Sam Elias knows that being cooped up during long winter days can make people stir-crazy. So in 1993, after moving from Florida, land of palm trees and beaches, to Chicago, land of frigid winds and gray slush, he founded WhirlyBall as a way for people to release pent-up energy even as snow was falling outside. During each competitive WhirlyBall game, which combines aspects of basketball, hockey, and jai alai, players zoom across an indoor 50'x80' court in motorized cars called WhirlyBugs. They wield plastic scoops to toss a wiffle ball back and forth to their teammates before throwing the ball through an elevated goal. Refs keep watch during the games, eliminating score arguments that would otherwise end in sunrise duels. To fuel up for a bout, players nibble teriyaki chicken satay, gourmet pizzas, and prime rib, and swig draft beers, which vary by location.
All three WhirlyBall spots boast off-court diversions such as video games, pool tables, foosball, and air hockey. The Vernon Hills location hosts an indoor rock-climbing wall, and both the Chicago and Vernon Hills locations invite guests into multilevel Lasertron laser-tag arenas, which fill with fog and flashing lights as combatants duck, aim, and invoke Geneva Convention protocols regarding armed conflict.
France has graciously loaned three things to America: wineable grapes, Gerard Depardieu, and words that end with a silent but deadly x. Admire the taste of a tradition that has lasted well beyond the Statue of Liberty's original shine with today's Groupon to Bistro 110. For $25, you'll get $50 worth of mouthwatering hedonistic creations made in the French tradition of rich sauces and copious butter, or as the French call it, "fool's gold."
Beneath the glow of 12 high-definition plasma televisions, riotous sports fans toast to their teams by clinking glasses and smushing burgers together at First Place Sports Bar & Grill. Between sips of cold beer and bites of handheld eats including sandwiches, nachos, and ribs, bar-goers throw wild shots at three dart boards and play 52-ball pickup around the pool table. Numerous video games, such as 2010 Golden Tee Live, Silver Strike, and Big Buck Hunter, jingle in anticipation of a feeding of quarters, while a jukebox offers a custom soundtrack to sporting revelry.
Chicago City Limits, an official Blackhawks bar, hosts a horde of televised and live entertainment options and a home team of servers who sling a specials-studdedmenu of classic bar fare and drinks. Dinnertime diners can defeat hunger in overtime with a full slab of ribs ($15.95), while pieces of beer-battered Alaskan whitefish lead the weekly all-you-can-eat Friday fish fry to victory ($6.99). Weekday lunch specials arrive tableside sporting a dapper fez and a choice of sides from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and include a classically prepared hamburger and chef salad ($4.99 each). Break fasts on Saturdays and Sundays until noon with a choice of french toast ($2.95), a three-egg omelette flanked by potatoes, toast, and coffee ($5.95), or a bacon-topped breakfast sandwich ($3.95). Wash down this array of eats with beer by the bottle, pint, or pitcher, or a cocktail creation coached by a varsity mixologist.
Player’s Pub and Grill caters to its sports-minded clientele with a menu of American pub fare, foamy brews, and walls bedecked with the trappings of beloved local teams. Beneath the glow of big-screen plasma TVs or the stone fireplace, patrons bite into burgers, pizzas, and pasta dishes. Glasses and bottles clink in the hands of fans joyously celebrating their team's victories and admiring the wall-mounted collection of memorabilia, such as signs from Soldier Field and the record 1,000th hurled beer bottle from Comiskey Park. Between sips and snacks, patrons can settle their personal scores through challenges at the dartboards and in video games.
Much like a meteorologist or a twice-broken femur, the moose head hanging on the wall at Twisted Moose announces the changing of the seasons. The restaurant’s eponymous mascot is typically dressed up to celebrate an upcoming holiday or to support the home team, whose games are broadcast from the bar’s 17 large-screen TVs and three high definition projectors. Wide-eyed sports fans munch on American food such as thin-crust pizzas, half-pound burgers, and vegetables fried in a crunchy beer batter. Between plays, guests bond over rounds of darts while sipping drafts of Guinness and bottled craft brews.