It’s been one of the most brutal Winters in recent history, but restaurant-and-bar-opening after glorious restaurant-and-bar-opening provided us with a donut-and-whiskey-filled silver lining. Here are our editors' picks for Chicago's 11 best Winter openings.
Leghorn (click here for address and deets)
This itty-bitty BYOB fried chicken shack touting the tagline “make pickles, not war” offers food that hits every bit as heavy as its socially conscious sentiment. We can’t imagine a world without tolerance or chicken-fried fries, and thanks to Leghorn, we don’t have to. Pro tip for the ladies: pick up Leghorn-branded free birth control pills available at the counter, all day, every day during business hours.
Chicago Distilling Company (click here for address and deets)
Its casual/cool interior and to-the-point cocktail menu make Chicago Distilling Company a "no duh" choice for this list. Select from a brief list of classic and modern cocktails that highlight their house vodka and 90-proof white whiskey (both available for retail, too), as well as a pared down list of wines and beers.
Green Street Smoked Meats (click here for address and deets)
From fuss-free Frito pie to brisket, hot links, and chicken legs, Green Street has everything you could ever want from a BBQ joint -- and then some, like a 12,000lb oak wood-smoker and the smoky scent to match. They still don’t accept reservations (and they’ve been packing the house consistently since they opened in early February), so fight the crowds if you’re brave (or try off-hours if you’re not).
SideDoor (click here for address and deets)
This inconspicuous gastropub from the people behind Lawry’s will awesomely satiate you for lunch (Lawry’s famous wedge salad, house-smoked pastrami sandwich...), dinner (lamb shank pie, glazed chicken wings...), and liquid dinner (Smoked Negroni cocktails), which is a thing.
Stan's Donuts (click here for address and deets)
This donut and coffee shop sports a kitschy, retro vibe, and serves simple donuts with a creative edge. Think: Biscoff-stuffed, choco chip-covered "pockets", and twisted cinnamon pretzels -- all made with co-founder Rich Labriola’s carefully crafted fermentation starter. The seating area, cozy atmosphere, and free Wi-Fi make it a great place to kick back with a cup of Joe and a donut and get some work done (read: stalk people you hate on Facebook and take BuzzFeed quizzes).
East Room (click here for address and deets)
The same folks who brought you Parts and Labor (see below) and The Boiler Room recently opened this industrially charged bar along the Milwaukee Ave main drag. Go for eclectic music and projector screen shows, craft cocktails, and cheap beer any and every night of the week.
Compass Bar (click here for address and deets)
Their wood-fired pizzas are getting some solid buzz, but it's Compass Bar’s selection of 180 beers that gives it an '11 Best Winter Openings' nod. Pair a crispy pizza topped with braised pork shoulder, BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, and three types of cheese with Cajun fried potatoes, and literally any beer on the planet. And by "literally" we mean "figuratively".
Logan Hardware Arcade Bar (click here for address and deets)
And on the seventh day, God created an 85-seat arcade bar. In Logan Square. That's stacked with more than 25 fully restored vintage pinball machines (including a signed edition of Star Trek: The Next Generation), 45 video games, and nearly 20 beers on tap. And, because God is awesome, you can play all of the games at their original prices.
Links Taproom (click here for address and deets)
Sadly not a bar filled with magic swords and heart containers, Links Taproom is instead the spot to go for some way-under-the-radar Tyranena Chief BlackHawk Porter, “buried alive” fries (topped with Italian sausage, bacon, cheddar, giardiniera & green onions), and the Duck Your Face sausage: a duck truffle link loaded with duck confit, pistachio, orange zest, and truffle aioli.
Parts and Labor (click here for address and deets)
Parts and Labor is all about deep-fried-everything (giardiniera and Twinkies and pickles, oh my!) and simple, well-constructed burgers that have a bit of pickle in every bite. And since we know you're aggressively cheap, tell ‘em to “make it a $10 combo, Brokim Noah”, with a burger, a side, and a boozy bev of your choosing.
