In pubs across Ireland, the craic, which means enjoyable conversation and gossip, is everything. It's the same at The Curragh Irish Pub & Restaurant, with regular live music, Irish dancing, and live streaming of rugby and soccer matches from around the world. The Curragh's menu relies on its Irish ancestry, with traditional dishes such as corned beef and cabbage or chicken boxty. Beers follow suit, with dozens of Irish ales, including Smithwick's and Guinness, on tap. Whiskeys such as Jameson and Bushmills are also poured through tap-like spigots at the wood-paneled bar. In the summery months, The Curragh's patio radiates with warmth and conviviality, often humming with the cheer and snorted laughter of catered parties.
At a three-times-weekly gathering at A’s Bar, The Chubby Bullfrog combines fine cheeses and smooth sips of five 6-ounce import and craft beers with sausages provided by Perl’s All American Sausage Company and Chicago mainstay G.I. Joe, The Sausage Man, a traveling meat salesman featured on ABC’s 190 North. Sausages' smoky notes commingle with beers' bitter and sharp accents, sending a wave of flavor crashing over sleeping taste buds and destroying their sandcastles. If the Chicago Bears play during Sunday’s class, students receive free food.
House-made cuisine isn't supposed to be flashy, and Mario's Mondo Cafe doesn't try to impress diners with anything beyond an unwavering dedication to Old World flavors. Inspired by generations of family recipes, Chef Mario cobbles together a menu of familiar Italian staples while incorporating local and sustainably sourced ingredients whenever possible. The Chicago Tribune praised the restaurant for its commitments to tradition and unpretentious comfort food, calling the eatery, "a casual, hidden treasure."
Even the decor aims to create a cozy ambiance. Butcher paper covers the tabletops and a single shelf lines the pale orange walls, displaying a variety of homestyle mementos, such as framed pictures and bronzed kickball trophies.
Deemed by the Miami New Times to have the Best Exotic Frozen Desserts in 2009, Via Veneto Gelato serves up oodles of distinctly flavored gelato and confections to sweet tooth collectives. Score a small dish ($4.59), large dish ($5.50), or sugar cone ($4) packed with 1 of more than 40 frozen flavors such as almond chocolate, Nutella, or tiramisu gelato. The three-scoop waffle cone ($4.99) comes stacked with a toothsome trio such as lychee, pistachio, or Super dulce, which pairs a heroic dulce de leche with chocolate-chips sidekicks to fight against bland, soft-serve foes. Sorbets such as blackberry, mango, and passion fruit nest deliciously in a cup cone ($3.25) and fat-free, sugar-free Doppiozeros such as coconut and strawberry can be whisked out of the establishment in bambino ($2.80), giovani ($3.95), or signor ($6.95) to-go containers. The confectionery also crafts cakes and offers snacks for dessert diners looking to thaw out their palates.
The baristas at The Rock House wouldn’t lavish their attention on any old beans picked out of a wholesale catalogue—they needed a more personal experience with the coffee-growing industry. To guarantee the wholly non-exploitative origins of each cup of java served at their shop, the coffee brewers partnered with growers to develop their very own crops and went the extra mile to ensure quality by roasting all the beans in-house. As the baristas brew single cups with an artisanal pour-over method, customers can sip Sri Lankan teas, sift through rock-’n’-roll-inspired merchandise under the light streaming from naked light bulbs, chandeliers, and disco balls.
The sounds of revelry drift across an outdoor patio, past Candlelite's martini-glass sign, which casts a soft, warm glow that hearkens back to the eatery's opening in 1950. Regulars in their fourth decade of patronage crowd around thin-crust pizzas, built upon dough made by hand each day, and cheer on athletes on 17 flat-screen televisions. Baskets of golden-brown hand-cut fries sing their cheerful sizzles out into the dining room, where five decades' worth of art and photos leave the exposed-brick walls barely visible. Bartenders slide mugs filled with sudsy caps of Oberon and Hoegaarden down the gleaming bar to thirsty diners and physicists skeptical of a third state of matter.