Red Lobster, Wicker Park’s Mirai Sushi, and Lincoln Park punk bar Delilah’s are three seemingly disparate venues. However, they have something in common—all three have hired graduates of American Professional Bartending Schools of Illinois to mix their drinks and man their bars. The schools have been landing graduates at notable Chicago establishments for more than 60 years, but their connection with alums doesn’t end with their first gig. Graduates receive lifetime, personalized job-placement assistance and can call the school’s career hotline 24 hours a day to find out about job openings or trade meatloaf recipes.
The schools' focus on employment also shows in their bartending classes, which are modeled after on-the-job training and led by teachers with an average of more than 20 years of industry experience. Taught at bars complete with realistic faux liquor, the sessions cover topics from mixology to presentation and etiquette.
Inspired by small craft spirit creators of yore, Derrick Mancini founded Quincy Street Distillery as a way to celebrate traditional, and create new, American spirits. Today, Mancini and distiller, Danny Maguire, oversee a small crew that crafts and bottles 12 artisanal, small-batch spirits including a mead-based dry honey spirit, a railroad gin, a colonial-style single malt rye, and a young bourbon whiskey that's too young to drink itself. Take a tour of the distillery to bring the full story of these libations into focus. Distillery tours detail every step of the grain-to-whiskey production, including fermentation, distillation, cutting, barreling, and bottling. Conclude with a tasting in the Speakeasy cocktail bar that includes a brief history lesson about many of the spirit brands, and after where patrons can purchase classic and original cocktails or pick up bottles at the retail shop. You can also reach the distillery by train on the Burlington Metra line just a block from the Riverside station.
Island Sports Bar and Grill maintains the balance between good food and good fun, serving up hearty bar food to complement a full schedule of social events. The kitchen crew grills beef, turkey, and veggie burgers to order, and tops Vienna hot dogs with all the Chicago fixings. Meanwhile, customers strut their stuff during Monday-night line dancing and karaoke, learn stepping lessons on Tuesday, listen to a live band on Wednesday, cut loose at ladies night on Thursday, or slap their knees in jubilant joy or subtle spasm during the Friday-night comedy hour. The middle of the week brings a host of events.
Open for 25 years and celebrated by AM670 The Score, the Southland Star, and Patch.com, the items on the Durbin’s menu vary by location, but all of its kitchens prepare hearty sandwiches, pizzas, and barbecue. Wood embers infuse ribs and chicken with smoky flavors as USDA Black Angus steaks are plated alongside sautéed mushrooms and homemade coleslaw. Fresh donut holes are also made in-house and stacked on ice cream sundaes topped with a single red cherry that resembles the setting sun resting on a pillow of vanilla-flavored clouds.
Sullivan's Irish Pub & Eatery, a bastion of Irish culture in Chicago's South Side, is a time-honored destination for traditional Irish food and cold craft beer. Servers sling plates of corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, and other comforting classics, as well as boxtys?commonly known as Irish-style potato pancakes. Burgers, wings, and draft beer from Irish breweries such as Guinness and Smithwicks round out the menu. In addition to the hearty food and drink, the pub houses a stage for live music, while an outdoor bar stays open all four seasons for open-air sipping and plate Frisbee.
A smattering of 20 sauces and seasonings dripping from handspun wings coats patrons' fingers as they cheer on their favorite professional sports teams broadcast on Buffalo Wild Wings' TVs. Eyes are torn between watching teams dribble a ball, shoot a puck, and land a grand jeté, and plates of plentiful wings, burgers, wraps, salads, and ribs. For more entertainment, trivia games exercise brains, and the Blazin' Challenge offers recognition for those brave enough to down a dozen wings slathered in the eatery's hottest sauce in 6 minutes.