In the event that the Hopleaf is too packed (which is about every night), Charlie's Ale House is an acceptable substitute for Andersonville's beer-seekers.
The bar has plenty to boast on its own. The 70-beers-strong menu includes domestic selections like He'Brew Genesis Ale for $4.50 and Rogue Mocha Porter for $4 as well as imports like Staropramen (Czech) and Belzebuth (French). Most of the other beers won't run you any more than $5. A wine list is also available, and house cocktails come with cutesy names like the Flirtini and Pussy Galore for $7.
If you can get past the fact that the restaurant chains' other locations reside in places like touristy Navy Pier, you'll find that the kitchen powers out some respectable food. Just try wandering through the menu and getting past the PLT sandwich; also known as the Plenty of Pork sandwich, this heart attack on a plate serves up country ham, Cajun andouille sausage and crispy bacon open-face, with two kinds of cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo. At $8.95, that's a lot of good pig for not much cash.
The menu is all over the place, flirting with a variety of food types and committed to none. Grilled flatbreads share space with home-style favorites like chicken pot pie and Better n' Mom's Meatloaf Platter. Steak and prime rib sit next to Shanghai Salmon and Charlie's special mac 'n' cheese. Thankfully, none of these selections will set you back too far, with sandwiches running from $8-$11 and the entrees from about $9-$24.
The large, airy space manages to get pretty loud, and pin-up girl lamps and multiple televisions provide just enough glow for drinking and dining. The restaurant takes reservations for both lunch and dinner, but you have a good shot at snagging a seat without one, even on a Friday night.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars