Green to its core, The Irish Mill Inn first opened its doors in the early 1930s. Though its origins aren’t exactly clear, some believe the small, unassuming venue operated as a speakeasy before Prohibition’s end in 1933. No matter the case, today, The Irish Mill Inn legally fills the mugs of regulars and newcomers alike, pouring from a drink selection that includes Irish beers and scotch. The food menu, meanwhile, provides an array of hearty bases, highlighted by such Irish classics as shepherd’s pie and bangers with chips. On Friday and Saturday nights, live bands rock the venue, and on Sundays and Thursdays, patrons can share their own music or odes to green beer during open mic events.
At Fatman Sports Lounge & Lanes, bowlers hurl orbs down 12 automatically scored lanes. Illustrations of electrified neon balls and pins line the alley's walls, complementing the beat-heavy tunes and pulsing lights of nightly cosmic bowling. An arcade challenges guests with pinball machines, racing games, and a claw machine that beckons with the promise of winning a stuffed toy or permission to cheat at one round of bowling.
The restaurant proves far more ambitious than the standard bowling-alley snack bar, dishing out thick, slow-simmered chili, a score of piled-high sandwiches, broasted chicken, and house-made pizza. Bartenders spin cocktails that tend toward the elaborate, potent, and sweet, with a dozen different variations on a long island iced tea alone.
At Downing's, diners can gobble up a Guinness beer brat, savor Corona-battered cod, or bite into a maple-bacon burger made with beer-infused sirloin. Inventive uses for alcohol aren't the only way the chefs add creative spins to their traditional Irish eats and handheld pub dishes. For instance, you can order a burger topped with fresh mozzarella, pesto, and fresh tomatoes?all the makings of a caprese salad. Downing's takes burgers so seriously that an entire section of the menu is labeled "Not Burgers." It features italian-beef sandwiches and chimichurri beef tacos. Diners can also partake of a deep-fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which oozes with warm strawberry jelly between slices of bread dusted with powdered sugar.
Between bites of hearty pub food washed down with beer and spirits, pool players can start their own leagues at Downing's. The pub?which offers alfresco seating in warmer months?also keeps things hopping with weekly musical performances, five flat-screen TVs, and parties to celebrate such holidays as Halloween, Saint Patrick's Day, and Franklin Pierce Fan Club Day.
Part restaurant and part concert hall, Austin's Saloon & Eatery houses both a sit-down dining room and a separate main stage showcasing local and national acts throughout the week. The restaurant's menu blends barbecue and inventive American fare with starters such as chicken wings ($7.95) and golden-fried beer-dough nuggets ($5.50) made to mimic the exact shape and alcohol content of most asteroids. Wrap hands and mouths around one of six burgers ($8.50+) or don a bib and dive into a barbecue combo platter ($17.95) pairing chicken and a half-slab of ribs, both cooked on a wood roaster.
McCarthy’s Restaurant and Irish Pub began when three families decided to pool their know-how. The clans each possessed their own expertise: one family had enjoyed previous successes in restaurant management, one in the field of culinary arts, and one family was filled with savvy business people. In tune with their strengths, they decided to form a three-way partnership that would give rise to McCarthy's. The fun-loving group wanted to create a pub rooted in Irish tradition while still appealing to a diverse clientele. Above all else, they knew that to achieve this goal they’d need to earn the trust of customers with indisputable great burgers, sandwiches, and classic Irish dishes. Today McCarthy's makes good on their vision by evoking a lighthearted mood through the green and dark-wood textures of a quintessential Irish pub and the scattered flat-screen TVs of a modern evil lair. Meanwhile, the echo of live music acts and karaoke frequently keeps patrons singing along to "Danny Boy" and humming Jeopardy! theme music.
The notion of a private supper club calls to mind gleaming expanses of polished wood and racks of fine wine. Such a vision of The Forge of Vernon Hills, which was a private club until recently, is essentially accurate. In keeping with the spirit of exclusive opulence, chefs stew tart Montmorency cherries in a sauce for duckling and shuck fresh Virginia blue-point oysters. Twin lobster tails melt drawn butter, and seasonally inspired specials with fresh ingredients have included butternut-squash ravioli and seared jumbo sea scallops with fresh mango sauce. Adjacent to the main dining area are private rooms for parties of up to 160 guests, the exact number of people on a standard rugby team.