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.
Sudsy drafts gush from foam-flecked taps at The Chubby Bullfrog, a neighborhood watering hole aglow with the flicker of televised Chicago sporting events. Gooey strings of cheese swing elastically, like a jazz clarinetist during his weekly yoga class, from thick slices of pizza studded with sausage or pepperoni. Boisterous cheers echo off the contours of golden pitchers filled with Miller Light, Blue Moon, or seasonal selections from Sam Adams, such as Winter Lager, Summer Ale, and White After Labor Day Stout.
Helmed by Victor Muenzer, a Grammy-winning conductor and trumpeter, the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra breathes new life into classical masterworks, operatic favorites, and Broadway hits. Instead of hiring Shakespeare’s ghost to run a kissing booth, the orchestra delivers two tributes to his most famous love story, Romeo & Juliet, in its "Valentine Romance" program. A cadre of soloists who have played with venerable Chicagoland and international orchestras make hearts swoon during Prokofiev’s emotionally intense Romeo & Juliet, op. 64 and a star-crossed suite from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. In addition to performing a solo, local violist Dan Golden will premiere his latest composition, Eine Kleine Klezmer Musik, a danceable love song to Jewish music from Eastern Europe.
Pickwick Theatre, home to one of the Chicago area’s largest theaters, showcases the latest Hollywood blockbusters inside a historic, registered-landmark building. Patrons flood their visual and aural receptors with the theater’s current list of films displayed on one of three screens, including an expansive main auditorium that seats 1,000 people or mannequins comically brought to life. Popcorn and soda keep bodily hungers sated throughout films' airtime and prevent stomach growls from interrupting key dialogue.
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.