Bottlefork (click here for address and deets)
This American kitchen and bar colors outside the lines with menu items like “popcorn” sweetbreads, a “bag of chips” with vinegar and a fried egg, and an ice cream sundae topped with beer foam. Oh, and don’t miss the “Bill Brasky", which comes with Journeyman rye, moonshine, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Bank Note Scotch, Hammer & Tongs vermouth, orange bitters, and a vintage playing card frozen in a large ice cube. Boosh.
Kailley Lindman is a contributing writer for Thrillist Chicago, as well as a food blogger, bacon enthusiast, and devout user of the Oxford comma. Follow her at @KailleysKitchen.
1. Chicago Distilling Company2359 N Millwaukee Ave, Chicago
2. Leghorn Chicken959 N Western Ave, Chicago
3. Green Street Smoked Meats112 N Green St, Chicago
4. SideDoor100 E Ontario St, Chicago
5. Stan's Donuts & Coffee1560 N Damen Ave, Chicago
6. Logan Arcade2410 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago
7. Links Taproom1559 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
8. Bottlefork441 N Clark St, Chicago
9. East Room2828 W Medill Ave, Chicago
10. Compass Bar433 W Diversey Pkwy, Chicago
11. Parts and Labor2700 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
Chicago Distilling Company is a family run operation led by brothers Jay and Victor DiPrizio and Jay's wife Noelle. It's part distillery, part tasting room, and is sure to be serving up some great local home-grown liquor.
Leghorn Chicken is one of the best fried-bird establishments in Chitown. Get their chicken-fried fries, or even some free condoms (seriously).
Down an alley off Restaurant Row, Green Street serves Texas-style smokehouse barbecue in a spacious, warehouse location. Like the smoked meats, the restaurant decor is reminiscent of the Lone Star State with exposed brick and iron pipe fixtures. The pulled pork and brisket are the way to go, especially with sides like spicy pickles and coleslaw. In a departure from the Texan recipes that rule the smoker, the beer selection is mostly made up of Midwestern craft brews, but there are Southern-inspired cocktails like bourbon sweet tea.
This River North gastropub does a damn fine job when it comes to meat, whether it's their prime rib, roasted meat boards, or hearty sandwiches. They also have a number of craft beers and specialty 'tails.
It goes without saying, but Stan most definitely is the man because of his myriad of fresh-baked 'nuts and fresh-made coffee.
Located in the original Logan Hardware building, this arcade/bar houses a collection of vintage pinball, video games, and serves up 20 quality draft beers and a large selection of other alcoholic beverages.
Links is a taproom that's got tons of lip-licking brews, fries that're topped with Italian sausage, bacon, cheddar, giardiniera, and green onions, and an awesome selection of non-brew beverages as well.
It's hard out there for a small plates restaurant that straddles the line between bar and full-service dinner restaurant, yet Bottlefork in River North manages to stand above the pack. The food menu spans a variety of cuisines and dietary restrictions, featuring dishes like tuna crudo, crispy Brussels sprouts with chorizo, buttermilk fried chicken, and a critically-acclaimed ground bacon burger. The cocktail menu, complete with illustrations, is divided into categories based on flavor and style: fruity, smoky, dark, and "Gentlemen's Cut."
Follow a single red lightbulb to an unmarked door off Milwaukee Ave. in Logan Square, and you’ll eventually find your way into the music venue and speakeasy that is East Room. Though its entry may lead you to believe it’s on par with the rest of the pretentious, unmarked cocktail bars of the world, one step inside and those expectations shatter. East Room is a beer-and-a-shot joint with live music, 30 beers, and 40 whiskeys to choose from. And it’s cash only, but show your receipt from the on-site ATM to the bartender… it’s your ticket to a shot of whiskey, on them.
What do you get when you pair cold craft beers with tasty wood-fired pizzas? Compass Bar, of course.
Parts and Labor is a hamburger-centric barestaurant in Logan Square known for its griddle burgers, sodas, and beer. The classic double burger, topped with two slices of American cheese, packs so many sandwich pickles between buns that you'll get a taste of the crisp texture in every bite. Vegetarians, don't be turned away by the beefy signature -- black bean and vegan patties are available, and the grilled cheese sandwich is a beautiful blend of three cheeses.