the opportunity to see if bacon still tastes like bacon. Because liquor bottles only prosper when they're close to other liquor bottles, Emerson's has wisely grouped them all together behind the bar, where they huddle in wait before getting all mixed up inside your glass.
When paired with blues chords, the smell of barbecue sauce transcends the normal sensory experience. Housemade dry rubs and sauces sink into smoked brisket, turkey, pulled pork, baby back ribs as the meat smokes slowly over a mix of hickory and applewood chips. Blues Bar masters this ethereal combination of soulful sounds and soul food, coupling weekends of live music with saucy ribs and sides of honey-chipotle corn bread and homemade fries. Inside the lofted dining room, tables look down onto the bar and its 24 HDTV screens that play live sporting events. Also you can find well over 75 plus craft bottled beers and 20 continually rotated draft craft beers. The blues joint’s decor pays tongue-in-cheek tribute to Chicago icons the Blues Brothers with a larger-than-life mural of the smart-suited duo and a full-sized vintage squad car in which John Belushi’s hat was once arrested for armed robbery.
Founded as a traveler-friendly saloon in 1902, Mrs. P & Me now welcomes patrons to a menu of comforting pub fare and drinks served from its original bar. Poultry rules the dinner menu, from the herb-marinated grecian chicken to the rigatoni palermo, starring grilled chicken nesting in vodka-sauced pasta. Old-fashioned pot roast is no match for even the most tenderly wielded fork, causing occasional taunts from its accompanying soup, salad, and potato, and a half-slab of tender baby back ribs arrives ready to slather fingers in a specialty sauce. At the bar, Guinness and Fat Tire fizz from the taps, and drink slingers pour wine and mix basic cocktails. Inside Mrs. P & Me's stately Tudor-style house, diners chat amid historic Mount Prospect memorabilia, and, on the patio, spoons clink in battles of bites that draw crowds of wagering passersby.
At Bar Louie, a menu furnishes plates with burgers, sandwiches, and seafood as specialty cocktails wet whistles and flat screens beam sports games into eyeballs. A fried egg balances perfectly atop the layers of bacon and cheddar of the fried Louie burger ($10.50), which arrives at its target table with a side of french fries. Burger gobblers tiring of beef can opt for a patty of chicken, turkey, or portabella. Seared ahi tuna ($16) wears a sesame-seed coat to protect it from unseasonable floods of sichuan sauce, flurries of cilantro, and invasions of sautéed vegetables. Beer-battered Drunken fish 'n' chips ($13) come with seasoned fries and tarter sauce, and hoagie rolls bookend the Luigi's shaved rib-eye steak ($11) next to a nest of french fries. Specialty cocktails include Louie's cosmo, whose Absolut Citron welcomes dollops, splashes, and timid pours of orange liqueur, fresh lime and white cranberry juices, and syrup.