Red Lobster, Wicker Park’s Mirai Sushi, and Lincoln Park punk bar Delilah’s are three seemingly disparate venues. However, they have something in common—all three have hired graduates of American Professional Bartending Schools of Illinois to mix their drinks and man their bars. The schools have been landing graduates at notable Chicago establishments for more than 60 years, but their connection with alums doesn’t end with their first gig. Graduates receive lifetime, personalized job-placement assistance and can call the school’s career hotline 24 hours a day to find out about job openings or trade meatloaf recipes.
The schools' focus on employment also shows in their bartending classes, which are modeled after on-the-job training and led by teachers with an average of more than 20 years of industry experience. Taught at bars complete with realistic faux liquor, the sessions cover topics from mixology to presentation and etiquette.
Inspired by small craft spirit creators of yore, Derrick Mancini founded Quincy Street Distillery as a way to celebrate traditional, and create new, American spirits. Today, Mancini and distiller, Danny Maguire, oversee a small crew that crafts and bottles 12 artisanal, small-batch spirits including a mead-based dry honey spirit, a railroad gin, a colonial-style single malt rye, and a young bourbon whiskey that's too young to drink itself. Take a tour of the distillery to bring the full story of these libations into focus. Distillery tours detail every step of the grain-to-whiskey production, including fermentation, distillation, cutting, barreling, and bottling. Conclude with a tasting in the Speakeasy cocktail bar that includes a brief history lesson about many of the spirit brands, and after where patrons can purchase classic and original cocktails or pick up bottles at the retail shop. You can also reach the distillery by train on the Burlington Metra line just a block from the Riverside station.
Sullivan's Irish Pub & Eatery, a bastion of Irish culture in Chicago's South Side, is a time-honored destination for traditional Irish food and cold craft beer. Servers sling plates of corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie, and other comforting classics, as well as boxtys?commonly known as Irish-style potato pancakes. Burgers, wings, and draft beer from Irish breweries such as Guinness and Smithwicks round out the menu. In addition to the hearty food and drink, the pub houses a stage for live music, while an outdoor bar stays open all four seasons for open-air sipping and plate Frisbee.
Bravo hits the road with reality-television powerhouses, delivering an interactive Real Housewives gathering at the Horseshoe Casino’s spacious venue. Four Real Housewives from four cities—Sonja from New York City, Gretchen from Orange County, Kathy from New Jersey, and Phaedra from Atlanta—discuss their most talked about on-screen moments, answer audience questions, and share cast secrets, such as pressing gossip and gym-locker combinations. Orchestra seats place reality-television junkies in the middle of the venue and the VIP-ticket seats guests in the first 10 rows. In addition to up-close viewing, the VIP ticket includes an exclusive reception hosted by The Real Housewives with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, a separate red-carpet entrance to the venue, and a limited-edition tour laminate with matching lanyard. Attendees must be over 21 or a master of fake mustaches to participate in the Red Carpet package.
Every Monday night, The Blarney Stone opens its doors to a very special group of people—the geeks. Their weekly hosted trivia night, lovingly called "Geeks Who Drink," allows eggheads and trivia buffs of all walks of life to come together and test their wits as they feast on Irish classics such as the shepherd’s pie and halibut and chips. Meanwhile, cozied up to the bar or tucked behind a table, those who hide their geekiness under a bushel basket can mutter the answers under their breath while nursing an expertly poured pint of Guinness or tearing into one of the pub’s many flavorful burgers. In addition to the trivia night, patrons can satisfy their need for competition with NFL broadcasts and an accompanying football breakfast, a big-screen hookup to a Nintendo Wii, and paired pool tables and dart boards.
Sisters Carey Williams and Lisa Marcotte bartended their way through college at the University of Illinois, but their love of the restaurant world didn’t go away after graduation. Carey followed up with culinary school and spent a stint as a caterer before joining Lisa to open Marcotte's Bar & Grill. Now she runs the kitchen, crafting a menu of bar food that ranges from buffalo wings and chicken-salad sandwiches to certified Black Angus burgers and thin-crust pizzas. In addition to the delicious food, the two sisters also entice guests with their family-friendly pub space’s amenities, which include free WiFi, patio seating in warmer months, and weekly events such as bingo, karaoke, and trivia night.