At Ellyn's, patrons nosh American sandwiches, salads, and entrees while scoping 14 HD TVs and sipping frosty draughts. Throat-lubricating libations include 12 taps, dozens of bottles, and cocktails and martinis as one-of-a-kind as a baby wearing a snowflake costume. Tummy caves will be spelunked by a pioneering dip of spinach, artichoke, and fire-roasted red pepper armed with crispy tortilla chip excavators ($6.99). Ellyn's USDA-choice flat iron steak is infused with chipotle, while its chicken is marinated in cilantro and walnut pesto and char-grilled to maw-taunting specifications ($12.99).
Hailed by Chicago magazine as one of 2009's best new restaurants, Glen Prairie has solidified its commitment to Midwestern flavor during the ensuing years, with a kitchen that transmutes organic, gluten-free or family-farmed ingredients into platefuls of contemporary American cuisine. Buns cradling certified Black Angus burgers or Dietzler Farms all-natural patties materialize atop sleek tables in puffs of purple smoke as diners lounge beneath the incandescent light of the sage-toned dining room. The hip setting belies the restaurant’s homey flavors, as elements of comfort food infuse dishes such as the mac ‘n‘ locally farmed cheese, which accompanies chervil-crusted pike or arrives solo as part of the vegetarian selection.
Eco-friendly wines share the fruits of sustainable vineyards. And a choice of regular or mini desserts punctuates meals with perfectly portioned chocolate-chip-cookie sundaes, smothered in gelato and smoked sea-salted caramel. A brunch menu greets the morning with more healthy spreads, featuring frittatas, benedicts, and omelets made from cage-free eggs, trans-fat-free oils, and vegetables that got perfect scores on their ACTs.
Ballydoyle specializes in comforting Irish fare and even more comforting Irish ales. Folks will wonder why more meat isn't corned after trying the star of Ballydoyle's sandwiches, the corned beef on marble rye (8.95). Heartier Irish specialties include shepherds pie ($11.95), Bangers and Mashed ($11.95), and Dinny's Irish Fry—an aorta-challenging amalgamation of Irish bacon, Irish sausage, black-and-white pudding, grilled tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, two eggs any style, toast, and the keys to Dublin for those that clean their plates ($12.95). Another Irish specialty, boxty ($11.95–$13.95), wraps a homemade potato griddle cake around a variety of fillings, such as vegetables, chicken, and Larry Bird's NBA championship rings. An Irish pub would just be Denny's without an extensive list of draft and bottled beer. Ballydoyle's is one of the only pubs that serves McCaffrey's Irish Cream Ale, making it as delicious as it is exclusive.
At Bulldog Ale House, frothy suds and robust spirits flow from an expansive full-service bar to complement a hearty menu of all-American pub grub. Crisp tortilla chips plunge into pots of scratch-made queso, priming palates for hearty feasts alongside other meal starters such as the supergrandeplatter, a shareable plate piled high with boneless wings, mini corn dogs, and fried favorites such as mozzarella sticks and onion rings. Like a toddler's temperament, spicy buffalo wings offer diners mild to atomic eruptions according to their tolerance, and the pub's eight signature sauces, including Cajun and lemon-pepper, also await to dress hand-breaded chicken tenders and dry beards.
Tommy Nevin's Pub was founded by Steven Prescott and christened for his grandfather Thomas Nevin, a WWI veteran. The flagship location in Evanston touts a bright red façade that pays homage to the renowned Temple Bar in Dublin, and the menus at all three locations likewise salute the culture of the Emerald Isle. Though it inhabits a decidedly Celtic corner of the pub world, Chicago Bar Project deemed the Evanston outpost “the best bar in the suburbs” for its “intriguing combination of country Irish pub, modern Chicago bar and cutting-edge alternative music venue.” Chefs whip up corned beef and shepherd's pie as bartenders handle taps and spirits. Friends can cheer on local sports teams on TV or wrack their brains to remember the name of Azerbaijan's currency and most popular potato-chip flavor at weekly trivia nights.