Stand facing one way in the parking lot of Niko’s Lodge and you’re in suburban Algonquin; turn the other way, and you’re in a mountain resort town. As diners pass under immense dark wood beams, they encounter a handsome pinewood bar, a roaring fireplace flanked by comfy furniture, and, drifting through it all, the fragrance of steak, rotisserie chicken, and pork ribs. Flavors tend toward hearty American favorites: barbecue, meatloaf, and decadent combinations such as a chicken-and-bacon mac and cheese, to name a few. Much of the fish is supplied by nearby rivers and lakes, and all the beef comes from upper-Midwestern Braveheart Black Angus cattle. If guests have saved some belly space, they can step outside to the fire pits to toast complimentary s’mores and destroy napkins on which they wrote embarrassing sonnets to pot roast.
All it takes is one step through the unassuming glass door on the first floor of the historic 1851 St. Charles Hotel building. One step to enter a charming, cozy setting awash in low lighting and filled with the aromas of herbs and sizzling meats. The intimate space is home to The BeeHive Tavern, whose owners—inspired by the atmosphere of vintage pubs—decked out their establishment in dark mahogany accents and furnishings that, just like George Washington's teeth, are made from wood. Top-shelf spirits, wines, and imported beers flow at the polished bar, and servers ferry burgers, herb-tossed chicken wings, fish tacos, and other classic pub dishes to booths in a restored dining room. Meanwhile, a separate game room with billiards provides post-meal diversions.
Alibi fuses the dancing, cocktails, and music of a lively nightlife destination with the tender steaks, flavorful seafood, and pastas of an upscale bar and grill. Revelers dance under ribbons of multicolored light on the wide-open dance floor as live musicians regale audiences with catchy guitar hooks, blistering sax solos, and impassioned defenses of their modern jazz Master's theses. Mahogany-hued hardwood floors and glossy bar tops accented with polished brass frame specialty cocktails or flavored martinis, and teams of black-clad servers trot out plates of filet mignon, bone-in rib eye, and asiago-stuffed shrimp.
If you had to put a word to the cozy, jovial atmosphere at McNally's Irish Pub, the first one to come to mind probably wouldn't be "craic." That is, unless you're Irish. It's the term for the special kind of camaraderie for which Ireland's neighborhood pubs are known, encompassing everything from the quaint decor to the rounds of after-dinner drinks that keep gatherings rolling. At McNally's, that feeling is everywhere, from the sound of pubgoers clinking glasses of Guinness and Smithwick's to the familiar aroma of juicy corned beef and other Irish dishes. On weekdays, the good times start at lunch and carry on into the evening, with regular opportunities to participate in pub events or listen to live Irish music.
At the bar, there's something for just about everyone with a range of Scottish and Irish whiskeys and the Lurgan lager, made just for McNally's. Once everyone is in high spirits and starts to remember they haven't spoken to their plants yet that day, pubgoes leave for the evening, often coming back another time for one of the restaurant's traditional Irish breakfasts.
Though it's new on the restaurant scene, Spotted Fox Ale House is already making a name for itself thanks to its rotating selection of craft beers and its large menu of comfort food. Local beer offerings from Goose Island, Revolution, and Two Bros. share tap space with ales and stouts from California's Lagunitas, Colorado's Left Hand Brewing Company, Indiana's Three Floyds, and Michigan's Dark Horse. Diners can pair pints with dishes ranging from blackened tilapia tacos and pesto chicken paninis to Swiss mushroom burgers and Jail Island salmon. As they eat and drink, they can catch the big game on two large HD projectors or the 32 HDTVs throughout the sprawling space or in the reflection of their date's eyeballs. Live dance music takes place every Saturday starting at 8 p.m. and an outdoor patio is coming soon. Private party rooms are also available.
Otter Cove couldn't have a more fitting mascot. The park's theme centers around a river otter, an anthropomorphized version of which occasionally stops by to take pictures with guests. It's not hard to imagine this semiaquatic mammal zipping down one of the park's Salamander Slides and splashing into Turtle Creek, a 600-foot lazy river. Humans find themselves equally at home in aquatic play areas such as The Frog Bog, a 7,700 sq. ft. activity pool with spinning water apparatuses and a waterfall.
The park also contains a traditional lap pool heated to around 80 degrees fahrenheit, just warm enough to keep it from being taken over by penguins. In addition to open swim times, the pool hosts swim lessons for all ages. Otter Cove also helms The Otters Swim Team for swimmers aged 5–16.