Classy comfort in River North

When busting out of your famous old man's shadow, it's go big (Ken Griffey, Jr -- his stats blow away Sr's) or go home (Michael Douglas -- his cleft-chin never achieved the depth of Kirk's). Going big with grub, Hub 51. Hub's the big, swinging debut from two Lettuce Entertain You scions, a 300-seat, industrial-yet-comfortable space replete with two bars, an overhanging DJ booth, and an upscale-American menu broad enough to please...America. Chow starts with gourmet bar food like peekytoe crab nachos, four soft taco platters (including 8hr-braised Niman Ranch pulled pork) w/ housemade tortillas, and the "Jerky Jerky" platter (housemade turkey/beef jerky, Point Reyes blue cheese, and cheesy sticks, a.k.a. "the truck stop charcuterie platter" -- honk if you love irony). Main events range from Chilean sea bass in horseradish broth to an 18oz bone-in ribeye dubbed "The Dude", which, because Hub's owners are not nihilists, is served with parmesan-encrusted mashed potatoes. Booze-wise, there are small batch vinos and nine taps of upscale brew (3 Floyd's Scottish Ale, Delirium Tremens, etc), with the tenth tap pumping out Hub Punch, a vodka/tequila/Licor 43 medley -- a classy ascension from dad, who was served in a garbage can.

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1. Hub 51 51 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60654 (River North)

With a menu that includes sushi rolls, great burgers, and a decent amount of wit ("Celebrate all you want, but we don't sing Happy Birthday."), choosing a standout from Hub 51 wasn't easy. But that doesn't mean we didn't do it -- oh, no, we did, and the winner is Hub's small but delicious selection of Mexican dishes, from their pulled chicken nachos and fish tacos to the chicken enchiladas.

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