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Getting Hammered Hearthside

Battle the winter blues with a drink or two at a bar with a roaring fireplace.
Monday Nov 23, 2009.     By Karl Klockars
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts


When the weather outside gets frightful...well, you can sing the rest of the tune yourself. But singing alone isn't going to get you through those cold, windy winter nights in Chicago; you need the comfort that comes with an open flame and a soothing drink.

Since there's nothing too romantic - or safe - about chugging whiskey in front of the stove, Centerstage offers a list of the best Chicago bars that offer fireplaces among their many amenities. Read on, shivering reader, and learn where to warm your weary bones:

Fireside Restaurant & Lounge
This one might seem somewhat obvious just based on the name, but the Fireside is actually pretty well hidden in the northern wilds of Ravenswood, stuck over by Rosehill Cemetary and the northbound Metra line. During the summer, the Fireside is a destination for its multi-tiered outdoor patio, which stays open rain or shine thanks to a retractable roof system. But as winter grows ever nearer, the fireplace in the dining room becomes the main attraction.

The Fireside rolls out its comfort-food menu when the weather cools off, so if you feel a need for staples like beef stroganoff and pot roast, you're in luck. The weekend-morning bloody mary bar featuring over 200 ingredients is enough of a reason to get out the door early in the AM, and makes a perfect base for an afternoon of football enjoyment. Need a late-night heating session? Fireside is open and serving chow until 3 a.m.

You won't find it up front, but if you snake your way past the snow-covered beer garden and into Sheffield's Beer School bar, you can find a roaring blaze nightly as you settle in to a meal of barbecue and some of the finest selections of beer that the city has to offer. Sheffield's "beer guy" Phil Kuhl works to bring in unique selections from breweries around the country and organizes special evenings featuring beer styles like cask-conditioned brews, wet-hopped beers, barrel-aged beers and more. And with selections from hard-to-find brewers like Surly and Southern Tier, even if you can't grab a table by the fireplace, chances are that friendly glow of alcohol will keep you plenty warm.

Duke of Perth
Chicago is chock full of Irish and faux-Irish places where you can get your fill of Chicken McFingers and JalapenO'poppers, but local Scots have options that start at "few" and head over to "far between." Thankfully, there's the Duke of Perth. A 20-year-old outpost of Scottish tartan cheer on Clark in Lakeview, the Duke has carved out a place where you can camp by the fire, power back any number of peaty scotches (flights of the smoky liquor are on hand for the scotch novice and single-malt aficionado alike) and enjoy a hearty shepherd's pie.

While much of the menu isn't terribly authentic (see: burgers named after famed Scots Sean Connery and Robert the Bruce & the James Watt chicken breast sandwich) the fish and chips, all-you-can-eat on Wednesdays for $9.50, are stellar. Unfortunately, there's no haggis on hand, but you can drown your sorrows with authentic and tough to find UK beers like Tennent's, Bellhaven and Craigmills.

Moody's Pub
The vibe at Moody's can best be described as "medieval," despite the fact that its website claims to be going for a ski chalet setting. It's so dark that it seems like the two roaring fireplaces throw out the only light in the room (not true, but close), and the famed burgers are classic lo-frills meatbombs. Beams of lumber cross the ceiling and stained glass accents the walls just as history oozes out of them; Moody's has been churning out chow since 1959 and in a city where gourmet burgers are the rule, the menu is refreshingly restrained. Some burgers, some chicken and fish, some steaks, some salads. Take it or leave it, but take some complimentary peanuts while you're at it.

A handful of beers and wine are on hand, but Moody's has kindly assembled a pro-hearth "Fireside Fantasies" menu of toddies and nogs. Warm cocktails like the Grand Tea (Grand Marnier & hot tea) and the Cinnamon Toast (Amaretto, hot cider, whipped cream, sprinkled cinnamon) are all $4.50. During the summer, Moody's beer garden is a hidden treasure, but for a winter experience in Edgewater, a fireside meal at Moody's has to be high on the list.

At any other time in human history, if we had told you to stand outside on the roof of a hotel 27 stories in the air during winter, we'd be guilty of putting you in extremely harmful circumstances (not to mention certifiably insane). Thanks to technological advances in outdoor heating and patio construction, as well as the presence of some roaring firepits, though, this summer's hotel bar hot spot is set to continue its rooftop dominance all the way into the colder months.

Time will tell how the food and drinks translate to a cooler outside experience, but if people can build outdoor patios with propane heaters to stay open year-round at ground level, why not nearly 300 feet in the air? If the outdoor patios prove too cold to tolerate with an icy drink in your hand, make some space for yourself in the indoor side, stare down at State street and the Chicago Theatre sign, and get your heat via the fireplace at the southwest corner of the room, or with a fire-baked pizza fresh out of the superheated oven.

Want to find more places to get flame-kissed or fire-heated? Check out our expanded list of fireplace'd bars and restaurants.


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