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.
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.
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.
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.
There is a huge gap between what parents want to eat and what their kids do. Between picky eating habits and the lure of shiny plastic toys, it can seem impossible to get kids to eat out without having to scarf chicken nuggets yourself. Two Wilmette fathers grew tired of this cycle and the poor quality of food their kids were craving, so they decided to create a restaurant where they, their wives, and their kids could all get an enjoyable meal.
The result was Gilson’s, an American bistro that uses sustainably caught and locally grown ingredients that adults value, and couches it in a friendly atmosphere complete with a children’s menu that accommodates picky eaters without plying them with processed junk food. The bistro reflects its two identities with an outdoor patio and exposed-brick dining room, with a more upscale wine bar that caters to guests wanting to sip international vintages in a more intimate space.
For the adults, chefs specialize in seafood. They accent shrimp and ahi tuna with layers of mango salsa and wasabi mayo to create complex flavor profiles without boiling up a rubik's-cube reduction. House specialties such as the fish tacos and Wyoming bison burgers get pared down to create smaller lunch portions, alongside a selection of organic sandwiches and salads.
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.